Saturday, 12 December 2015

Minecraft: Douglas L Watkins recommendation.

Doug Watkins - DGBL (Digital Games-Based Learning) expert.
Link to his most popular work, Darkewater

I am overseeing the introduction of a 'Minecraft club' at school, along with Dale Evans, Teaching Assistant Extraordinaire!  As a Second Life user, I have a broad understanding of 'virtual worlds', but I quickly saw that pupils were way ahead of me, and I posted a plea for help in a Teacher's Minecraft Google Group, specifically saying that I'd like to 'try it out' as a user within a community and be able to ask questions.

Doug Watkins got in touch and offered to help by showing me the basics using his online server. I am so impressed with all aspects of the support he gave and it is without hesitation that I offer this recommendation.

Firstly, Doug was extremely thoughtful in his preparation for giving support. Via email, he checked carefully with me what my starting point was, and put together a very clear plan of what he was going to cover during our first online meeting. When we met, he had prepared the 'agenda', he had all documents to hand and made extremely effective and efficient use of the time we had.

He offered a Skype or Google Hangouts meeting, and I was extremely impressed by the 'lesson' he gave me. As well as learning a great deal about Minecraft, I experienced excellent use of technology for distanced learning as Doug exploited Skype, Teamviewer and Google tools. We greeted each other on Skype video and Doug shared links in the IM chat to his comprehensive and clearly laid out documents relating to Minecraft on Google Docs. We used Teamviewer to allow me to see Doug's screen as he explained Minecraft, and for Doug to see my screen as I made my tentative first steps into his Minecraft world. All aspects worked well throughout our 3 hour meeting!

Doug has a very clear understanding of the issues associated with using Minecraft in the classroom. He very enthusiastic about the educational benefits of using Minecraft, but can also understand why some teachers may hesitate from using it and can offer strategies to address this.

He has a superb, patient manner. Although clearly an extremely experienced Minecraft user, he was able to put himself in the place of a new user, and at any point I got stuck, he was quick to go back a step and start again in a patient way, not making me feel stupid, and going at an appropriate pace! It was lovely to be able to feel free to ask any question along the way. I can imagine that he would work brilliantly with pupils and teachers alike.

Doug explains things to a novice in a way that you could understand, both through clear verbal instruction, and through using 'screen share' and giving clear instructions about where to click and drag

Doug freely shares links to a folder on his Google drive which contains a wealth of information and practical help. His documents are clearly referenced and easy to read. I have downloaded and printed most of them!  Direct Link to his Education drive.

He was quick to follow up our meeting with a summary and links to his google drive documents.

In summary, I cannot recommend Doug strongly enough to anyone who is looking for guidance for using Minecraft in a school setting. Thank you Doug for your generosity in sharing and the quality of your work! I look forward to learning even more!

Doug's Drive:
A collection of guides (for teachers), activities (for individuals), and lessons (for classes or groups). Always start here if you are looking for new material or inspiration. Please send me the results of any lessons you try so I can incorporate your experiences.

Doug's Maps:
Maps (finished and in progress) by Doug Watkins

EduElfie's Youtube Channel: Learn about Minecraft in French!  This is my plan .. to switch it to French every now and then - de temps en temps!

A good place to start if you have questions about or problems with MinecraftEdu.
This is where Doug starts when looking for maps and hosting his own.  He reminds you that you should always check the content of the map before you let your students play on it.

Minecraft Crafting Wiki:
A helpful wiki that shows every single crafting recipe in detail.

BDouble's Note Block Tutorial:
Doug passed me this link  as I was curious about whether you could get soind in Minecraft!

Minecraft Command Wiki:
A helpful wiki that explains how to use commands and the effects of each command (think teleporting players/changing gamemodes/giving items and status effects).

Additional links:
The Anthill -
A really great adventure map (with little to no violence) that can be used with any class size. Should work for 1.7.10

The Tourist -
A Paris map Doug told me about  He said it's a good map for just exploring Paris, but he has a lot of issues with the story. Some of the students will like the plot, but most will ignore the story.

Dr. Wasteland's Minecraft Server: I have a direct link to Doug's server so that I can practise!

Edugaming I have created an account on Doug's recommendation.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Language Show Live Sat 17th October 2015

I really hope that lots of language teachers are coming to support the Language Show Live Show and Tell on Saturday October 17th 2015. 

Joe Dale (ICT whizz extraordinaire) and I will be hosting the event, and Linguascope and Vocab Express are giving anyone who attends a token entitling them to a  free first drink across the road at The Hand and Flower immediately afterwards (6 pm onwards).  (You are welcome to join us even if you do not attend the Show and Tell, of-course!)

People are often quite modest when it comes to standing up to ‘show and tell’ but we do our best to put you at ease!  There’s no clock ticking .. no fixed  time allocation.. I just gently sidle up to people and smile if we need to move on! You don’t have to join in.. you can just watch .. and I won’t  bully you into joining in if you don’t want to (!) .. but the more the merrier!  It is always a successful session .. nothing is better than REAL teachers sharing what REALLY works for them.

Occasionally when people want to show slides / websites / applications, the computer blocks things.  In order to avoid this problem, if you would like to have peace of mind before presenting, please feel free to mail me your slides, or give me link so that I can pre-load them.  I will need this by Wednesday evening as I am foolishly (but joyously!) going out on Friday evening!  You can do this by contacting me directly, or writing details on this google doc:
Finally, if anyone has a little party piece they could do at the show and tell, please let me know. We already have a quiz and magic tricks, and  I am prepared to take my guitar and amp if we have any budding musicians!  Sadly John Connor cannot make it this year, but I’m sure there are some singers out there …!

We had a fantastic time last year, and we plan to have a fantastic time this year as well!
Show and Tell 2014

All the best!
Helen Myers
ALL London, Chair

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

French Exchange Offers July 2015

Find your partners!

If you are looking for a school with which to do an exchange, French teachers are eagerly waiting for you to contact them!

Here is a live link to a google doc spreadsheet which I have set up personally to allow direct contact between teachers. Obviously it is up to the schools involved to use this as a first step and then to carry out all the usual official checks and arrangements.

The background

I am currently in the process of organising a French exchange partner school having been told at very late notice that our previous school could no longer exchange with us.

My experience has proved to me yet again how valuable it is to be in touch with people 'on the ground'.
I posted a message to the helpful and friendly yahoo mflresources forum for advice on finding a school. Within minutes one teacher put me in touch with a school with which she had had a great experience and another recommended I request to join a forum of French teachers.

I registered on British Council Schools Online and eTwinning, but to be honest, did not find it easy to search for what I needed.  I will be contacting them for guidance which I can then post here

I feel that I really want to help all these lovely keen French teachers of English who answered my message on Sunday. What dedication! I am setting up this spreadsheet hoping that someone will be interested and that there can be more fruitful exchanges.

An exchange is so incredibly rewarding. I will eventually put this post in a more 'permanent / official' place on a website and give links to resources we have used in the past, including a PowerPoint for the information evening, our video of a previous exchange, comments from participants, articles from our school magazine and the booklet we design to take with us.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

ALL London June event up-date

The ALL June event is approaching! Saturday 13th June 2015

Here is an update from my previous post:

1. Here is the list of all the speakers:
  • Sylvia Bartlett-Rawlings
  • Suzi Bewell
  • Liz Black
  • Nadine Chadier
  • Joe Dale
  • Peter Downes
  • Gina Hall
  • René Koglbauer
  • Katrin Lauber
  • Karl Pfeiffer
2. Can I stress that this is a morning for all teachers, whatever language they teach, and there is the bonus of an afternoon for Germanists who can stay on.

3. We are offering free places to primary teachers who are with us for the first time.

4. We  have 11 exhibitors confirmed so far.  I will list them in a post next week when others have had a chance to register their interest.  There are some great raffle prizes in store!

Please book before Monday 8th June to get the early bird rate.  It really is excellent value for money!  Thanks so much to the Goethe Institut, exhibitors and the City of London School for making this possible.

Link to ALL London webpage:

Link to eventbrite registration:

Just contact me at The Ashcombe School or by mail if you have any queries.


Thursday, 23 April 2015

ALL London June Event 2015

ALL London is delighted to announce its annual 'June Event' which will be taking place on Saturday 13th June 2015 from 10 am at The City of London School, 107 Queen Victoria Street, London EC4V 3AL, and we hope that as many people as possible will come along.
Here is a link to the details and registration on Eventbrite:
Here is a link to the web page: (apologies for antiquated style. I will take up Stéphane's kind offer to help me revamp the site soon!)   
There are many reasons why we think that this event will attract even more people than usual,
and here are just some (in no particular order …!)

Our event is running alongside the annual 'Goethe German Day', which means that there are even more choices.  You can follow the 'ALL London June Event'  path, or you can follow the 'Goethe Institut German Day' path, or you can mix and match the two.  This gives you the best of both worlds!
The location is central and simply breath-taking!  There is plenty of room to accommodate as many as want to come, and We are hoping for a sunny day so that you can benefit from a stunning view across the Thames and up to St Paul's dome!  Thanks SO much to Robin Edmundson for arranging the use of his fantastic school!
Many exhibitors are subsidising our morning break, and you will have plenty of opportunities to see their wares and network with colleagues and friends. 
The Goethe Institut is generously subsidising a buffet lunch, so it will be convenient and satisfying to have something to eat before you either go off to explore London in the afternoon, or stay on for the German-focused afternoon
Primary colleagues will have a strand to keep them occupied all morning, packed with great ideas
Germanists have a wealth of information from the Goethe Institut and as an added bonus, they have an afternoon especially for them, at no extra cost!
We have a stellar cast of superb, popular speakers who cover a wide range of topics

Training Teachers: what better way than to meet up with your fellow students for a final training session and mix with more teachers before you embark on your career?!  We'd LOVE to see you and to wish you well!
The event offers extremely good value for money
It is very useful to have an idea of numbers at an early stage - especially for catering - and so we have included an 'early bird' rate.  If people cannot make it in the end, we can transfer the registration as long as you let us know before the event, so there is no reason to delay!
We look forward to seeing you soon!

All the best

Helen Myers
On behalf of the ALL London committee.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Learning a language online

I felt really embarrassed about not knowing any Dutch when I visited Groningen for the Eurocall conference last year.  As a result of the conference I am now embarking on an exciting TILA project with Bart Pardoel whom I met at the 3D special interest group meeting.  As I tested out a new game online last Friday with Bart and his colleagues, I once again felt ashamed that I did not even know how to say thanks!

This was in my mind when all of a sudden I spotted a link on my Facebook page ... a message from Groningen University inviting people to sign up for a basic course of Dutch available via Futurelearn.  I have been wanting to experience a 'MOOC' and I learn so much my personal experience of learning languages which I can apply to my teaching ... (most recently, Italian...) so I just had to join it!  Here is a link to the page on 'why it works'

I then thought of Duolingo and was delighted to discover that there is a Dutch course there too.

I declared my intention to learn some Dutch to the Twitterworld (a way of committing myself I suppose!) .. and Steve Smith suggested I write a blog of my experience.  So here goes...



I find the audio very clear, and the pace suits me well.
A knowledge of German speeds things up.
Some frustration when I come across words on which I cannot 'hook' anything. 
Read the 'tips' and learner comments when you can to understand a bit more about the background.. e.g. goededag (good day) but goedeNavond (good evening) .. add an 'n' before a vowel.  I gave a couple of people 'lingots' for helpful comments. (I'm just so generous!).  e.g. How can you remember the tough word for please: Alsjebleift.  It really helps when you can break it down .. [as it to you pleases.]

So, learners like me need to understand the components, then we have more chance of remembering the word. 


Very well constructed, inviting course I think, with pictures.  Short introduction.
Videos well scripted.. not wasting time.  Possible to read pdf in place of watching video.
Activities divided into three weeks.  Each references 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 etc.  Learner clicks
A video of real people inviting you to participate.
A community .. you follow the teachers.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

BETT 2015

Thanks to the exhibitors and speakers at BETT2015.  I really enjoyed my day there on Friday 23rd January.

Here are some notes from my experience.

Practical stuff

Really worthwhile downloading the BETT app onto my phone, scrolling through the schedule and marking favourites.

The Excel London very easy to get to.  Waterloo, Jubilee line, change at Canning Town, then two stops on the DLR to Custom House.  Really helpful tube staff telling you to go to the middle of the platform.
Excel staff all very cheerful and helpful
Not as warm as Olympia.. kept coat on!
Easy to find your way around with reference to the entrances
I queued up before 10am .. noticed lots of people having coffee casually at the tables and realised why.  Doors open, everyone just piles in!!
Met friends at The Fox lower bar... cosier than the centre.

Programs/Stands/People we met

 All subjects:

Kahoot - fantastic free app from Norway .. for mobile apps or fixed PCs. The video was brilliant.. focussed on the reaction of the students of all ages!

E-factor: Story-based computer simulations.  A Polish-based company/.  Looks great!
Fronter - the VLE system we use.  Must follow up the additional hand-in tool which you can add to rooms (instead of making folders hand-in folders)
Pearson - we were looking for advice about content to add to Fronter.  Anthony told us that Pearson is organising 'ready-made' rooms.  Not yet there for ML - we may be able to help.
Schools Serious Games - an eu project to create adventure games for learning e.g. Playing History and Global Conflicts and Materials Future
Sonocent audio note taker - I need to look at the this more to understand fully what it does.  I really liked the stand!


NASEN - a must for SEN.  Join the association.  Good quality regular magazine, High quality conference.
Spelling tutor
Units of sound Online - Seems to be a really good way of getting specialist support for pupils who need help with literacy, especially at a time when schools may have to be reducing staffing. Really nice to meet Maria Mahoney again, and thanks to Clare Effingham who explained it all to me.


Issues online - PSHE support - up-to-date
Zumos - looks like a really good resource to promote 'well being'.  Business model makes it free at delivery.


Exampro - as recommended by Bertram Richter, so I would like to have it even though we do not use AQA for ML.
Eurotalk - we already subscribe to their excellent products. Looking forward to seeing the authoring version which will be out shortly.
Flashsticks - seems very engaging - probably mainly for primary environments.  Nice people on the stand, and thanks that they replied to my tweet!
Lexicum - a new way to learn and reinforce new vocabulary.  Being developed still.  I was really impressed.
Radiolingua - so pleased at the success Mark Pentleton is having with his company.  We go back a long way! (He set up my Facebook and Twitter accounts at a past BETT show!).  Nice to meet Katie!
Talking Products - excellent for straightforward recordings - especially for people without access to mobile phones.  I was really surprised at how cheap they were.
Sorry I didn't make it to see Marta Palomerasi and Cheryl Sanchez of bilingual bookshop but thanks for your tweets!  I will definitely look at your books!


Online Parents' evening booking system - will pass on this idea.
Route2education - engaging digital tables for primary schools.  Makes me wish I worked in a primary school!
Soundfield / Connevans - I always want to buy this product!  Teacher wears a small microphone around their neck, and their voice comes out of a speaker placed at the back of the room. Reduces voice strain, and would be fantastic for teaching languages.   Really nice to meet the Director, Phil Boswell and to know that the company is based very near our school.

Talks and meetings

We attended a very good talk called 'Active literacy - getting words off the page!' by Donald Cumming, Assistant Headteacher, Holmfirth High School.  Description of the session: 'Writing is a high-stakes activity for many young people as well as a difficult-yet-essential skill: the written word is there to be seen and judged by everyone! So what can be done? This session will demonstrate active approaches to literacy ranging from using rugby balls to making the best of IT in order to develop confidence and skills'.  Donald generously offered to share his  PowerPoint.  We loved the active and engaging techniques he suggested .. e.g. two over-sized hands used to accompany 'on the one hand .. on the other hand' ... and over-sized cut-outs of footsteps to accompany 'Point - Explanation - Evidence [and optionally, link]'

It was good to meet Jens Kjaer Olsen and Mr Rasmussen and his son.  I am delighted that they are investigating providing an affordable way of allowing pupils to work in a 3D Virtual environment with other pupils form around the world.  At the moment I am really excited about trying out a similar project with TILA and I would love to be involved with whatever they set up!

I'd like to follow up the talk I saw on using 'Minecraft'.

At last we met, @basbettj !!!!  It was great to see you for real, and I look forward to a webinar from you! Sorry you didn't get to give your presentation Janet.   I agree with you and others tweeting that having lots of so-called 'nano' presentations would be best as a way of sharing a maximum of ideas which people could then follow up they want.

The absolute highlight for the day was listening to 'visionary'  Sir Ken Robinson in the BETT arena.  Chris Panting, Deputy Head at The Ashcombe, was very envious of the chance we had to see Sir Ken Robinson, and I am just so sorry that I could not get a signed copy of his book for him.  They ran out of the stock just before I got to the front of the queue.  Sorry Chris!

The programme notes for this session were as follows: "I am delighted to be part of the international education  community that will gather at Bett 2015 in London. In my  keynote session, Out of our Minds: learning to be creative,  I will  challenge many of the test-based, standardised educational  reforms being pushed globally to 'reform' education. I look  forward especially to learning about how you are working  creatively to transform education where you are."

I do hope that someone was videoing it and that we can see it again.  I did not want to take notes .. the experience of sitting on the floor watching an accomplished orator at work close-up was unmissable .. but I did take time to write a few tweets of things which really struck me: (obviously the bits I really believe in too!)
  • Waiting to hear Sir Ken Robinson talk about a culture of collaboration  growth sitting on the floor 
  • Culture is the sum of your behaviour. It can change in a short space of time e.g. tolerance of smoking
  • You are more important to the pupils than the Secretary of education who is passing through to another job.... you are the school
  • Not against assessment e.g PISA  ('the European song contest of education!') but the way it is used by politicians
  • Definition of creativity..original ideas with a value
  • Schools have a narrow conception of talent. Overlooked because we are looking for something else..
  • Question is not whether to use technology but how
  •  Absolutely inspiring and entertaining talk from Sir is not is cannot plan life
  • Look at video 'going nuts'..fantastic..demonstrations that all we need is already there..we need to be open
  • Very moving advert for mind art..they deserve the publicity..

  • Must buy new edition of out of our minds by Sir sad that they had sold out on the stand :-(
  • Excellent analogy drawn between farming and education..danger of the monoculture..need to concentrate on the soil
  • Tears in my eyes after being shown landfillharmonic video. .a must see for all..

  • Our job is not to teach the national curriculum but to teach children
  • Loving the evangelism of Sir Ken
  • Sir Ken is not saying there are not things we need to learn in common
  • Education is to help children learn what they might not learn on their own..expose them to single definition

It was like being in an evangelical meeting ... Sir Ken speaks in a down-to-earth yet eloquent way, pulling at the heart-strings as he describes what are humane 'common sense' objectives and methods in education.   You felt like standing up and saying 'Hallelujah!'  There is no way that I would have asked any even vaguely critical question following such an experience!

And yet I know that when I have read what he has said in the past, although agreeing absolutely with him about the purpose of education and the problems in the current system, I have wondered how this would work fairly within our publicly accountable system where our aim is  to give equality of opportunity and access.  My question might be: How would he advise government to do the following without tests and standards:  (a) establish the 'common core' (b) define a common understanding of what we should be doing 'beyond the core' (c) ensure accountability in a public service for the common core and 'beyond'.  I am motivated to read more deeply and find out how he would answer.

I am sure I have missed lots of things I saw and did and will add them on this page.  Hope this may be helpful to others as well as a 'reminder' to me about what to pass on to colleagues!

I hope I can be let out to experience BETT again next year!


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Happy New Year everyone!

I do hope that you are going to be able to join us at our 'ALL London January Event' this year on Saturday 17th January, 10-1 at SOAS, University of London. Here is a link to the ALL London website where you can see more information and download an invitation.

How do you join?

Here is a link to 'signing up' on Eventbrite.  Please download an invitation from the website if you prefer to use mail / cheques!

Where is it taking place?

SOAS are generously hosting us again.  We are so lucky to be in such a central place, easy to get to, and close to other attractions for later visiting / shopping.

 Who is it for?

We are especially looking forward to having more primary teachers with us, as every session will have something for both primary and secondary teachers/trainers.  It is also a time when we love to welcome students to our 'main' event.  We met over 120 students at our October reception, and very much hope that they will come along!  It is free to student members and student non-members can come at a reduced price.  (The same price as teacher members).

What is on offer?

The committee will be sporting brand new sweatshirts, and Stéphane Derône has done a great job in recruiting sponsors to subsidise out refreshments, so you will be able to browse through excellent resources while chatting and drinking in breaks.  Sponsors include Maison Claire Fontaine, Vocab Express, OUP .. and  Linguascope will provide bags and freebies for us all!

 In the first short session, you will be able to choose between primary and secondary 'up-date' sessions when we will give 'the big picture' of everything you need to know (curriculum - requirements - OFSTED - examinations etc.)!  Nick Mair and I will lead the secondary session, and Nadine Chadier and Sylvie Bartlett-Rawlings will lead the primary session, including some input from Peter Downes.

 In the second session, SOAS are going to show us what they can offer schools in the form of a short lesson in Indonesian for all participants.  This will be fun as well as educational, and delegates may be interested in asking SOAS to be involved in their schools to spread interest tasting 'different' languages.

In the third session, we are delighted that the incredibly popular Steven Fawkes will talk to us about using authentic texts at both primary and secondary level.  His sessions are always thought provoking, practical and highly entertaining.  You cannot miss this opportunity!

 The morning is rounded off with a choice. 

·         Nick Mair will offer his extremely helpful session for student teachers on getting prepared for interviews / CV writing etc.  It is  really useful to hear what a school manager is looking for when interviewing.

·         Peter Downes will give more information about a realistic way of providing languages in the primary setting, whatever the expertise of the staff involved.  Our own committee member Anette Corbach speaks very highly of this approach, and Peter is very committed to helping teachers and managers.

·         Otherwise, you can come along to the Annual General Meeting to monitor how we are running the branch!  (We will not be offended if you choose one of the other sessions!)

Please sign up soon to benefit from an early bird rate.  (It will be £5 more after next Monday).  See you soon!  Helen (Helen Myers  ALL London Chair)