Half a world away. VR helping to cross the cultural divide.


I live on the Isle of Man and this is going to be our year of going global and yet we aren’t ever going to leave our classroom.

I was fortunate enough last year to meet a fellow teacher Rosie Kolster, she came to the island from Muscat, Oman to see how we use iPads in our MFL classrooms.  It was a great couple of days and at the end we agreed to attempt a project between our students.

Sometimes with real beginners in second language learning connecting with native speakers can be difficult for them and as result I have found that making connections with other early stage language learners can be highly motivational. Rosie and I decided that our students would make ebooks about themselves and we’d simply swap them.  Rosie’s class filmed some fabulous videos using green screen whereas my class decided to show our Omani friends our school and our town through the use of 360 photography . Our work was added to bookcreator app and once complete, exchanged.


The mere mention of 360 photography or video is often followed by groans from educators around the world as it is seen as extremely costly.  The cheapest 360 video cameras come in around £300 and most school simply can’t afford to have sets of them in their classrooms but working with 360 photography needn’t be expensive and  it can still provide those wow moments for students.

When my students made their 360 photos they used 2 tools;

  1. Google street view app
  2. storyspheres.com

Making 360 photos using street view is very easy. Open the app and tap the big yellow camera. Next select camera; a white circle appears on the screen move your screen until the white circle aligns with a yellow dot, once aligned a portion of the 360 photo is taken.  Continue to do this whilst moving around in a circle; don’t forget to look up and look down so that you get a full 360 experience.  Once you have taken your photo it appears at the bottom of your screen, tap it and then tap the export button.  Select share privately and add the photo to your camera roll.

Now it’s time to add the photo to storyspheres.com

At this point I should like to point out that like all the best ideas, this one is ‘stolen’ When I say stolen, what I mean is that someone far more experienced and knowledgable pointed me in the right direction with easy VR for the classroom.  I’m lucky enough to be able to call her my friend and she is undoubtedly the person to follow on twitter for any help or advice regarding VR in the classroom so, stop reading for a moment and start following @virtualsarahj and tell her I sent you 🙂

Storyspheres allows you to upload 360 photos and add a sound file to go with your photo – which makes it perfect for use in the languages classroom.  You need to make an account then follow the simple steps and upload your photos and sound files.  Now that you have your story in storysheres you can share the link.

For our project with Rosie’s class we didn’t add a sound file as the children were adding voice recordings in the Bookcreator app. In order to share our photos the students took a still photo for each 360 photo and we used this in Bookcreator to link to our 360 photos in Storyspheres.  Rosie tweeted me yesterday to say that all she could hear in her class when her pupils opened the photos was ‘wow this is so cool!’ it enabled our Omani friends to become immersed in our world. They could stand on Ramsey beach or at the harbour or in out assembly hall and get a really good idea of what our town and school are like.  360 photos and VR can help to build empathy and understanding and help us to cross cultural divides.

Here are some of our 360 images made using Street View and uploaded to Storyspheres

School Playing fields

Mooragh Park, Ramsey

Ramsey Harbour

Ramsey Beach

Some of my students have never left the Isle of Man so projects like ours with the British School Muscat help to open their eyes to a whole world, one that they could never previously conceive and although VR is no substitute for the real thing it’s certainly one step closer than a still photograph or a film.

If you are interested in using VR in your classroom. There are a number of resources that are well worth a look at.  YouTube now supports 360 videos and there are  numerous videos worthy of a look.  Street view meanwhile, will show you how many 360 photos there are in any particular area.  So, you could look up the Eiffel tower and tap on a 360 photo and be taken there.  Google Expeditions ,a new kid on the block but brilliant for use in class.  This free app allows you to lead your class on an expeditions pointing things out as you go.

If you’d prefer your students to create rather than consume take a look at cospaces.io Here,  students can create 360  virtual worlds which they can then ‘walk’ through using the cospaces app.  Please note that students have to create using a desktop or laptop but they can add sound and labels. I have yet to use it with a class but it has great potential and I have booked our computer suite this week so that Y8 can give it a try another blog post will no doubt follow…

In the meantime enjoy throwing the windows and doors open on the world with your students using VR let me know how you get on!


Google Classroom perfect for the MFL classroom

Those of you that know me well know that I can’t be doing with faff. I like simple and sleek.

I find large piles of books a faff and am constantly looking for ways to make marking that bit simpler and quicker.  I also love all things digital. One of the issues with digital work is where do you put it once the students have completed it and how on earth do you mark it?

Last academic year I was using a variety of methods in an attempt to make my workflow super sleek and slim lined.  I was using a combination of iTunes U, Google Drive and our then learning management system called My Big Campus.  The very fact that I had 3 systems on the go hardly made the the work flow and it wasn’t what you’d call super sleek either.

Google Drive is brilliant and awesome for collaboration and sharing but setting up shared folders at the beginning of the year can be a faff especially for younger students.  iTunes U is fab but it only works on iOS devices and we aren’t a 1:1 school so some students couldn’t access materials at home.  My Big Campus was a bit clunky but worked across all platforms but the marking and feedback work flow was poor.

A real solution was required and it cames in the form of Google classroom – a free learning management system from Google, of course.  It comes in the form of an app or you can access it via the web. In order to be able to use Google Classroom you need to be a GAFE school, it’s relatively easy to sign up – ask your IT techs about it and obviously clear it with your SLT.

The beauty of Classroom is its simplicity.  As a teacher you create a virtual classroom online.  Students log onto classroom with their GAFE login and they enter a code which gives them access to your classroom.  When they sign up to your classroom a folder is created in their drive called classroom in here they can see all the classrooms that they are in.  If they open a class folder they will find all the work that they have done in that classroom plus any materials that you may have provided for them.  As a teacher, when you create a classroom you also get a file in Google Drive called classroom and in here you can see all the work that your students have done for you organised in individual folders.   The faff of sharing folders that you have in Google Drive is gone – hurrah!

In Classroom there are 3 basic things you can do;

  1. Create an annnouncement
  2. Create an assignment
  3. Ask a question

An an announcement is just that, something you want to tell your students. You can attach things to your announcements such as a video link.

Ask a question here you can pose a question for your students and get them to comment upon it – a great way of getting a discussion going.  Also a great way of extending your classroom beyond the physical four walls.

Create an assignment, use this when you want the students to ‘virtually’ hand something in to you. You can attach files to your assignment which can be edited or not by each student.  You can also ensure that all students get a copy the file by selecting the appropriate option.

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Students open the work from classroom and when complete they simply click hand in.  Once they have done this they no longer have editing rights over that document, just like they wouldn’t have if they handed in an exercise book.

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Students can also add files to assignments which is particularly useful in the MFL classroom as it is dead easy to upload audio and video files.  Students simply upload from Drive or directly from their desktop or directly from photos if working on an iPad – incredibly simple and super sleek.  No more confusion from students it’s just a few clicks and their work is handed in, not only that but their digital portfolio is instantly updated as the work is automatically put in their classroom folder – brilliant!

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Marking is dead easy too.  Simply go to the student work tab of your classroom and you will see a student list on the left and all the students work on the right.  Classroom will also allow you to see those who haven’t done the work too.  To mark work click on a student’s name,  the work will now open in Drive.  You can now annotate the work by adding comments.  Once done close the work and you can add a private comment for the student, the student can easily reply and a dialogue about their work can begin.  When you have marked the work.  Click the check box next to the student’s name and click the return button.  The student now has editing rights over their work once more.  They can even make corrections and resubmit the work to you if that’s what you require.

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On final and rather cool thing about Classroom is that lots of websites and apps are now incorperating Classroom integration which means you can share things with you students even more easily.  For example in Quizlet you can create a vocabulary list and easily share on classroom by clicking the share in classroom button. Easy Peasy.

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Google Classroom; super simple, slick and perfect for the Modern Foreign Languages classroom.

The guru of all things Google is Alice Keeler – follow her on twitter @alicekeller also check out her website alicekeeler.com

Do You Flubaroo? #ililc4


I was lucky enough to be able to present at this year’s #ililc4 conference in Southampton which took place last weekend.

One of my sessions was about using the marking script Flubaroo.  This script automatically marks answers for google forms.  In this powerpoint I go through the process of creating a google form and then applying the Flubaroo scrip step by step.  I have found that multiple choice and text answers are the ones that work best with Flubaroo as it relies on your students’ answers matching exactly to the answer that you give Flubaroo.

It is also important to not and this is not in the powerpoint that one of your questions MUST be what is your name?  and if you want to email the test results back to your students you must have another question asking them for their email address.

Ensure that you tick the box when making your google form which says required question, this means that students have to have to put an answer in for each question.

Goggle forms are great for use when flipping the classroom or for setting vocabulary tests. You can now embed pictures and video into Google Forms so you can now easily set up listening activities and matching activities.  Have fun and happy Flubarooing!

Any questions just leave a comment or send me a tweet to @lancslassrach and I’ll try to help as best I can.