May 06

My latest project…Super Simple Cyber-Safety ebook

How is your week going? I’m very excited today becasue I’ve got some great news! I have finished my free ebook for parents and it will be ready to be delivered to your inbox in the next week or so.

To received the free ebook you need to be subscribed to my newsletter – you can do that here.  If you are already subscribed you don’t need to do anything! Just wait for the goodies to drop into your inbox!

The ebook:

Super Simple Cyber-Safety ebook is your parent’s guide to cyber-safety at home. From tips on storing technology to ways to ask your kids about what they are doing online, this ebook will set you and your family on the road to safe and effective online learning for your kids.

Technology is great, but it’s what we do with it that makes it useful! This ebook is for all parents and you don’t need lots of tech-know skills to implement these 10 easy ways to keep your kids safe online.

Aimed at parents of kids in Primary and early Secondary school, you’ll find 10 tips to safely use technology at home.

So keep your eyes open! And sign up now to receive this great resource hot off the press!



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Feb 16

Case-Study: Minecraft

We are looking at Minecraft today. I get asked about this software all. the. time. So I thought I’d give you a quick cheat-sheet. As parents, it’s good to know what our kids are up to – so we can talk to them about their online worlds – soooo important ;0)

What is it?Minecraft is free software (you pay once you want to download the full version). You download it to your computer and then play offline. You can play online with others but I wouldn’t recommend this for younger/primary school aged kids. Tell them ‘single-user mode only’!

Once you’ve got the software, you are in a virtual world. You ‘spawn’ – appear in the world – and then you can start building your world. You MINE (hence the name!) for ore and then build/create all you need to survive. Build houses with electricity, or towns with streets, or maybe underground or underwater worlds! It’s a really creative game that’s a lot of fun. You get an idea for a building – but then you have to work out what minerals you’ll need to mine/find. Then you look up a kind of ‘recipe’ to see what needs to go with what to make, for example, a table or a fire. Kids love the creative side of this!

Who uses it? -From my experience, it’s kids from about age 10 up to about age 13 – although my nephew and niece (8 and 10) love the app on their tablets too! They are always so proud to show me what they’ve built.

Why is it so popular? – Interestingly I think it’s because our kids can create whatever they like. I’ve used it in science and history lessons (they build worlds or homes that are historic or reflective or energy saving…) and kids love being able to build what’s in their heads. They get to make something of their own, rather than just play on a game that’s already been built and created.

Isn’t it just for boys though? – Hell, no! But really – NO. Girls and boys love Minecraft – it’s creative and personal to them and boys and girls engage with it in similar ways, from what I’ve seen.

Also, we need to encourage our girls to learn science, tech, engineering and maths subjects (STEM) – these are the biggest growing areas in the real-world. The more our girls learn in these areas, the better the opportunities they will have when they leave school or uni! Start them young and let them explore all sorts of learning!


So that’s my Minecraft cheat sheet. Any tips to add or share? Are your kids obsessed with Minecraft too?


Oct 21

Help your kids write…with mindmapping software

Us primary school teachers know how important it is that your kids know how to write clearly and accurately. They need to be able to write lists, instructions, letters, emails and be persuasive, friendly or formal. All depending on the audience for their writing. That’s why we focus so much on story writing – all that creativity in writing stands them in good stead for any kind of writing. If you can create a narrative with story line, characters and setting, use paragraphs, adjectives and adverbs, you will not only better understand the stories you read but you can transfer those skills to writing a request letter, a good resume or a clear account of an event.

Supporting our kids to write

But how do we support our kids to write? Whether its fiction writing or not, all good writers begin with a plan. They map out what they want to say and then create a detailed structure for their writing.

We seem to see more boys than girls that tend to struggle to get started with their story. “I don’t know what to write” is a fave phrase in many a primary school classroom :0)

Mind Mapping

So, we can use Mind Mapping to make sense of their ideas and thoughts. Properly done, Mind Mapping is a thinking tool that uses the brain to its best ability, it’s based on neuroscience research and was developed by a guy called  Tony Buzan. (He has a great website here). But for today’s post, we just need a quick beginner’s guide:

How to Mind Map

  • Write your topic or idea in the centre of the page
  • Make sure your paper is blank – no lines or grids allowed
  • Take one colour and draw an ‘arm’ off of then central idea.
    Write ON the arm -NOT at the end of it (that’s a concept map, a good place to start with young kids but not mind mapping)
  • Now draw an arm off of that one – in the same colour – and add another thought.
  • Keep going!
  • Go back , with a different colour, and add another ‘arm’ – this one should be focused on another idea…

So Mind Mapping works by getting kids to think around a framework of ideas. They work because our brains really, really don’t like empty ‘arms’ on this kind of thing. So, we write ON the lines so the end is open – this makes our brains want to add more, and we tap into our imaginations and ideas. Clever, hey?

If your child is Grade 3 or older try Freemind  – an online free mindmapping software tool. Really easy to use and just works.

Here’s an example…

freemind mindmapping buzan school education use of mind mapping


Starting Small…

But our kids in primary school, are often not quite ready for full on mindmapping – so we start small and focus on building their skills in brainstorming first.

To do that there’s a really great, free website called Popplet that you should go have a look at. Here’s an example from a Grade 1 student who was planning a story the other week:

monster story popplet

Great isn’t it? There’s his story structure – introduction, problem, solution – and there are his characters and the story setting. This child went on to write a great story that he didn’t know he could produce :0) Win all round.

These ‘Popplets’ are great for non-fiction writing too. Next time your child has a project or story to write and they are complaining about having no ideas – try Popplet.

It’s an app on your iPad too and it really easy to use. Share them by printing them or saving a screenshot :0)

This one tool can make a huge difference to your child’s learning – and can give them a step up in what they can achieve :0) Always nice to be able to offer our kids a tool that is so useful in so many ways.

Does your child struggle with writing? What have you tried to get them going? I’d love to hear your thoughts :0)

Sep 16

Notes, notes and more notes! iPads for the win…

So I want to share a quick recommendation with you  – about note taking! (No affiliation here, just love the product). Yep, it’s exciting, I know. But it can really help. Promise.

Have you been to a meeting at school or at work lately and found yourself wishing you could just push pause on the speaker? Maybe rewind and think about what they are saying for a moment?

Me too.

I often seem to get so. much. information. All at once, and then I’m asked to talk about it or answer a question. So here’s my advice. On your iPad or smartphone get yourself this app – Notability.

Notability App

There are lots of different note-taking apps, I know. I’ve tried at least 10 of them. But I come back to this one each time.

Here’s how it works.

  • Open a new document and push Record. Yep. It will record the audio around you.
  • Now start typing your notes. You can change the background, font, size etc…
  • As you go you can add in drawings or charts.
  • AND (best bit) you can take a photo of the screen or presentation or whatever and it will become part of your notes there and then.

So there you go…

But wait, there’s more – my other favourite bit. Play back the note at any point afterwards and then click on your notes/drawing/photo. You’ll find the audio recording will jump to the exact point that you wrote your notes.

So when you write, “look up” and realise you have no earthly idea what you wrote, play the audio back from that point and hear the presenter and what they were saying at that moment.

This is a lifesaver if, like me, your notes sometimes wander into the realm of the absurd. I’ve also used it with students in Grades 5 and 6 when they are trying to take in a lot of info. Hopefully, there’s no real ‘lecturing’ going on in a Primary school classroom, but sometimes we get visiting speakers or we are watching a complex video. This app helps.

This kind of app is also great for kids who need some help with focus and attention in class too. It can support their recall and take away some of the pressure they can feel when they are trying to listen, take notes and understand all at once.

Do you have a favourite note taking app? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Have you used this app? Love or hate?