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!


10 ways to use photography in your classroom

IMG_4951In my previous post I talked about how I had been experimenting with iPhone photography.  iPads and mobile devices are becoming more and more prevalent in classrooms and they come equipped with a whole host of great features, the greatest of which is the camera.  The camera is brilliant and in most classrooms is used for recording films.  Photographs are used in classrooms but more often than not students tend to select photos from creative commons sites such as pixabay or foter.  If a student is wholly engaged with a project or task they are more like to remember it, so maybe it’s time to stop students searching for photos and let them get creative and take their own.

  1. There are a multitude of apps that allow you to add words to your photos such as wordswag, adobe post and typorama to name but a few.  Why not get your lesson started with a quote, fact or provocative statement using a photo to support it? Better still, get your students to create them.IMG_4945
  2. Photograph a process.  This could be a science experiment or a design and technology project or even the creation of a piece of art.  Students could then drop their photos into the app Paper 53 and annotate on them or type below them. In Paper 53 you can highlight elements of your photos to make them stand out more.IMG_4944
  3. Collaborate on an iBook.  You could ask your form group to document a day in the life of your school.  Students could then collate their photos in an iBook which could then be shared at open evenings and the like. Take a look at Louise and Lisa’s One Best Thing iBook  to get some ideas!
  4. Take a photo. Paint it. Or add filters to your original photo to get inspiration for painting.
  5. Take a photo or a series of photos and use them as inspiration for writing.  Students could even take photos as inspiration for others.
  6. Document a school trip.  Rather than the somewhat uninspiring photos that we all come back with from school trips, challenge your students to get creative and take some inspiring photos.  The photos could then be used to make a slide show using Haiku deck app.  The beauty of Haiku deck is that it doesn’t allow too many words so the photos get to shine!Screen Shot 2015-12-27 at 16.05.10
  7. Describe your community.  Get out of the classroom and get taking photographs of the people and places within it.  Back in the classroom students could create interactive books using their photos and the app book creator.  I am definitely doing this with my languages classes when we learn about places in town.IMG_4948
  8. Portraits.  This would work well on a new intake day or with a new Y7 class.  Take portraits of each other and then interview the student.  You could link the photo to the interview using a QR code or you could video the interview and link to the photo using augmented reality.
  9. Create a photo story.  Using the comic life app or bookcreator app IMG_4949
  10. Turn your students into sports photo journalists and get them to document a school sporting event.  Publish the best photos with a match report in the school newspaper or the school blog. Look at Bill Frakes’ photos for inspiration.



Creative fun with iPhone photography

‘Creativity is intelligence having fun!’ Albert Einstein

I love to bring creativity to my classroom.  I enjoy thinking up creative activities for my students to engage in.  Take a look at my blog posts on Sketchnoting, stop motion, murderous learning or my iBooks on creativity in the classroom and Henri Rousseau.

To my mind, creativity brings a new dimension to learning, it adds fun and enjoyment to a classroom setting as well as engaging both halves of the brain.

Knowledge has limits – creativity doesn’t.  It’s our job to take learning beyond it’s limits.

Throughout the past 6 months I have been experimenting with iPhone photography. 

During the 2015 ADE institute in Amsterdam I was hugely privileged to be able to listen to the photographer Bill Frakes talk about his life in photography. His project Nebraska skies is mind blowing whereas his emotional video about a singing festival in Estonia made me cry.  I came away from the session with 2 things ringing in my head that Bill had said; 1 – look for the light 2 – always take the shot because you can’t go back. Armed with this information I decided to investigate to what effect the iPhone camera can be used.

The easiest way to learn how to use the camera in your phone or iPad is to simply have a go.  The native camera app on the iPhone has a set of filters that you can try, you can also adjust the light, the colour or black and white as well as crop your photos.

If you love filters, there are oodles and oodles of apps out there to play with.  However, I would say keep it simple.  My favourite apps are Snapseed (free) Hipstamatic (free but with in app purchases) and Enlight (£2.99)

The above photos were taken using the Hipstamatic app.  This app allows you to choose between a variety of lenses and films to create different effects. You can get some lovely vintage looking photos using this app.

The photo on left was edited using the Snapseed app.  In this photo I have applied the drama filter. The photo on the right is the original unfiltered version.

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The native photo app has some in-built filters to play with.  In the above photo I have applied the fade filter.

You can also edit you photos by cropping them.  I like this silhouette of my husband and sun against the winter sky but in the first photo, there’s too much foreground. I much prefer the cropped version on the right.

Light and shade are important in photos.  I love how the light falls across my daughter’s face in the fist photo in the second and  fourth photos the shadows behind my son add depth to the photo, whereas in the third photo his face is in shade and his body not making him look even more like Batman

Framing the photo and drawing the eye are pretty tricky things to get right and I’m a long way off being good at it.  However, if you compare photo 1 to photos 2 and 3  you will understand what I mean.  The poor light and boring foreground in photo 1 do not help to draw the eye to the beauty of the manx coastline beyond.  In the forth photo the electric tram tracks help to draw the eye into the photo.

Things I’ve learnt:

  1. Light is really important even more so when using an iPhone simply because of the limitations of the camera.  Shadows can make great photos too!
  2. Always have a focal point but your focal point does not necessarily have to be in the middle of your photo.
  3. Tap on your screen and the camera will focus where you tap.
  4. Try not to use the zoom. On the iPhone it’s a digital zoom not an optical one so, zooming in distorts the quality of the image.  Instead try to get closer to your subject or crop your photo later.
  5. When it comes to filters – less is more.  I prefer the clarity of an unfiltered image.  That said, I used black and white quite a lot.
  6. Try to draw the viewers eye – frame your photos (I find this quite difficult)
  7. Experiment with the subject of your photo.  Portraits, animals, landscape, still life – try it all!
  8. Publish you photos – get feedback from a critical friend.  I post my favourites on Twitter and tag a few fellow iPhone photographers – thank you @deepexperience1 and  @oakes_dan
  9. Join Google Photos and get it to sync with your camera roll in this way you free up space on your phone and you never lose those precious photos!  What’s more you can create collections which is a great way of organising your shots.
  10. To begin with choose something to take photos of – it will help you to focus (no pun intended!) I started by taking photos in and around my village

Photography is like life – take the shot because you can’t go back.  Unlike life though, you can delete any photos you don’t like!

Happy snapping!  Please share your photos on Twitter I’d love to see them!

In my next blog post I shall look at some ideas of how to use photography in your classroom.