Since a few days ago, the voice recognition tools used in Google Now are available via Google Search.

This is pretty epic – especially when considering the good old classroom staple, spelling.

So now if you’re in need of the correct spelling of a word, you can go to your Google Search page, hit the microphone button lurking to the far right of the search box, and say:

“How do you spell extremely”

A voice then proceeds to spell out the word for you. It’s also spelled out as the top card-like result, and includes a definition.

To make it even handier, here’s a link to a Chrome extension called NowVoiceSearch which puts a direct link button to voice search right next to your omnibox. I’ll be pushing this out as an auto-install for our Chromebook users on Monday.

This is pretty cool. It addresses the age-old problem of the dictionary: A) It takes ages and B) How the heck can you look-up a word if you don’t know how to spell it?

Can’t wait to introduce this to the kids tomorrow.


P.S: I pretty sure no technology alive can accurately recognise the Kiwi accent, so fellow NZers, expect delays when asking to spell pen. No, it’s not pin. No it’s not pan. Don’t even attempt the word six, you’ll probably get more than you bargained for.

I was browsing around my local supermarket the other day – shout out to New World Thorndon for it’s excellent craft beer selection – and realised that most of the math I’ve had to do outside of school has been in this place.

It’s a context ripe for real-world mathematical investigation – maths which will be helpful IRL (especially if you’re on tight budget).

I’ve jotted down a few rough ideas for a ‘Supermarket Maths’ unit for school. The prompts for these questions could be photos or videos you’ve taken.

How many “flosses” per pack? Price per floss? If you flossed the recommended amount, how soon would you run out?

There are a few here, but I’m sure there are more options… do you have any more ideas I can add? Leave a comment!

Supermarket Maths:

– servings per item (as per the serving size suggestions)

– calories per item and total calories per meal

– total price for a meal

– price per serving

– compare the price of items to other similar items

– price per ml or kg

– buying in bulk V buying single items

– buying little chippie packets V a big pack

– pre-cut items (ie, carrots, celery, apple slices) V normal

– working within a budget, making choices

– discounts and sales, coupons

– Fly Buys / loyalty programs – is it worth it?

– calculating GST

– cost of import items v local

– cost between different supermarket chains V cost of fuel (the cheapest, the most expensive)

– online shopping – is it cheaper?

– going to the local farmers market (+petrol) – is it cheaper?

– charting the cost of fruit / vegetables through the seasons

– Christmas Club, how much do you save?

– What % do farmers make / distributors etc.

– could you grow it for cheaper?

– the cost of plastic bags V buying reusable

– cheapest / healthiest meals you can make for a day / week

– fuel vouchers – how much can you save?

Supermarket Maths – Statistics:

– What’s the best checkout to choose?

– How much time do you save by going through the self-checkout?

– What is the busiest time for supermarkets?

– Price according to position on the shelf (more expensive at eye level?)

– Average distance to the bread / milk (why is the bread always at the back?)

– Time in supermarket V total purchase cost (ever noticed how there are very few windows and clocks in supermarkets?)

– Do you save money by using a shopping list?


Ummm…. 15 for $31.99, 12 for $35.99?

And a few more IRL math contexts to think about:

Sport Maths

Video Game Maths

  • Wikispaces Classroom as an online, collaborative “draft book”
  • Individual student blogs (Kidblogs or Blogger?)
  • A class Evernote account for “tagging the learning journey” / collecting evidence of learning
  • The “teacher adviser” aka mentor, aka whānau teacher, aka learning guide – what does this role look like? (hint: needs to be rigorous – a formal, but close, learning relationship)
  • Think about how primary-aged students can fast track their learning (and how to assess this – a “testing centre”? sidenote: using Infographics to show learning!)
  • Self-directed learning boot camps (if needed)
  • Digital Citizenship as a theme throughout the year – inc. community evenings
  • Developing events in Wellington to share awesome teaching (educafe evenings?)
  • Kids doing unconferences / ignite talks
  • Setup Apple Configurator or Meraki
  • Take part in some place hacking / guerilla geography later in the year

To start at the end, my colleagues and I came away downright buzzing over Ewan McIntosh’s captivating breakout this afternoon entitled “Tagging the Learning Journey – A New Model For Assessment”. He skirted the thin line between big picture thinking and practical take-aways like a pro and like other great sessions, we came away with T.U.C.D.O.M. (“Things You Can Do On Monday”).

So what’s the down-low?

Ewan has been working at Rosendale Primary School in South London on an assessment project with the aim of “capturing learning reflections which are used to inform next steps in teaching and learning” (c/o the breakout description). Ewan and co wanted to put the power into the hands of the children, rather than having the teachers and adults control the story of their learning.

Ewan’s team empowered the children in this particular class of youngsters to begin “tagging” their learning. As a soft entry point, they began to tag their wonderfully messy ideas, findings and prototypes (in an inquiry provocatively titled “London is Full – Evacuate!”) with annotated luggage labels. Children’s work, wherever it may roam, was tagged – be it pinned to a wall, or attached to the bottom of a computer screen.

At the start, teachers did the tagging of all the messy, post-it festooned immersion displays on the walls. Then gradually the children got involved. They began personally tagging their written work in their books with boxes shaped like luggage labels at the top of their pages, then with the real, laminated labels on a whole range of their research and work.

They began with straightforward classifications, such as “writing” or “maths” as the children got used to tagging their learning (and which learning to tag). According to Mr McIntosh, this was a big hit with the kids. As things progressed, and after a big effort to secure enough devices, the next step in the grand master plan was put into place.

Children in the class were introduced to Evernote.

They were set-up with personal ‘notebooks’ in one unified Evernote account. This was important because A) It would mean spending no extra coin going “Premium” and B) it would mean they could, and I quote (from one of the kids in Ewan’s class) “browse each other’s learning” – all online notebooks were open and viewable by others in the class.

Using their newly acquired mobile devices, children began snapping pictures and recording video and audio of their learning. As a function of Evernote, these notes were tagged with labels the children could personalise. There were three different categories to these tags:

1) What it is (ie, subject specific tags – “Writing”, “Maths” etc.)
2) The skills or competencies involved (ie, subject detail tags – “addition”, “instructional writing” etc.)
3) How they felt about it (ie, emotion tags – “boring”, “fun”, “proud”, “enjoy” etc.)

So the children began writing and digitally recording their own learning stories. They served as rich, powerful meta-cognitive port-holes into the process of their learning. The could organise and archive their learning, and chart their progress.

More importantly, the learning artefacts uploaded and tagged on Evernote were more often than not accompanied by reflective comments written by the children. In analysing these comments, they seemed to point to children giving themselves formative feedback – many comments hitting on where they have been, where they are now, and where they are going next.

Reflections in this class were not done at a certain time of the week, regularly, week-by-week, after the fact, but just as the moment occured. Children self-managed their reflections by just toddling off and doing them when the time was right. This was an AHA! moment for me, as we have always done our reflections on a Friday, at a certain time, well after the emotions of learning have faded.

The roadmap suggested for the roll-out of this assessment project is, after the slow, measured luggage label introduction, to keep it in-house for the first six months, then open it up for parents to view, then allow students to take their devices home and begin recording learning at home too.

This last phase for me is particularly exciting – if children know their learning goals, why not let them upload evidence of learning and reflections on the evenings or the weekend. Each child at our school has specific learning goals, but they also have a learning behaviour goal at any given time too. If they show evidence of this holistic, key-competency based learning say at a soccer game on Sunday or with their cousins at the park, chuck it up in their Evernote notebook! Record it, reflect on it, articulate their “where to from here” – cultivate life-long learners.

A few other notes:

  • Children naturally only captured and tagged what they thought was “successful work” – Ewan and the teachers found the challenge was to have children reflect and upload their mistakes and missteps too. Sharing the failures, the prototypes, or steps to the final product are just as important as sharing the successes. Reflecting on the failures is even more important.
  • Tagging the different learning experiences with emotions enabled some children who had trouble expressing themselves to be able to do so in a safe way. Having classmates actually hunting out and viewing their learning artefacts because they were interested in viewing them gave them increased confidence.
  • Evernote allows tracking of frequency and amount of uploaded notes. You can use this data to pinpoint particular students who may need extra support.


What a great idea! If we were doing Formative Feedback 1.0 at school, this would be 2.0. Likewise with reflections.

To add to the conversation, I think the Evernote web-clipper function could be utilised to great effect with this method too. Kids could take a screenshot of their online goings-ons (for eg, Mathletics, blog comments, articles they have read etc.) then upload those for tagging and reflection.

If teachers have smartphones, evidence can be snapped or recorded from those devices too then emailed to the student who could then upload it. Desktop or laptop webcams could also be utilised for recording. Evernote is a multi-platform application, spanning everything from Chrome extensions, Windows 8 apps, Android apps, to traditional desktop programs. The ability to capture and upload evidence of learning could be widespread and easily accessible.

All n’ all, an awesome project to embark upon – pedagogically sound, technologically smart and most importantly – will have a positive impact on the learning. It’s motivating and empowering for students, and that’s gotta be good.

So Thenk Ye Ewan, I know we’ll be embracing the awesomeness of this when school starts in a few weeks.

P.S – I’m sure I’ve missed some bits and pieces – what do you guys think? What were your takeaways from the session? Are you as excited as I am? Leave a comment!

P.P.S: More from the man himself on using Evernote to tag learning in the classroom:


[I’ll be posting in the future about how smartphones are changing what it means to teach and learn, and in particular, assess, in this day and age – but for now, I’m taking a purely selfish standpoint and posting on apps that have made my life as a teacher easier, more organised and streamlined.]

There are a whole bunch of resources floating around on the internets reviewing and suggesting various apps for smartphones and tablets – but, most of these a geared towards the students. Spelling apps, times-tables apps, cartoon creation apps etcetc.

What about us poor old teachers ay? Where is our app-love?

Do not fear, ye rabble of educators. Salvation is but a finger swipe away.

Here are a couple of apps I’ve personally found to have been helpful; to keep me organised, connected, up-to-date, and sane.

I’m coming from the perspective of an Android user, but I’m sure there are exactly the same, if not comprable app choices on other platforms. Another disclaimer – this is just a couple I’ve found handy, not the be-all-and-end-all list of TOP TEN APPS FOR EDUCATION which I see so often. Please leave a comment if you have any others we could add to the list!

Here is the tl;dr:
Llama, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Google Tasks, Google Translate, Google Currents,  Maps, Gmail, Blogger, Chrome, Dropbox, Evernote, Vimeo, Flickr, Soundcloud, Socrative, MaharaDroid, Where’s My Droid, Redditsync, Backgrounds HD Wallpapers.

EDIT: From @phpnz, who suggested a few more in the comments (thanks Pascale!):

Hi-Q MP3 (audio recorder)Audioboo (audio recorder)Skitch (picture annotation), Hika lite (Te Reo / English translation), Pocket (save and view articles to read – “all interesting URLs in one place)

Below is a more in-depth look into some of these apps – how they can be useful for teachers, save us time, keep us organised, and help us do our job better.

I’ll start with my favourite, then Googley ones, then the rest:

This little app has been so, so handy. It allows you to set phone profiles based on different parameters – the two I use are location and time parameters. I have mine set up so that when I get to school, it automatically changes the ringtones for my email, text, and calls. When I leave school, it ups the volume and changes them back to my regular ones (The Flight of the Conchords series theme song!). At 10:00 at night, it mutes my phone completely (with the exception of people in my “family” list). At 7:00am, it reverts to normal. When I get to school, it goes back to “school-mode”. It does it’s job – saves me time, and makes life easier. Fantastically fantastic app.

Google Drive (+widget)

Google Drive widget for Android

The widget for this app is particularly epic (see screenshot). Instant access to anything uploaded or created within your Google Drive suite of apps (docs, draw, presentations, forms, spreadsheets etc). Most useful for accessing starred docs, especially planning or student lists etc. Can access photo upload and doc creation from the widget too – good for snapping evidence of learning and note-taking on the fly.

Google Calendar
This is the official app, just released a few months ago. Before that, we had to make do with less-optimised calendar alternatives, none of which I found particularly intuitive. This app helped me finally ditch my last bastion of physical writing – my mighty Moleskine diary, which is now sitting alone and derelict in a drawer somewhere. I’ve got my personal gmail account set up in this, as well as my school one – and it displays both together. I make sure I create school-based meetings and events using my school account, and personal appointments on my personal account. That way, other teachers at school can see when I’m meeting with a parent, or have a PRT day, but not when I’m getting my hair permed. Like the web-based version, you can add other people’s calendars – so I’ve done that with all my fellow teachers at school. This really helps to flesh out all the extra stuff going on around school and to keep me up to date with comings and goings.

Google Reader
I talked a bit about the awesomeness of an RSS feed in this here Ignite talk. This is the app I use to access mine on the go. It could be a little more user friendly, but it works pretty well. Google Reader is only as strong as the blogs you’ve subscribed to though, so get out there and start exploring the edu-blogosphere.

Google Tasks To-Do List

Google Tasks
I was on the hunt for a decent to-do list which synced between devices and browsers, and this was it. I can add an item from any device / browser and have it sync across all others. I use the Google Tasks Chrome extension on my laptops too, and to add an item, click a little button at the top and voilà!  – it appears on my smartphone. Vise-versa with smartphone to Chrome. Actually I lied when I said my Moleskine was my last bastion of writing – it was actually the humble supermarket shopping list. This app sent that packing as well. Fare thee well, handwriting.

Google Translate

This app is great because it supports voice input and output. Say a word in English and it can play the word out loud in the language you are translating to. Excellent for use with ESOL students who either don’t know a word, or don’t know the English version of a word they know in their native tongue. Has saved my life multiple times with my Taiwanese better half (and her Mum and Dad).

Google Currents
This app is a little like an RSS feed-reader, except a lot smoother and more magazine-like. You can access popular sites such as Forbes, Lifehacker, Engaget, CNet, Huffington Post, The Verge, etc. Good for staying up with the play / procrastinating starting the day on a Sunday morning.

This is pretty self-explanatory – it helps you to not get lost. The navigation aspect of this is very functional and works like a charm when you’re in the car. You can save routes for accessing them offline if you’re near to reaching your data cap.


Again, self-explanatory. What I find particularly great about this though is (like Google Calendar), it handles multiple Google accounts with aplomb. I’ve set each account as a different notification tone, so I know when I can safely ignore an email if I’m having some Matt-time.

This app has just been updated, and would not have made it onto this list if it hadn’t been. It got a major UI overhaul and hugely increased functionality. You can now easily view posts and blogs, create a new post, and tweak settings. Great for the mobile blogger, and people with multiple blogs – although I still use the web-based version for the majority of my bloggings.

I am dissapoint. There is no such app, only terrible “third party” Picasa apps. I hope Google gets onto this.

The first thing I download when setting up a new system, on any operating system, on any device. My web browser of choice.


My Samsung Galaxy S3 came with 50gb free Dropbox storage. Images and videos I snap upload directly to the cloud. Be careful with this, as it can wreck a fragile broadband limit, especially if uploading chunky HD photos and video. I love this app though, and it makes sharing between teachers nice and streamlined.

Evernote (+Widget)
I don’t use this terribly much – I tend to use Google Docs when at school, but when I’m out and about at P.D or observations at other schools, Evernote is useful. It tags your note with geographical data so you can pinpoint where in the world you were when you created the note. Add text, audio, pictures, images, all kinds of stuff – label it, it syncs to your Evernote account, and available across all devices. On Android, the widget provides quick access to some of the central functions.

Soundcloud record widget

Vimeo, Flickr, Soundcloud
I’m lumping these guys together because they all fundamentally have the same core functions – the capture, uploading, sorting, storing, and sharing of media (images, video, audio). I love Vimeo, and after getting a pro-account for school, love it even more. Auto HD embedding really makes your videos pop when on a blog. I like Flickr more than Picasa for sharing photo slideshows, as Flickr’s slideshow aesthetic is much more cleaner and leaner. Soundcloud for audio; recording a student explaining a maths strategy, me reading a chapter of a book, or one of our hit songs – and sharing with the world. The Soundcloud record widget is nice and big for quickly recording kids when they say the darndest things.

Down with clickers! This is a student response system for things like quizzes, feedback, surveys and the like. There is a teacher version and a student version. I’ve chucked this app on all our tablets, and use it when the need arises. The cool part is you can also gain access via web-browser, so computers and netbooks can be used to gather responses too.

Upload photos directly to MyPortfolio. To be honest, I haven’t used it this much this year, but we’re getting much more into e-portfolios next year, so it will no doubt prove it’s worth then. In saying that, I often use it to snap and upload evidence of my own learning to my PRT portfolio.

Where’s My Droid
Helps find your lost phone. Have not needed it yet *touch wood* but will certainly need it when I inevitably do. Damn you back seat of taxis with your ability to suck everything out of pockets!

Because, Twitter. Build your PLN, learn, share, grow.

Because, Reddit. Laugh, cry, WTF, gifs.

Backgrounds HD Wallpapers
To make your device purdy.

So there we go! Reasonably straightforward; nothing too crazy.

Have you guys found any genuinely epic apps that help you in your everyday teacher-ish lives? I’d be interested to hear about them in the comments!