Creating an instructional video

This is the 6th entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

One of the best ways to learn something, is to try to explain it to someone else, which we often do in the classroom by getting students to explain a concept to the person sat next to them, or stand up in front of the group and do a presentation, but this can become a bit samey for the learners, and they are always presenting back to people at the same levels as themselves.

One option is to ask them to create an explanatory video – the beauty of this, is that you can then give them a different target audience (e.g. younger people, people outside of the subject area etc) making them think not just about the material and information but how it is communicated.

In terms of what technologies to use, learners could use their own mobile phones and the camera facility within, or you could provide them with cameras if you have access to that resource, or you can use the screencasting ideas mentioned in an earlier post (which then doesn’t require a camera at all).

However if you do have access to a camera, and possibly a few tripods, then asking the learners to create an instructional video for their subject area in the style of the ‘Commoncraft Plain English‘ videos, could be a very interesting learning activity, an example of such a video being:-

Obviously these are very polished, well planned out resources that must take hours to produce, so we are not looking for the same level of quality as these, but the idea that we break down a topic into into key elements, and communicate them in a way that is easy for other to understand.

The real beauty of this idea though, is it requires very little planning time from the tutor, the tutor does not need to have any high level technical skills, it promotes higher order thinking skills, and good Personal Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS) and it should be fun for the learners to do.

Using QR codes for explorative learning

This is the 4th entry in a series of ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning

QR codes are like a bar code, but rather than being made up of lines, are constructed of squares. An example QR code being below. A QR code is a graphical representation of a string of text, and they can be created by anyone, using something like


The above code is for the web address of this blog (

Most mobile phones that have the ability to take photos can read Qr codes – some will need to download some software (or an app) onto the device (usually free) – you then take a photo of the code, and it will convert it into the text that it represents. In the case above, because the text is a web address – if the phone is internet enabled, it will then go to that website.

There are many ways that QR codes could be used in education, some examples are:-

  • Land based colleges having QR codes next to plants in the grounds, so a learner can point their phone at the code to get more information about that plant.
  • Providing stretch information following an activity – lets say you have a printed worksheet that the students complete with pen and paper. If you want to give them additional reading materials, or additional optional questions – to put a long URL onto the page is of little use, as hard to type in a long URL accurately – but putting a small QR code in the bottom corner, allows them to just point their phone at it, and away they go.
  • Having a set of questions (which may be used on paper in the classroom) – but having some help information, or feedback information stored on a web address somewhere (this could be on the VLE, a Blog, a wiki etc.) create a QR code pointing to this, and then put this onto the document. This allows the students to attempt the questions first, then go to the additional information later on if they need to.
  • Creating information treasure trails. Setting up a trail, where the learners move around the site, locating a QR code – which contains information to do with the subject, possibly asking them a question that points them to the location of the next QR code. Yes this would take a bit of time to set up, but as allows, there is the option of setting the students the task of creating a QR code trail for their peers. The students would need to think about what questions to ask, where to place the codes, etc. Then create them (quite easy to do) and go and put them in the right places, then have fun following each others trails.

An example of something like this, has been created by an Australian PE teacher ‘Mr Robbo

With further details on his excellent blog –

Using a phone to capture audio and make learning more fun

This is the 4th entry in a series on making learning more fun.

Students carry mobile phones around with them, and something that mobiles phones can do very well is record audio, either into the phone itself, or into a web based system such as Ipadio. (Which I have blogged about before)

We can use these ideas as a way of bringing variety (and therefore more interest / fun) into the learning process.

To listen about how this may work, here is an ipadio recording on this topic, that I have linked back into this blog.

Visit to hear my latest ipadio phonecast

If you use things like Moodle or Blackboard then the embedding mechanism works even better, providing more information and a more attractive player.

Ideas of how you could use this technique:-

  • Ask learners to interview each other, whilst they role play characters within a scenario
  • Ask learners to explain the topic just taught using audio only (and therefore no visual information)
  • Ask learners to create memory rhymes for key information
  • Ask learners to reflect at the end of the session on what they have learnt
  • For the teaching of languages, the possible uses of this is enormous – the tutor could send an audio file to the learners each day in the language they are learning, or the learners could practice their speaking and then the tutor / peers can provide feedback.

This is an area where teaching can be radically transformed with just a bit of imagination.

Using screencasting to explain a concept / revise

This is the 3rd entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

I have become a huge fan of screencasting, especially since I discovered screenr – a free web based tool, that is really easy to use for this purpose. I often use screencasts as a way of producing ‘how to videos’ as part of my work. In a previous post on this blog, I highlighted how this idea could easily be used to create revision aids. Which either the tutor could create for the learners, or the learners could create themselves (and then share with their peers?)

Another slight twist on this would be to challenge the learners to create a concise screencast (which if you use screenr limits you to 5 minutes) that explains a concept succinctly and accurately to other people. Maybe setting a series of criteria against which the screencasts will be judged, and offering a prize for the best one (out comes my trusty air guitar that I keep giving away). Criteria could be things like accuracy of information, artistic merit, communication skills used, etc.

If you had students working in small groups where they had to plan what they were going to do, how they were going to do it, who was going to talk etc. then you have a really good activity, covering lots of Personal Learning and Thinking Skills, as well as some Functional Skills. You may need to think about where the learners actually do their recording, as doesn’t work having lots of people in the same room, but if you have access to another small room nearby which once prepared the learner(s) can sneak into to do their recording then brilliant.

If you don’t want to use screenr, which is web based and therefore needs accounts etc, then the free camstudio, would be an option – this can either be installed onto the computer or run from a USB memory stick (and is part of the eduapps suite). This will allow you to create more than 5 minutes of recording, and keeps the output off the internet (unless you share it later) so some may prefer the extra ‘safety’ of this method, but it is more fickle to set up and get the audio settings right etc. Or you can use screenr, but in a way that you keep the end products private, as shown in this screencast.

Creating a quick fire PowerPoint (Pecha Kucha)

This is idea 2, in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning‘.

One activity that you can ask learners to do in any subject or topic, is to ask them to create a PowerPoint presentation that explains a topic or subject, which they then present back to the rest of the class. The problem with this, though is that the learners often produce very bad presentations (based on having seen many bad ones delivered to them) which they then proceed to bore the rest of the class with, which if you have lots of learners in the group, then takes about 3 weeks to sit through each presentation.

One idea to help reduce these problems would be to introduce the idea of Pecha Kucha. Pecha Kucha was an idea from 2003, where the presentation is limited to 20 slides, each of which is on the screen for 20 seconds exactly, limiting the presentation to 6 minutes and 40 seconds, and with presenters rolling on one after another during a Pecha Kucha event. More information can be found at

The presentations become very punchy, to the point, and non-waffley. At first some learners will probably find it challenging, but all the learners will be in the same boat, and as long as it is managed in a light hearted way (and don’t assess them, or at least not at first attempt) it should be more engaging than sitting bored through each others 10 minute presentations of lots of text that no-one can read.

An example Pecha Kucha on Pecha Kucha can be seen at

The easiest way to manage this, would be to give them the starting PowerPoint template which has the automatic slide transitions created, so all they have to do is to add the content. I have created a Pecha Kucha template that can be used by others. This has the timings already built in, as well as a black horiztonal bar at the bottom which acts as a 20 second timer on each slide. All someone has to do is add the content (e.g. images) to the slides.

We then need to encourage learners to use graphics more than words – so I would point them to image searching techniques such as Xpert, and Compfight which I have blogged about before. Show them how to do screen capturing, and then cropping images, resizing etc. This can be simply done using the PrtScn button on keyboard and then pasting into PowerPoint, then using the formatting options to crop, resize, rotate if desired. You can even blur parts of the image by placing a semi transparent shape on top of the image, to blur parts, leaving the important bit clear etc, but basically you can let the learners artistic ideas to flourish, and if using this technique a few times, it would develop higher order thinking skills, as the learners have to think about what the key pieces of information are, and how best to represent them visually and to communicate them succinctly etc.

Using ‘game’ and activity templates in education

This is idea 1, in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning‘.

One of the changes to the Inspections framework within FE within the UK, is that inspectors are now looking to see if students are enjoying themselves whilst they are learning. This is actually proving a really big challenge for some educators.

One way that technology can be used to bring an element of ‘fun’ back into the learning process is by using game type activities as part of the process. I am not talking about high-tec immersive type games, but much simpler, types of activity, were the tutor enters the basic information about their subject and the computer converts this into an activity. We are lucky that there are many different game and activity templates out there, so we can use a wide variety in our teaching and learning (learners will quickly get bored of doing lots of crosswords, or lots of multi-choice questions).

Some people think that games shouldn’t be used in education as they question the learning value of them, but one thing that a good ‘game type activity’ can do, is encourage repetition, which for learning basic facts, is recognised as an essential part of the learning process, yet one that is hard to achieve in FE and HE.

I used to use QUIA (see below for details) a lot in my teaching, and because I taught sport science students (who are naturally competitive) they would often repeat activities many times to try and get a better score (especially if I did the activity first to set a target) – this for me was a great way to cover key information, e.g. names of bones, muscle actions, definitions of physical terms etc.

Here I will describe 3 examples of web based tools that can be used for this purpose

Quia is an excellent resource, although it does have a cost attached to it of $50 per year if you want to create your own activities.

  • You can create activities, where you enter the information, and it turns that into a game type activity for you. Activities include battleships, matching pairs, wordsearches, ordered lists etc.
  • There are quizzes, which even has built in tracking so that you can track which students have done what.
  • There are survey options which are easy to use and easy to analyse afterwards, and many other options.

I personally think that the $50 per year is worth paying due to the amount of time that it can save and the quality of the final products, but even if you don’t pay, there are many activities that are on their site which have been shared by tutors which you can do for free, if you go to you will see the list of subjects covered, then looking into any of them will reveal thousands of created resources, that you can use with learners, by just copying and sharing the URL.

StudyStack works on pairs of information (e.g. capital city and country, author and book, psychologist and theory etc). You can either use an activity that has created by someone else, or create your own for free. Once created the pairs of information are turned into various game types, including anagrams, crosswords etc, but also simple kinesthetic type games such as hungry bug, which is like the game snakes that used to appear on early mobile phones. Young people in particular will sometimes play these retro type games for hours at times, so if we can use this for education then brilliant. The output isn’t a polished as QUIA, and the site does have advertising on it, but for ease of use and to provide variety, and being free is an excellent site. An example of a hungry bug activity created by someone else is – if you then click on the icons below the activity you can play different games with the same sets of words.

Jigsaw Planet is a web based jigsaw creating site. You can either do one of their preloaded jigsaws, or more likely we can create our own. All we need to do is upload an image, select the number of pieces, and the piece shape and it will convert this into a jigsaw for us. So for example if we wanted the students to learn a table of important but uninteresting information, we could convert the table into an image (by just doing a print screen, or using a tool like Snippy to capture a region of the screen containing the table), upload this to Jigsaw Planet and away you go. An Example of this, using a simple table of information based on countries can be found at

There are many other tools out there, but these are 3 web based ones (and therefore easy to manage) that I particularly like.

Putting the fun back into ‘fundamental’ learning

Later this month I will be contributing to an LSIS Learning fair in the East Midlands where I am running a session titled ‘Putting the fun back into fundamental’. The session will focus around changes to the Common Inspection Framework, and the fact that inspectors are now looking at whether the learners are ‘enjoying’ their learning experience. I have worked with a few providers where this is proving problematic. Some teachers quite simply do not have the skill to provide enjoyable learning, and others have the skills but are afraid of the culture change, and afraid that if the learners start to have ‘fun’ whilst learning then the lessons will become rowdy, they will lose control, and the learners will stop respecting them as the pillars of wisdom and knowledge that they as the tutor obviously are.

During the session that I am running on this topic, I will be providing short examples into 9 different examples of how technology can be used to easily bring in an element of fun into the learning environment,  in a way that enhances learning. Theses can be used at the end of a session to reinforce the learning that has taken place, they can be used as additional ‘stretch’ type activities, or in some cases can be used as the main method of teaching and learning of the subject.

I will blog about each different idea over the coming days, and the links below will become live as each post is published. The blog posts on this topic will all be tagged with the word ‘fun’ so all the posts within the series will be located at

The ideas that I will cover are:-