Today, using online learning spaces we are able to connect students around the world to work on a shared task. Surely, as easy as it seems, linking schools through exciting projects and supporting them is a challenging job. In this issue I would like to give you information about The North London Schools International Network (NLSIN), managed by Anne Roots.


The North London Schools International Network (NLSIN) is a north London based organisation that plays a key advisory role in supporting nursery, primary, secondary, special schools and colleges in developing the international / global dimension to education.

As the only organisation of its kind nationally, our member schools are at the fore-front of international activity in London – there is concrete evidence that across the network participation in international programmes far exceeds that of any other area in the capital. Of NLSIN’s 180 members, over two thirds are involved in funded collaborative curriculum based international activities with schools across the globe. Most of the projects which our schools are involved in use ICT as the main method of communication and vehicle with which to exchange and deliver project work. Schools are now being inspected in terms of how they support the development of Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural skills and activities of this kind are a perfect vehicle with which to do this.

The Range of NLSIN Activities:

Some schools we support are involved in large multilateral Comenius EU funded projects across Europe with ICT as their main focus. Any area of the curriculum lends itself to this type of collaborative international learning with topics ranging from A Day in the Life of Our School to ICT Across Europe or Water – Building Bridges but ICT is often at the centre of the project. Schools are using email / on-line forums / Skype / videoconferencing / file sharing software / Managed Learning Environments to communicate but also as the focus for cross curricular activities. Other schools are involved in one to one partnerships with schools through our Area Link with the Adansi region in Ghana. These pairs are exploring active global citizenship and development education but again using technology to communicate.The secondary school in Ghana has been developed as an ICT hub for local schools in the region and is training teachers to use technology within the curriculum.


As a prelude to large multilateral funded project, many NLSIN schools are involved in Etwinning projects which are a great for those new to working collaboratively in an international context. The portal, which is an online community for school staff across Europe provides teachers with little ICT expertise the opportunity to find and work with partner institutions through curriculumfocussed classroom projects. ETwinning offers wide-ranging help and support from ICT training and partner finding to developing project ideas. There is an eTwinning Desktop and TwinSpace and large bank of resources for participating schools. NLSIN schools are involved in very simple 2 week projects looking at ‘Our School’ or ‘A Day in the Life Of’ to more complex termly projects around European identity and European history.

Through its close links to the British Council NLSIN runs joint hands-on INSET for local schools new to the programme.

Area Link with China:

The network now has 26 schools linked with its partner, The Shunde Education Bureau in Shunde, Guangzhou, China and again most of these are involved in ICT projects with each other. Several are now using Fronter / Managed Learning Environments to upload joint project work and communicate with each other – these platforms are often the easiest way for schools to overcome problems with firewalls and access that are particular to linking with China.

A cluster has just finished a British Council Connecting Classrooms project focussing on Creativity – for many this involved innovative ICT activities:

Wilbury Primary School in Enfield used Wiki as an online platform to extend learning – pupils looked at Chinese myths and legends as part of the literacy curriculum which were then integrated into ICT lessons by turning them into an animation: The children not only found out about Chinese culture but they developed higher-level skills through technology such as; critical thinking, problem solving, communication, creativity and team work. The children learned to use an online shared platform collaboratively and developed their critical thinking skills through joined activities on this platform.

One of our Academies in Enfield worked on a collaborative project with their Chinese partners Building on Digital Maths and the Chinese British Youth Experience of Digital Technology. From this a digital sound wall / media installation was developed. Pupils in both schools electronically produced music describing their experiences of Chinese/English teenage life. This was done using free online digital sound editors and children in both China and the UK jointly edited the work hosted.

Forums and Moodle provided digital interface and outcomes were published online and presented to BBC The Word as a completed sound file.

The project is being embedded as a specific unit of work on Digital Sound (called Creating a Digital Sound Track by understanding Digital Maths) and published as a creative unit of Work for Maths, Media and ICT.  Software such as Shareware / Audacity (multilingual audio editor recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems) was used and sounds and Images were shared at Google Drive and Vimeo which was the final home for output.  All of the above are now being used as resources for both schools.

 Global Partners Junior: 

Global Partners Junior is an award-winning educational program that connects New York City youth, ages 9-12, with students around the world through the internet. Throughout the school year, activities are guided by a teacher (during school) or after-school leader (after-school time). Students post and read messages on a secure, password-protected internet forum, share media projects and research facts about their communities. Students develop local pride and learn about international cities. This program provides an extraordinary opportunity for children to develop global awareness, computer literacy and communication skills. Since 2010 NLSIN schools have been involved in this Global ICT project – communicating and sharing project ideas on a range of themes from the World Market Place to Urban Stages.

International School Award (ISA):

Over 90 NLSIN schools have achieved the British Council’s International School Award (ISA) – an on-line accreditation scheme which celebrates the embedding of the international / global dimension to education.  This award recognises the fact that across a school pupils / staff and the wider community are actively involved in collaborative international activities – again, many of these have innovative ICT activities at their core.

 Model United Nations:

In 2012 5 NLSIN schools participated in this collaborative initiative with the School Linking Network (SLN) and a further 3 will be taking part in 2013. The overall aim of SLN-MUN programmes is to engage students – from year 9 to 13 – in current world affairs while providing them with the opportunity to explore the four key questions: Who am I?  Who are we?  Where do we live?  How do we all live together?  It is a starting point for students in their understanding of why people or countries are in conflict and how the International community is responding.  Most importantly, the programme encourages young people to make a difference as citizens of their local as well as International communities.

SLN-MUN students are tasked with representing 20 countries from across the world and work in mixed teams to consider ways to resolve the issue debated.  During the preparation stages the students, who meet twice prior to the final event, communicate with their team members via a specially created online virtual learning environment.


NLSIN runs an annual staff development programme to support schools in addressing issues around the international / global dimension genda which includes sessions such as Using Your Managed Learning Environment Within International Projects / Etwinning – Developing Collaborative On-line Projects With Schools Across Europe / Gaining Accreditation through the On-line International School Award  NLSIN is a membership organisation providing the following core service to London schools:

  • On-going and unlimited individual support on all funding applications
  • Unlimited support with all levels of the International School Award
  • Free staff development for all member schools
  • Tailor made staff INSET
  • Advice and support in developing the global dimension
  • Regular information about funding, international programmes and initiatives
  • Network of advice from other schools
  • Summer Exhibition to display work
  • Help with partner finding

 NLSIN can help bring funding into schools for:

  • Study visits for TAs, teachers, headteachers
  • Pupil travel
  • Local, national and global funded linking opportunities

If you would like to find out more about NLSIN / membership fees / support offered please contact:

I think it is really important to be part of the online world, through blogs, discussions and groups not only to share our experience but also for networking, resource sharing, collobaration and professional development. Below are some online communities that I have found exteremly useful for collobarative knowledge building.

It offers free professional learning communities and webinars. You can be part of current communities or create your own one and invite your colleagues to join in.

You can communicate with educators, innovators from many countries who influence education. You can create your own group and join many fascinating ones and become a part of an exciting community.

TIG Initiatives provides you a flexible and powerful online space to share what you’re working on with the world. It encourages collaboration with other motivated individuals and organizations. You can change your own design, add your own features and content, and even link it with social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter. Showcase and connect your ideas to a global community!

Linkedin not only allows you to connect with your colleagues, you can also join many linekdin groups in your interest area and create your own groups.

You can find what’s happening with the people and organisations, but also share your activities with them. I love it because it is the fastest way of communicating at the moment!!!

Teachers without borders connects teachers to information and each other so that they can create lcoal change on a global scale.






John Ferrara is a game design practitioner based in the greater Philadelphia area. He is the author of the book “Playful Design: Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces”, which explores how gameplay can be extended to conventional applications to effect deep social experiences, participatory learning systems, and meaningful cultural change. He is the lead designer of Fitter Critters, a game designed to transform 4th to 8th grade students’ attitudes toward nutrition. Please visit www.playfuldesignbook.comto find out more about John’s book. You can follow him on Twitter at @PlayfulDesign.


Games of all kinds have long played a welcome role in education, from classroom exercises like spelling bees and geography-themed bingo to academic competitions like debating clubs and Model UN.  And for as long as computers have appeared in classrooms, video games like The Oregon Trail and Math Blaster have been embraced by teachers exploring new ways to engage and challenge their students.

The rationale for incorporating these games into classroom instruction has often been that kids devote huge amounts of time to playing recreational games, and so may take a greater interest in schoolwork if it came wrapped in pixelated packaging.  Unfortunately it’s not that easy.  Children are discerning consumers of games, and may take faint interest in games that don’t provide the same level of engagement to which the commercial market has acclimated them.

In recent years, there’s been an explosion of interest in video games’ potential to effect significant change in the way people learn. Educators and researchers are also discovering that games offer benefits that reach far beyond their cultural legitimacy and popularity.

Among them:

Games place learning in an applied context

They can serve as a laboratory for new concepts, allowing players to “learn by doing” and as a  complement to theory learned in parallel. Virtual labs are much more cost-effective than real ones, and enable applied learning for lessons and subjects where it otherwise wouldn’t be available.

Games can simulate conditions of the real world

The rules of the natural world can be represented in computer games with tremendous fidelity and precision. Physics, geometry, math, and chemistry can all follow the same laws and manifest the same attributes in the game world that they do in real life.

Games offer a safe environment for experimentation

While teachers couldn’t give students unsupervised control over a real chemistry lab, there’s no downside to letting them fiddle freely in a virtual one. Since there are no real-world consequences, students are empowered to ask “What if…?” and explore the boundaries of the game space to discover what happens under different conditions.

Games promote systems thinking

One of the great strengths of video games is their ability to model complex systems with many interacting parts, and to drop players right in the middle of those spinning gears. This gives players the opportunity to understand and manipulate the dynamic relationships between a whole and its parts.

Games invite players to adopt unfamiliar roles

Many video games encourage players to try on different roles, allowing students who may have never before imagined themselves as scientists, doctors, or titans of industry the opportunity to picture new prospective identities.

Games facilitate teamwork

Online gaming has enabled collaborative experiences that were previously impossible. While massively multiplayer games mediate teamwork in real time, social games like Farmville and Words with Friends have pioneered asynchronous participation among people separated by both space and time.

 Games build assessment into the experience

The game itself can serve as the assessment of student performance.  Game-based tests can provide a different model for evaluating success, where students can try as many times as they must to complete the game’s objectives. Grades can instead vary with the total number of objectives completed, the difficulty of each, and the quality with which they were done.

Working with these attributes, designers can create educational games that make things possible that would otherwise be difficult to achieve in the classroom. However, none of these advantages can be fully realized unless students are sufficiently invested in playing.

The success of any game ultimately hinges on whether players feel the experience of interacting with it to be intrinsically rewarding. It is the particular designs of the commercial games that drive players’ interest in them. This includes fundamental elements such as the conflict at the heart of the game, the core mechanic of play, the difficulty of the challenges, the system of rewards, and the arc of the narrative. These are the things that make games worth playing. Educational games that focus on getting these design elements right will achieve the greatest success in tomorrow’s classrooms.


by Yasemin Allsop

I remember the dissatisfaction of some people, when a colleague shared the video clip that was created by her Year 5 class (9/10 years old) during my studies.  ‘Is that it?’ asked one of them to my surprise. I thought maybe that because he is a secondary class teacher, he wasn’t sure what to expect from primary school children. Maybe he had higher expectations than we did. But then, what are the criteria for evaluating children’s work when they learn with technology? How advanced is the technology that’s used, or how good the finished work looked.  If we can define ‘good’.  Impatiently as usual, I quickly jumped in and shouted out ‘What about other skills that they learned and developed?’ His reply was ‘What other skills?’ My reply was ‘Like team working, communication, problem solving, critical thinking’.  Not much of a response.

Maybe we need to rethink what learning is, especially when learning with technology. Is learning limited to grasping the knowledge of how to use a video camera, or to edit a clip using a software, or the skill of being able talk about it?  If we say ‘All of them’, then how can we evaluate children’s learning for each single activity, as learning is a continual and overlapping process. We will be writing pages of learning objectives and success criteria.

So, What do children learn by game making? Lets think about the word ‘learning’. I am not going to try to define learning as I think it is more complex than just gaining knowledge, however, I will try to look at what constitutes learning?

According to Jessel (2012) learning is about developing our ability to think critically and to be analytical, to use information effectively, to make decisions, to think imaginatively, creatively and critically and to be sensitive to situations when these qualities are applicable. So learning, beyond the physical activity is very much related to the mental activities in a child’s mind. We can see this as learning behind the scenes. I’d also like to direct your attention to phrases ‘use information effectively, to make decisions’. For one to use information appropriately and decide upon it involves reflective thinking, in other words metacognition. So we need to stop focusing on the impacts of game making on specific curriculum objectives, and start seeing the bigger picture of learning in mind.

With this inspiration I looked into the transferrable skills that children developed when they design their own games such as; communication, critical thinking, creativity and problem solving that are fundamental to learning both in school and the outside world.

Back in 2011, I ran a game design club for children where I had 11 pupils from a Year 5 class; 9 male and 2 female. The children used the Missionmakers software developed by Immersive Education to design their own games. The reason for selecting this program is it enables children to design 3D games very much like the ones that they play using their game console, in their words ‘real games’. This may give us a clue about the issues with educational games, where the ‘fun’ element is not always being captured to motivate learners to play. But this is a different discussion for another time. Lets have a look at the research summary.

Reseach Summary:

In this study the educational value of children authoring games was explored and the skills students developed during the game design process investigated. The result of this study shows that the children had opportunities to develop some invaluable skills which are transferable to any area of learning such as; communication, critical thinking, advanced technology skills and working collaboratively. The game design process itself represented the aspects of creativity where children used their ideas and imagination to make games. However this study did not aim to reflect on  the impact of transferable skills on actual learning.  Furthermore, there were elements of a child’s world, morals and culture reflected in their design process. This is very important where understanding and meeting the needs of the learner is seen as the key to education in schools. The children were engaged with the activity throughout the project and were surprised that they were allowed in their words to make ‘real games, normal games’. Nevertheless it is hard to say if this had any impact on their attitude to learning and schools.

So why should schools implement digital game making activities into their curricula. what are the benefits?

As discussed before, firstly by providing a learning environment, where children can develop and apply transferable skills that will have an impact on other areas of learning.  Critical thinking, problem solving communication skills are not just required for learning in any curriculum subjects, but, also dealing with real life situations outside of school.

Secondly, in order to communicate and understand today’s digitally immersed learners, game design practices, can be used as a channel, to build a relationship between schools and learners, which may change the student’s view towards school and learning itself.  When children design games they reflect their culture, moral and values through narratives, characters and even the rules they make. Basically this can be seen as a window to the children’s understanding of the world around them.

Thirdly, teaching children about games will enable them to understand and be critical of the media that they interact with in their daily lives.  This is very valuable when the form of media changes constantly and impacts on children’s culture, how they communicate and how they understand the world.

This study was presented at 6th Eurepean Game Based Conference in 2012. To read the full research please visit

The 7th Eurepan Game Based learning Conference will take place  on 3-4 October 2013 in Porto, Portugal. Please visit to find out more about the conference.







I am Program Manager of Global Partners Junior, a technology driven education program that connects urban middle schoolers around the world. In this role, I have the privilege of working with educators from Accra to Vancouver to bring technology integration, global awareness, and project based learning to their classrooms. An incredibly diverse group of 2,500 students in 30 cities participate. Our many educators are equally diverse, creating the opportunity for an ongoing exchange of best practices from classrooms around the world. On any given day, I may speak with educators in Mumbai, Rio de Janiero, Hong Kong, Sydney, Bogota, London and New York, all of whom share the same goals for their students but have different pedagogical perspectives. As a former New York City public school teacher, I am constantly amazed and invigorated by this exchange of ideas.


So how does Global Partners Junior work? Each week, students meet for 2-4 hours in classrooms around the world and communicate online about topics relevant to all cultures using a shared curriculum. They research facts about their communities and international cities, exchange messages on our password-protected website at, and create multimedia projects and video greetings. Now in its ninth year, this program was developed by New York City Global Partners, the nonprofit organization that connects the Mayor’s Office of the City of New York to cities around the world.


The curriculum topic that guides students’ interactions changes every year to keep the conversation exciting. Past topics have included local and global business, environmental sustainability, and city parks. Each curriculum is focused on issues relevant to urban youth and is developed by our staff in partnership with content area experts. The topic itself, while important, is less a central focus than a lens through which students can examine their own cities and draw comparisons with others.

For example, this year students are collaborating on the Urban Stages curriculum, which focuses on international theater production. Students explore elements of theater such as playwriting and set, costume and sound design, and share their learning with their international peers through blog posts, discussion forums, and video chats. They will create hundreds of multimedia projects throughout the year. Highlights so far include a student-designed website and podcast about local theaters in Toronto; a promotional video about current productions from Warsaw; and digitally designed storyboards of international folktales from New York City. Students constantly explore new technology resources, employing both video editing and digital design software and free online tools such as Prezi, SketchUp and VoiceThread to create dynamic representations of their research. For the culminating project, students will transform an underutilized space in their community into a theater and create an original performance.

One of the strengths of all Global Partners Junior curricula is that they are adaptable to an immense variety of classroom contexts and focuses. The program was developed in cooperation with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, and was originally offered by Parks afterschool programs. Global Partners has since expanded the program within New York City to include public schools and afterschool programs operated by the NYC Housing Authority, the New York Public Library, and the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation. Each of these groups, along with our 75 international classes, brings its own personality and priorities to the shared curriculum; some classes focus more on introducing students to new technology tools, while others emphasize literacy skills and knowledge of global cultures.

Global Partners supports each educator in adapting and implementing the curriculum by providing student workbooks, lesson plans, enrichment activities and assessment tools. Our staff conducts professional development sessions for participating educators, focusing on topics such as technology integration, global awareness activities, and evaluation and assessment. These sessions typically take place by conference call or Skype, and are a fantastic opportunity for educators to ask questions, troubleshoot project ideas, and share the great resources and lesson plans that have been successful in their classrooms. 

I have also had the pleasure of visiting Global Partners Junior educators in Mumbai, Delhi, London, and Toronto. Many international educators have also visited New York City to participate in professional developments and get to know the Big Apple.  These visits are a great opportunity to observe the varied ways educators implement the program in their classrooms and adapt it to their local curricula and standards.

Next year’s program will focus on digital storytelling in cities around the world. Students will explore local and global fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, and create multimedia projects to bring their own stories to life. We plan to add even more great international schools to the program and welcome applications. Already we have schools participating in Accra, Berlin, Bogotá, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, Cuernavaca, Delhi, Dublin, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Karachi, Lima, London, Melbourne, Mexico City, Mumbai, Paris, Prague, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, and Warsaw.

Enrollment for the 2013-14 Global Partners Junior program is open. For more information or to request an application, please contact:


by Danielle Goldfarb-Bedrick

NYC Parks Computer Resource Centers (CRC’s), New York City, USA

For the past 13½ years I have been a technology educator at a recreation center that is located in a part of New York City that is considered “isolated” due to the fact that it’s on a peninsula and transportation outside of the peninsula is very limited, so much to the fact that there is only one train system and two bus systems that run in and out of the area.  Even with this knowledge, I would always find it odd that when we were able to have field trips for our afterschool youth to other parts of New York City, the children would be in complete awe of their surroundings.  It was as though they were visiting a foreign country for the very first time, taking in the sights, people, making notes mentally of what they saw and did whilst there.  It was after such field trips that I developed an Email Pal Project within the Parks & Recreation Computer Resource Centers.

The concept was for our children to pair off with other peers and have a general email exchange. The first year there was no set curriculum and the goal was only to work on the technology, literacy, and reading comprehension.  It was a huge success. We had a total of 20 children participating from each center and had paired them off with counterparts in the borough of Manhattan. Each child (with parental permission) was given their own free email address (we had used the Yahoo! email at the time). The program had run for a total of 6 months meeting once per week for an hour and a half.

Our recreation center is located in an area of New York City that is known for its low literacy rates, this program had helped immensely by reinforcing vocabulary, reading skills, reading confidence (reading better out loud to a group of peers), and reading comprehension.  To personally see firsthand a positive increase in literacy skills in a child is as though we’ve given them a gift that they can use to get ahead in life. It made me feel secure as an educator that these children will be prepared not only to move onto the next level of learning but also to have more potential and to have a secure future of success.

Of course this program developed technology skills. Each school year that we ran this program, I saw that the children who had poor or limited technology skills and through this program they are able to improve upon them, whether it be learning how to type, do basic internet searches for information, composing and sending an email, putting together a video or slide show as part of a project and then attaching it to an email were all necessary skills for a child to know how to do. The look on a child’s face when they learn something technology related that they didn’t know before is priceless to see and it makes them not only want to learn more but it enriches their overall life as well.

This type of program would not only work well for children but also with older individuals as well. We all realize as educators that technology leads the future and why not open every opportunity to individuals of every age.

by Des Hegarty

Put away your sandwich boards of doom foretelling the end of books as we know it. E-books and apps are just another way of celebrating words in a newer format. The learning is still there and the opportunities within a story can grow and provide a child with an in depth appreciation of the narrative. So don’t be so glum. Read on…

The way we read is changing. Technology is revolutionising how we access books. This has seen a shift in publishing too with the printed word making the transition to the touch screen. Parents and teachers will be thinking about how this affects their children.

But don’t panic! As adults it may take us a little longer to adapt to new technology but children just get stuck in – and they are particularly adept with gadgets. I am often given tips from my Year 1 class (age 5 and 6) which I graciously accept! Technology is assisting the culture of reading to blossom and is giving stories a whole new dimension. It is enhancing the narrative experience. In this article I’ll look at the merits of e-readers and apps to try and give a bit of peace of mind.

My Top 5 Reason to invest in E-readers

If you, as a parent or teacher are still unsure whether to invest in an e-reader then here are my top 5 reasons to buy:

  • E-books are virtually indestructible!   (The devices are of course less indestructible so don’t try and inventive ways to torture your Kindle! In fact my advice would be to buy a protective case to minimise the risk of damage.) Once an e-book is purchased they take an enormous amount of effort to delete. Children’s books can become quite dog-eared and battered in relatively no time at all. But thanks to back-ups of course the book will always appear pristine on your screen!
  • Most devices have an onboard dictionary! This is a great discovery option for children. They can instantly look up the definition to words they have just accessed and it encourages them to be independent to do this.
  • E-readers are portable! Wherever you go you can travel with your own personal library providing instant entertainment! One device can hold hundreds of books (think of the storage you’re saving!)
  • An e-book can be easily shared!There’s no need for children to fight over one book when it can be shared among multiple devices. So one copy of an e-book can be accessible simultaneously to lots of children on their own e-reader.
  • You can scribble down notes and ideas as you read! Most e-readers have the facility to write on the page which can be handy for referencing while doing schoolwork.

Let’s face it. E-readers are a much better investment than video games too! (I can tell that not all of you are convinced!) A lot of children have grown up with a handheld game console. Wouldn’t it be better to exchange them for a something that has its intention in learning instead?

Everybody’s App-y!

Let me talk about apps. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

E-books and apps give us another alternative to teach our children in inventive ways. The tactile discovery is temptingly addictive and provides a great ‘hook’ for young minds to extend their imaginations.

However, some apps can suffer from having too much interaction which distract children from the story. So the balance must be – as Baby Bear famously says – just right.

Take ‘Pip and Posy’ for example.  It’s beautifully illustrated by a master of storytelling Axel Scheffler (illustrator of ‘The Gruffalo’ of course) and takes full advantage of the touch screen to tell its story. It has some engaging features too such as a colouring book, matching pairs, spot the difference and jigsaw. One of the most fun is a ‘make a face’ option which includes camera feed to mimic expressions such as angry, happy, worried and surprised. All of these things help to embed the story in more inventive ways.

Schools have a huge opportunity to explore these apps in the classroom. More and more schools are equipping themselves with touchscreen devices and should also invest time in researching the best apps to accompany the learning.

One I would personally recommend is ‘The Three Little Pigs’ app ( ). I won’t spoil it by giving you a review, only to say that it is marvellous and for primary age children it is a well worth investment.

Books vs E-books

In my most humble opinion, children’s apps can coexist with printed books rather than replace them outright. It’s providing another alternative to how to access texts.  And though the industry is growing it’s not set to take over quite yet. As long as we can provide children with great characters and brilliant stories and can generate some excitement in the way we promote them, then children will continue to learn and enjoy and enthuse into adulthood.

(Check out some apps over at The Oxford Reading Tree )


Since becoming a primary school teacher all sorts of weird and wonderful opportunities have come my way and they have manifested themselves through my writing. Teaching has given me a creative licence to invent my own stories and share them with an effervescent fan base. I contribute resources regularly to the Guardian Teacher Network and some have even highlighted in the paper itself.

I invite you to take a look and share some of the things I’ve been involved in and let me know what you think!


In order to allow my stories to reach as many as possible I adapted a couple into short films (- with the mega-talented Danny Searle). You can view them and have a good chuckle by clicking the links.

‘Gus Gus You are a Superstar’ tells the tale of a gorilla unlike any other who has a hidden singing talent and has a dream to become a West End star.(Gus is a supporter of the charity ‘Children with Cancer Uk’ and you can check them out here )

‘The Grizzlegrog’  stars a rather sneaky fox who decides to trick his other nocturnal friends with ghastly tales of the mysterious ‘Grizzlegrog’.

(You can also buy the e-book by clicking here: )

Books and Inspiration

And if you fancy being inspired then let me direct to my friend Chris Ayers . He is a graphic artist in Los Angeles and he has created some of the most amazing animals I’ve ever seen. He is incredibly gifted and his talent goes beyond the limits of normal. He was very generous to Kerry (my wife) and I by allowing us to write some prose about him which he published in his book ‘My Daily Zoo’.This book is bound to get your children to sketch – it’s phenomenal (and our story’s not bad either). Order your copy and discover Chris here:


This year saw the launch of STORYSPLAT – an online primary blog for stories, authors, books, mediaand SPLATS! Join me and subscribe as each week I post something silly to share. My exploits recently took me to the Children’s BAFTAs where the celebrity contingent all gave me story ideas to share in schools.

I’ll keep you updated with news as it happens and you can follow me on Twitter @TheGrizzlegrog.

But I’ll sign off with a Didi the Dodo comic strip from Mauritius Now. Enjoy!

Des Heggaty

Modern-day video games immerse players in a virtual world where they assume a starring role in an adventure of some kind. Players choose an avatar and proceed to run, jump, shoot, capture, explore, and carry out different kinds of missions to win rewards. Such games create high engagement in the players and keep them playing for hours on end. What is it about video games that cause players to be so engaged? Whether it is the heroic cast of characters, compelling story lines, or the motivation to achieve big goals and gain rewards, video games certainly have a way of capturing your undivided attention. Players feel a sense of urgency and challenge that keeps them focused and motivated to continue playing.

Very similarly to the gaming world, actively engaging students is an important goal in education. “Teachers want to reach and engage their students in innovative ways,” said Mark Espinola, CEO of Ballard & Tighe, Publishers. This is why education developers have turned their attention to games in recent years. Combining the intriguing aspects of games with good instruction encourages students to get excited about learning. Providing rigorous content through a game-based format produces a state of focused motivation and promotes deep learning. Players are in charge of their progress and are encouraged to take risks to achieve their goals.

Specifically designed for the rigors of the Common Core State Standards, Word Raider: Escape is an online academic vocabulary game where students master academic vocabulary typically found on state standards, standardized exams, and academic word lists. The game was created with the best features of modern, immersive video games in mind. It focuses on general academic vocabulary because that has been identified as a major factor influencing the achievement gap between English language learners (ELLs) and English proficient students.

A recent report by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows that “students who performed well on the vocabulary questions also performed well in reading comprehension” while students who do poorly in vocabulary also gain low scores  in reading comprehension (NAEP, 2012).

The report highlights what research has shown to be a direct relationship between vocabulary knowledge and the ability for students to comprehend a text.

Word Raider was developed using the best vocabulary teaching practices. Players explore and collect an “inventory” of words that they use to complete various games and puzzles. Every word is encountered more than 10 times in in reading, writing, speaking, and listening tasks. By the time players complete their last quest in the game, they will have taken at least 1,100 assessment items without ever realizing it.

Players document and track their words in a virtual dictionary. The dictionary includes:

  • An animated word tile that comes to life to illustrate the word meaning Part of speech and inflections
  • A student-friendly definition
  • A student-friendly sample sentence using the word in context
  • Word family (derivations of the word) and sample sentences

Through the dictionary, players can also earn more points when they power up their words by completing writing and speaking tasks.

  • Write the word
  • Write a sentence using the word
  • Record a sample sentence using the word
  • Record an answer to a prompt to demonstrate word understanding

The benefits of delivering Word Raider in a video game format include: increased student engagement, instant feedback, repeated exposure to increase retention of meaning, differentiated instruction, access at home or after school, and a teacher portal to monitor student progress and mastery.

To find more about Word Raider, visit

National Center for Education Statistics (2012). The Nations Report Card: Vocabulary Results From the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments, NCES 2013 452.


Henrike Lode is a game developer from Copenhagen, Denmark, born 1985 in East Germany. She studied ‘Media and Computing’ in Berlin, and helped students learn programming as a tutor/teaching assistant. As a scientific assistant at the research centre for computer games and interaction in Berlin she established and supervised a motion capture studio and held workshops teaching students how to use it. She then proceeded to take a Master’s degree in Game Design at ITU Copenhagen in order to get closer to realizing her dream: “make learning fun” and is currently founding a company with her team to further develop Machineers.

Despite the fact that more and more parents, teachers and game developers acknowledge the educational potential of computer games, good learning games are still rare. This is partly due to a lacking collaboration between educators and game designers/developers and partly due to poor research.

In their Master thesis project at ITU Copenhagen, Denmark, the Games students Henrike Lode, Niels Frederiksen and Giuseppe Franchi explored options of how to improve the design of learning games to achieve a better reception from players and provide a better learning experience. They developed the learning game Machineers, a 2D puzzle adventure that stealthily teaches logical thinking, problem solving and procedural literacy to children from 10 to 14 years. The term ‘procedural literacy’ describes the ability to read and write processes, a skill that serves as a basis for understanding programming and other higher cognitive skills, like creativity and innovation.

During their research they found that good educational games should move away from the behavioristic learning approach, where learning exercise and reward are not connected, which leads at best to extrinsic motivation and rote memorization. To use the full potential of learning games, the learning activity itself must be intrinsically motivating: game and learning content should not be not viewed separately but merged together.  In Machineers this was achieved by representing each learning aspect with a visual metaphor, which behaved exactly like the concept, but looked like an everyday object that the player was already familiar with. Those single pieces of information were then used as puzzle pieces that could be combined in a number of different ways, creating different meanings.

Intrinsic motivation was established by combining the puzzle elements to a bigger machine that would deliver strong audiovisual and also performative feedback.


Many children have developed some form of an aversion or a bias towards learning itself and learning games, which can be a problem for the learning experience. There is a good chance that keeping the serious purpose of the game secret and making the game look and feel like any other commercially available title helps establishing a positive mindset towards the game and increases the students motivation to engage with the material. This is why in Machineers there is a strong focus on high quality visuals, character, dialogue and story design.

This means also that the children can’t necessarily make the

connection between the experience in the game and the underlying context of abstract programming theory by themselves. Learning games are not meant to replace teachers and classrooms but instead should be used by teachers to enrich the lesson and encourage students to engage in the topic outside of the classroom.

So far Machineers has been tested quite a lot with children from 9 – 14 as well as older players to confirm its optimal usability, intuitive controls, use of help options, etc., but what we haven’t tested yet is how the game could be integrated into a classroom setting. This is where you come in. If you are teaching any IT or technology related subject or would like to use our game for any other reason in your class, please get in touch. The game is being constantly developed further,  with the next part of it to be released in September 2013 and the developers are always looking for play-testers and focus testers, preferably amongst children from 8 years upwards. With the help of your feedback they might be able to improve the game in a way so it will fit your needs.



eTwinning is part of the LLP programme (Longlife Learning Programme). It was born in 2005 and in seven years it has been joined by lots of teachers from all over Europe. It can be considered one of the widest communities of teachers in the world. They can meet there, discuss, share and work together in a really collaborative way, giving life to creative and original projects able to motivate students but, I’d also say teachers too.

Lately eTwinning is thought of as a sort of social network both by teachers and especially by students who normallly use the Twinspace to communicate with their partners peers or to upload and  have a look at project materials,  without realizing that at the same time they are “working“ and learning .

This is in fact the extra value of eTwinning: pupils work and learn without even realizing they are “studying”.

Students in fact have the opportunity to improve their ICT skills using the eTwinning tools such as the “pupils’ corner”,a corner especially designed for them in the project’s Twinspace, where students from different countries can easily stay in touch writing messages and letters, sharing materials and proposing personal ideas or stating their opinions. Moreover working on the eTwinning projects gives students the opportunity to know and familiarize with a lot of useful tools and softwares that can enrich their projects.

The platform offers a series of tools that can be used in the development of the project, however, plenty of tools can be also found in the net or suggested by the NSS or the CSS or by the project’s partners. This creates an innovation in the work which increases the quality not only of the products and the results, but additionally of the educational processes. This then leads to acquiring a real technological competence.

So we can say that eTwinning is training to practice all of the expressive possibilities offered by digital communication: images, videos, audio resources, texts, digital presentations, videoconferences and  combinations of these. Geometry or maths or science made using technology. So these subjects become interactive, creative, original , in a word innovative and they motivate students to study them.

I think that the first benefits from this experience are for teachers. Personally, I have learnt a lot from the co-founder of my project “The new adventures of the Twinnies around the world” , winner of the European Prize 2012, in terms of ICT skills. As all materials have to be shared with the partners uploading them in the platform, it leads to learning how to manage it with the help of either their partners or of the National agencies that are always present with their assistance or using demo’s able to explain how to use the tools. In this way all of the teachers’ new knowledge can be transferred to their students.

Another extra value is that it offers a new enthusiastic way to study school subjects. There are in fact plenty of eTwinning projects about their learning. They didn’t act because they received feedback from a teacher to do better, they decided for themselves, which score was enough for their expectations and which actions to take when they achieved a low score; re-try or move onto a new task. This study shows the importance of understanding children’s idea of learning.

Usually an etwinning project gives the opportunity to use a lot of tools, such as e-mails, chat rooms, slide shows, images’ galleries, audio files, blogs, videoconferences, wiki, power-point presentations, e-books,…Comparing  eTwinning and traditional teaching methods, the first uses a methodology based on investigation, creativity, interdisciplinarity and abundance of images, sounds, sources in general. It provides students with the opportunity to “see” what they are learning, to investigate using different sources and tools, to “create” using a great variety of instruments and especially to communicate, studying. All of the activities supported by the use of ICT lead to an increase of the students’ motivation. They diversify the quality of the project and increase its achievement. Starting working on eTwinning is easy ! Clicking on and follow the instructions to register, all teachers could have a look at a great  variety of projects that will lead them and their students to open their minds  improving at the same time  their ICT skills .