Why Teachers should act like Rookies not Experts

RookieAs a teacher, I found Curious Minds episode 41 with Liz Wiseman on Why Learning Beats Knowing, sparked a number of ideas that connected with my recent posts emphasising the need for self-learning practice in schools over that of receiving teaching. Liz explains with numerous examples, why a ‘rookie’ approaches problems and projects from possibly a better starting point than an expert might. I thought I’d offer you my takeaways from this podcast (although I highly recommend listening to the whole thing). Liz’s book is available here.

Be Rookie smart not Expert smart

The most important role a teacher has theses days is to model learning and encourage curiosity. If we continue to base classroom practice around our expert status, we present ourselves as the endpoint of any expectation or debate. Teachers develop better learners when they model trial & error. Nurturing a classroom culture where everyone, including the teacher, is in a constant state of personal development means expectations and possibilities are left open-ended rather than fixed to the teacher’s ‘correct answers’.

Rookie Smart


Hide your inner expert to inspire your rookies

  • Learner plateRookies make for better learners than experts.
  • Ability to learn has more value than what you know in the 21st Century.
  • Rookies aren’t weighed down with prior assumptions and have a larger need to seek and build new knowledge. This leads to new ideas and approaches to problems.
  • A rookie has to make smaller but more regular development steps, constantly needing feedback and assurance. ‘Expert’ teachers often make giant leaps towards known answers. The rookie’s baby steps require a rapid feedback loop, which leads to a more agile learning process more suited to the 21st Century economy/society.
  • Acting as if no expert exists in the room, rookies need to connect with others, which encourages collaboration and participation.
  • Lacking knowledge resources leads to more adaptive and resourceful approaches to problem solving and knowledge acquisition.

It’s time for teachers to ask their students:

  • What makes a successful rookie?
  • What do we need and where might we get it?
  • Who can help us? etc.

It’s best teachers present the idea that no correct answers exist in the room and even if they secretly do, it’s the challenge for teachers to guide in such a way that students might arrive at their own answers but hopefully in new and inspiring ways that the teacher can learn from. This completes a rather neat circle of learning.

Here’s a great video (via @geomouldey, via @Dwenmoth) that outlines many of the reasons why we need rookie rather than expert approach to classroom practice.

Book banner.001Want more ideas and initiatives like this one? My book A Learner’s Paradise by Richard Wells is full of them. Available now on Amazon.com


Google Classroom in one minute

Here’s a one minute post with a one minute tutorial. I’m busy at the moment encouraging colleagues to start using Google Classroom. The reason I’m pushing it is that for the majority of teachers and especially the less technically inclined, it removes so many of the regular problems with choosing and setting up various apps and platforms for communicating and sharing files in a BYOD school. So here’s my summary poster that explains the key elements of each of a classroom page.

Make BYOD easy with Google Classroom:

  • A class is up and running in 5 minutes – no technician / admin required
  • Classroom automatically organised Drive folders for you
  • No more emailing required
  • Students can submit any file type for an assignment
  • Messaging can happen as a class or privately to one student
  • Multiple teachers can run a class
  • Mainly use assignments as they have the most options
  • Try to get most student work created from within an assignment

Alice Keeler has load more advice on Google Classroom

Here’s my poster:

Google Classroom Pages-eduwells

5 BIG Themes for 2016 iPad Learning

2016 has arrived and iPad pedagogy has moved a long way in 6 years. Having iPads in your classroom is no longer about which exciting apps you can all use but more about empowering your students to discover and share their own iPad solutions for every situation. This requires collaboration between peers and a flexible mindset held by all in the room, including the teacher.

It’s about building on new habits held by young people to connect, create and share their learning. It’s also about keeping in-touch with new developments to ensure our young people are ready for a rapidly changing world. Think less about teaching delivery or one-app-fits-all, and more about 21st century habits & the development of an innovative mindset. (See this book for more details on this)

We hope these help
Richard & Steve.

iPad 2016 themes

1. PERSONALISED Workflow & ControL

Richard: Challenge your students to find their own workflows. They are great at discovering and sharing their own solutions within the class. Set class expectations to what any of these workflows should achieve, but make sure the learning requires an app and it’s not the app that forms the learning.
Steve: Be very familiar with how to share your student work. Know what is and what isn’t appropriate to share. Be an expert on cloud solutions like Google Drive and Dropbox. Know how to run a class blog or a class Edmodo account.

2. SOCIALISED LEARNING – Chat and Safety

Richard: Ensure you have a class sharing / chat system. This is what most device handling students are used to. Make the opportunities and positive side of comment and discussion part of the learning journey as a class. At the moment, I’m trialling Classting.
Steve: Be sure your students know common online etiquette. Teachers should always have access to everything that is being posted and shared. Students should display respect towards both their peers and teachers.
Richard: Young people need to learn from mistakes whilst in the safer confines of the school, before the enter the workplace. This can not be done if online activities are banned at school.

3. Global connections

Richard: Talk much about creating and publishing creations, either to the class through the like of Edmodo or Classting, or to the world for comment.
Richard: Quadblogging offers a safe way to ensure feedback from peers around the globe. It’s this feedback that will spur students to produce more and better work.
Steve: Find two or three networks online that you can continually learn and share knowledge. You’ll find some of your best educator friends will be people who you’ve never met in person (but wish to one day)!
Showcase both great work and positive connections with a class Twitter account, run from the teacher’s iPad. Great for widely recognising all achievements in the class.

4. Creativity & InNovation

Richard: Utilise the creative advantage that iPads have over other devices. Given the importance of video in the world today, the fact that you can use the iPad like a movie camera means it still holds the edge over laptops and Chromebooks. Just make look into film craft (camera work & editing) to make sure the videos have real impact. Sketchnoting is great fun and is proven to improve the retention of information. Check out this LINK for info
Steve: Avoid just looking for apps that will aide you for a small portion of a lesson. Instead, find ways to use multiple apps to share what both you and your students create (link to App Smashing)

5. New (iOS) opportunities

  • New devices now benefit from the camera’s built-in ‘Slow-mo’ ability. This can show incredible reactions and science moments in great detail.
  • The Notes app is part of iOS and finally now allows for drawing, markup and pics. This makes it a contender to be a key app for students’ note taking etc. Improvements to this once basic app now include the ability to embed maps, photos and websites into your notes.
  • If you are an Apple fan, iOS now has iCloud Drive to replace any need for Google Drive, if you really want to make the most from your Apple device. All files types are ok and the Apple Docs can be edited by non-Apple people through a browser. On your iPad, there is now an iCloud Drive app where app your files can be viewed and accessed.
  • ‘Split View’ (new devices only) has made the iPad even more productive than it was. Simultaneously seeing 2 apps at once solves many problems that keep many people using their laptops etc.
  • Siri is getting really clever. If you’re not using Siri, I highly recommend giving it a go. E.g. If wanting to show the class last week’s pics: “Hey Siri, show me photos from last week” The new back button makes working on the iPad that much easier and more convenient. Toggle between two apps with a tap of a button.

    Final Thought

It’s 2016 now and teachers should understand that children can master devices like the iPad quickly. They live in a world where personalisation is the primary concern of most business. Schools need to reflect 21st century institutions and workflow but more importantly, prepare the younger generations for dealing with them. The iPad is a great device, as long as the teacher has the appropriate mindset.


I talk about teaching and learning quite a lot. In fact, if you ask my wife, probably a little too much. Because of this, teachers in my department ask me questions about what I want them to be aiming for and what suggestions I have for the classes. Rather than spend too much time talking about pedagogy and teaching models, I try to keep it simple and look at the language the students are using in the classroom.


To keep it simple…

I could go into a lengthy discussion now about deep thinking and unGoogleable questions but let’s keep it more simple. Here are 5 questions I am aiming to never hear in my classroom ever again. If these questions are happening, then they point to some fairly simple issues that can be solved with a combination of resources, technology, and new pedagogical ideas centred on empowering the learners.

5 questions to remove from classrooms

1. What are we doing today?

This question is a flag that indicates dependent students. Students that are of the understanding that learning is something delivered by an external entity. It assumes learning is an organised event that one attends. Your classroom must build an understanding that learning is constant and use approaches that encourage intrinsic desire to grow and take control of one’s own learning. Make sure your provoking questions are accessible and build habits in students to look after their own learning progress.

2. What do I do next?

No learning has an end point and teachers need to develop a classroom environment based on “how far can we take this?” rather than “is there another predetermined step?” I encourage teachers to consider the difference between developing growth or fixed mindsets. Growth feedback example: “You succeeded because you worked hard”, Fixed feedback example: “You succeeded because you’re smart” When students reach a dead end, teachers need to develop a culture of openly collaborating with peers to look for other options. This is critical to developing a culture of “we can” rather than “I can’t”.

test-986935_6403. Is THIS on the test?

Just to get something off my chest … all tests are a waste of time. The is no correlation between exam success and usefulness to a community or workplace. My advice for teachers locked in education systems centred on testing is to flip the teaching and get on with proper learning. Negotiate collaborative projects with your students and present any test or exam as a separate issue that is dealt with by video and individual teacher support afforded by the reduction in teaching delivery time.

4. Which app should I use?

The two best answers a teacher can give to this questions is either:

  1. “I’m not sure, try to find one” or
  2. “Does it need an app?”

It’s a sad moment and indication of poor learner mindset when a so-called digital native is of the understanding to expect tech answers from their ‘born-before-the-internet’ teachers, that they even turn to them for app advice. Very few young people in 2016 would do this outside the classroom, so a teacher has work to do if this question is reserved just for the school environment.

5. Is this good enough?

One aim I promote to teachers is to have your students care about their work but NOT care what the teacher’s opinion is. I’ve done much work with student designed mark schemes. I end most project units with a week of peer marking where each group discusses what they would look for in a successful project, they then design the mark sheet. This makes the students consider every aspect of what they have done. It also encourages all involved to think about how any element could be improved. Most importantly, it starts to develop a genuine interest the quality of their work, separate to what the teacher thinks.

Final thought

The classroom is a strange environment, unlike most others, and certainly unlike anything outside school. I really think teachers can do quiet harm by developing an environment where, because the teacher decides the path and provides direct help towards achieving predetermined goals, students become worryingly dependent on school structures. A teacher may get great results, but have they produced a classroom of school-ready or life-ready citizens?

5 Questions to remove-eduwells

Challenged by Seductive Technology

Technology can still be so inviting to teachers, it can often damage the potential for learning. I recently trialled the app Floors by Pixelpress, planning it to be a fun and creative exercise in computer game design. After introducing the app and explaining the activity, I realised I had missed an opportunity to plan a much more thought provoking exercise. It made me realise that even now, I can succumb to the seductive ‘cool’ of an app and design a shallow learning experience. Here’s the trailer for the app:

The app is really impressive and scans pencil game designs immediately into real playable iPad games. This sounds so good, it was easy to consider it as a just a fantastic blend of tactile and tech learning. What I missed was an opportunity to raise the level of both thinking and collaboration. Like me, many teachers are falling for the modern teaching trap to think “the app does all the work.” On most occasions, if you think an app does the job for a lesson, you’re more likely just killing time rather than ensuring true learning is taking place.

IMG_0008 (1)The next lesson gave me a chance to reflect and act on this mistake. The type of game the activity produces is a platform game of 3 levels. Before they started, I reminded them of the Design Thinking process we’d used before and asked them to consider what makes games addictive and why their level design would be considered better than another design. This had groups discussing designs being too easy or too hard and what made them so. It also introduced situations where students challenged each other’s assumptions. This does not happen if you allow them to simply play with the app as presented in the trailer.

There are enough options within the app to make very complex game challenges but it’s the job of the teacher to plan how the opportunities presented by the app can enhance the type of activity in the classroom. We must remember that it’s what takes place in the mind of the student that is most important. I have mentioned before that in New Zealand we generally grade students on their ability to collaborate and generate new knowledge, rather than learn a fixed curriculum. This means, it’s my job to make students generate connections between elements and concepts they come across. The collaboration & communication is important as it adds depth to their understanding.

FloorsThe app encouraged me to focus on skill competency and open ended creativity:

“This app is fantastic! It will have them be creative with non-tech and the technology allows them test and reiterate the process to improve the outcome.”

I redesigned it as collaborative Design Thinking to ensure a more robust learning outcome:

“Before you open the app, collaborate in considering how this activity might be more successful in producing a game people will not want to put down. There are too many games in the App Store to only be producing yet another one. Every student in the class has the potential to create the best game in the room but what makes one better than another?”

The Floors app is a technology that allows for rapid testing of ideas but its ensuring the students take a considered approach that’s important rather than adding elements randomly without any particular reason. This teaching situation is common for many apps and I’m always keen to remind teachers to not underestimate children in their ability to handle more complex thinking.

App designers often consider the functional activity over the learning experience. It’s our job as teachers to not succumb to this and consider first what’s being developed in the minds of our students.

Here’s a presentation I did on this story fro #AppShareLive with Mark Anderson:

Miami Device: Something to dance about!

How lucky am I? The all inspiring Felix Jacomino invited me to speak at his energy-packed learning event, Miami Device, in the beautiful setting of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School.  The 2 day event ranged on a scale (i’ve just invented) from “fun” through “Awesome” on to “OMG, did that just happen!”. Felix is the sort of guy who’s character inspires people to get involved and work with him to build an event you don’t forget. Make sure you get there in 2017!

Miami Summary 2015

The teachers and #Edu-Rockstars that were at the event proved testament to how much Felix is loved and appreciated. Oh, and I was going to make the most of 22 hours of flights to get there, so also won my own EduRockStar Selfie competition!

The Keynotes

BellowAdam Bellow
started the event with a whirlwind of edTech ideas, philosophies and laughs. He’s always entertaining whilst making you think about teaching today in a very practical way. He fits a lot in though, it was slide 4537 I particularly liked! #Jokes! For the record I’d like to say that the two out of five times this year he’s managed to successfully fly a drone across the heads of the audience using the iPad app Tickle, I was there! I’ve always had an effect on drones. Like Adam, I’m also a Keynote nut, so LOVE his work.

IMG_7580Derek Muller is almost as sexy as his science. He’s definitely a clever man with a whole different but inspiring approach to both teaching and more specifically science. To consider that science is about proving your assumptions wrong as a way to discover a better truth was a brilliant philosophy presented in a fun but powerful way. At one point the keynote resembled a crazy 19th century circus roadshow! Now that’s how to make science cool.

George Couros always makes you laugh out loud and then has you crying (along with himself) 5 minutes later. He might also be the only keynote speaker to achieve simultaneos “Cry-Laughing!” This is a man with his feet on the ground and finger on the pulse of what it’s like to be young these days. Like me, he has a view that having more faith in what young people are capable of, can positively impact on every classroom. He showcases how natural it is for children to be digitally creative outside the classroom without any prompting by a teacher and how this desire to connect, create and share needs to be harnessed by schools more than it currently is. You also laugh out loud at the most hilarious Youtube videos! Thanks George … again.

IMG_7705Angela Maiers was a fabulous final Keynote that was aimed directly at the audience and asked teachers to consider how important it is to share your teaching journey with others. This was amazing for me as I’d spent a year researching into why teachers do and do not become connected educators, such as using Twitter. My findings were directly connected with teacher’s awareness of their important place within the world’s teaching profession. Angela gave me my favourite conference sound bite “The enemy of great is good.” Nothing sums up the state of teachers and schools than that phrase. Thanks Angela … and sorry about the quality of the pic 😀!

The Presenters

Where do I start? It was great to finally see Wesley Fryer in action, nicely pushing the importance of student blogging. A tool that schools are still slow to adopt and it was nice IMG_7575to see yet more great evidence of blogging’s potential.

To finally meet, see present, learn from and even teach Vicki Davies was an honour. Vicki had interviewed me a while back for her world changing show Every Classroom Matters and it was so nice to do a face-to-face plus grab loads of tech tips from her presentation, which like Adam’s was a whirlwind of ideas! Thanks Vicki!

Lisa johnson is more than just a “Tech Chef”, she’s an art & design master. Her presentation on Canva was so cool that it had already had my Kiwi colleagues messing around with it when I got home. Again, it was great to see an educator who will always go the extra mile in how professional teaching resources should be, after all, the students are worth it.
IMG_7715To meet Erin klein was something I’d waited years for. Unfortunately we were presenting at the same time, so I missed her session but even to chat for 10 minutes was awesome.

Tony Vincent not only presents great stuff in an entertaining way, he makes it all look like effortless fun! The work he’s doing currently with Periscope at the moment now has me considering new possibilities for live video feed in education nearly every day! What amazed me was his professional level infographics are made in Google Draw! He’s now forced me to up my game. Thanks also, Tony, for the impromptu Periscope interview that happened to unfortunately catch my dance-off with @Mrhooker! 😀 [See Gif below]

MY MD Tribe

9BB5DD45-34EF-4132-A374-0D22AE0C1489This is a BIG shoutout to the wonderful tribe of educators I spent my time with in Miami. Jenny Ashby and Rodney Turner were especially kind in looking after me. The two of them interviewed me and the others whilst travelling around Miami in Uber rides. This was strange at first but on reflection is a great idea and I highly recommend you tune in to their podcast.

Tracy Zordan is a woman on a mission to change Canadian education as we had great conversations. Mike Jaber has so much energy and is SO funny, I can see why he has such an impact in Wisconsin. He even does Scooby Doo impressions! Tisha Richmond is an excellent educator, and we had fantastic conversations about blogging and the connected community. Overall, we had so much fun and the group made Miami Device particularly special for me. I look forward to maintaining our connections.

Thanks to the fantastic  LucusKhris and Marie for putting up with me in the Appmazing Race team! Lucus, you’re hilarious and definitely the coolest Library man ever! I never did get the team pic! 🙂

IMG_7714Fantastic to meet my namesake Wendy Wells too. We both are passionate about design thinking and I was honoured she liked my infographic on classroom design thinking. The only downside was that it was Wendy’s idea to get Tony to video my dancing. #ThanksWendy 😀

IMG_7678Thanks again to Carl Hooker  for running the AppMazing Race and inspiring Felix to setup this event. Carl is AppMazing in so many ways and I can’t wait to see him next year closer to home in Australia at iPadpaloozaGC.


MD TeamAnother thank you must go to the amazingly organised Jenny Diaz,  Inge Wassmann, Ashley Cross and the Miami Device team who also helped me so often at the drop of a hat. Felix couldn’t do it without you. I had fun chatting about the NZ system with you too!


Screen Shot 2015-11-14 at 8.50.21 AMAnd finally, my most important thank you goes to the amazing Judy Jacomino. Judy’s energy and enthusiasm is infectious and she was also a key reason from me being at this incredible event. I hope, Judy, I lived up to expectations and look forward to chatting, laughing and  dancing with you in the future!

Miami Device is THIS good!

sml Miami Dance (1).gif

A GIF says more than a thousand words!





Why #EdTech and I are changing our brand

I have to be honest with you.

For more than a year, my blogging as iPadwells on the now extinct iPad4Schools.org has focused on education and leadership whilst I’ve struggled to add a weak connection to the use of iPads. As you can see from this site’s new look, I’ve given up and rebranded my work to match the material and professional development I now provide. [Img Cred]

Woman on iPad questionmark

I’m not the only one with this issue. 

Did you attend iPadpalooza or EttiPad or MiamiDevice this year? At all these events, teachers and speakers are expelling a lot of energy and words in highlighting that “it’s NOT about the device.” But like my old Twitter handle and blog, our names suggest otherwise. What’s happened?

“Ignore my name, it’s NOT about the device.”

Stop Go1It all started in 2011, the iPad was still either new or just a dream to most schools and we were all REALLY excited by its potential. I started my blog to help just 12 teachers in my school, who’d been bought them to trial. (Classic! Buy the teachers iPads but not the students). But they weren’t the only ones in need and soon iPad4Schools.org had 1000 readers a day.

Over the last 4 years, using social media, the connected educators of this world have been on a collaborative journey with a very steep learning curve. The more we have worked with device equipped students, the more we have moved our attention away from the technology and towards our change in expectations. The emphasis now is on the impact and extended reach that technology brings and not which specific device, app or workflow any individual might be using.

whiteboard on iPadMy current opening line to any student task is “find yourself a solution for …” I find the students are always capable and are used to searching for and sharing solutions with each other, even in the personal lives. They are also used to a fully personalised approach to life and have multiple solutions that achieve the same goals. I no longer discuss apps, except when a student highlights one to me. Some apps are really impressive but my primary goal is to cultivate independence and confidence within each student. This comes from the empowerment of personal choice and the collaborative approach.

When planning my rebranding and this post, It was great to see my friend Rabbi Michael Cohen writing about the exact same issue. Read his excellent thoughts here. The connected edu community are sharing and thus experiencing a simultaneous ride into 21st century education. Social media has provided a cheap platform from which to rebuild a global education profession and move everyone along at a similar pace. The great Mark Anderson in the UK has also just published the free iBook: “More Ed less Tech“. Can you see a trend emerging?

The issue we now face is the divide between the leaders and the followers. The change has been rapid and as the edtech community moves on from discussing technology, the majority of world education just starts to get their head around how it functions in the classroom. Many yet to make a start with BYOD or any one device per student initiative.

“Like Uber, It hasn’t replaced the need for a driver, it’s only changed who’s driving the system” – Richard Wells

The Uber app has angered thousands of taxi drivers. It hasn’t replaced the need for a driver, it’s only changed who’s driving the system. This is exactly what technology is doing to teachers in education. We just have to wait for the mindset of the average teacher to learn and appreciate what’s happening in front of their eyes. A teacher’s faith in their students is what everything hangs on.


Classroom Gaming can help all learners

7439512656_04f88d7461_zHow about this for an idea? Your learners can game when they want at any moment during class. I know it sounds a bit crazy, so let’s put some structure and reasoning around it. Here are some ideas around gaming and how it relates to and can help 21st century classrooms better reflect the times we live in.


iPadwells Pofile Pic 2015Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.


I’ve outlined in a previous post, my findings that quite obviously, the moment that any individual learner is ready to listen, read, watch or even learn will vary. To expect any class to turn up at a scheduled hour and fully engage in the same learning activity is literally treating them like products on a factory line and not the humans they enjoy being. Photo Credit.

I have 2 daughters, both brought up by the same parents who approach everything in life very differently. Why would we expect 30 young people form different life situations to behave and have the same needs for an hour?

e1yeaWhen I regularly divide my classes into groups, I often notice that a number of the groups have a member who seems distant or unengaged and I wonder how I can energise these kids to engage with the group or task during the short time that I’ve got them? (I teach in a high school still restricted by segregated, hourly subject lessons) Most of my class activities involve an element of problem solving. Examples might be, How are we going to reduce cyber-bullying in the school? What do the students need in a school app? Or even, How can I start my music career in New Zealand? It is the problem-solving part of the brain I want to activate in my students who are not in that frame of mind when I need it.

The other day, I noticed one of my daughters playing a puzzle type game on my iPad. It was obviously challenging and often frustrating but she kept at it regardless. The game was direct problem solving and my girl was deeply engaged. It was then I had an idea. If any learner who found themselves disengaged from a school task had permission to select from a list of problem-solving, “brain igniting” games, it might mean they return to the task more energised to tackle it or suggest other solutions.

Initial Trial.

e1ybfTo carry out an initial trial, I projected a problem-solving game on my board and invited individuals to have a single turn to complete the puzzle/level. After 2 minutes, pairs were coming up to have a shared turn. This turned into small groups and after 10 minutes had 8 people competing to make suggestions for the next move. What I noticed was that these 8 were not a normal grouping within the class but had selected themselves to share an experience. This had an immediate effect on the dynamics in the class. I have found that after this exercise, new pairings started appearing in the class and it definitely made it easier for me to suggest new groupings without any backlash.

Class gaming rules
  1. Time Limit: A set amount of game play per hour or per week might be allowed but there would be freedom to select when that time was used.
  2. The games would be form the endorsed “Brain-igniting” list.
  3. All games would be Problem-solving
  4. Gaming progress (levels) could be reported to class to encourage collaboration between students that might not otherwise connect.
  5. New Game teams are organised around individual’s favourite games
Class management
  1. e1yl0Ads: “The Games have too many Adverts!” Airplane mode (in the control centre) will remove most, if not all the ads that pop up.
  2. 2. Student suggestions – Students should be free to make suggestions for adding to the approved list. I think keeping it to about 10 will encourage more discussion in the class about solving certain levels. With too many games, the classes attention can become fragmented. Suggesting games for the list will give them ownership over their problem solving world.
  3. Students are allowed to connect over a game to discuss strategies to beat levels. This builds strong relationships which spill over into class tasks.
Brain igniting Games

So I set about searching and inquiring after entertaining puzzle games I could issue as an endorsed game list. These are just suggestions but will give you a starting point.

    VeryBadCubeiconThis game builds in complexity from the most basic of starts. Join all the cubes of the same colour. Sounds easy but had my classes connecting into larger and larger groups trying desperately to beat a level.
  2. 2048
    2048iconhis game is challenging and demands a little math. Same number blocks collide and merge into a single doubled number block. Trick is to not fill the board. Even my senior students play this by choice.
    Lduolingiconearn another language in a personalised, fun and accessible way. With an account, each student is automatically tracked and reminded to return to their 10 minutes a day if they forget. I’m learning Spanish along with the rest of my family!
  4. 2 DOTS
    This game does not have a single solution for each level. This means it is less likely to bring students together but does quickly get an individual’s brain working. This too nicely grows in complexity and is good for the quieter students to work on alone.
    TThinkRollsiconhis is good for younger students but fun for all. A constant rolling screen of quick problems to solve before the character can continue on. My7 year-old daughter  played this game for much more than 10 minutes!
    This challenges with simple puzzles whilst teaching the fundamentals of programming. There are programming iPad apps but most allow kids to play games already made and Move the Turtle is the game itself and so is on my list.
    popwordsiconThis is a great twist on the game Boggle. It has a individual time-pressure game where you try to find words on the grid before your timer runs out. It also has a great puzzle mode where the letter tiles disappear when used to see how many tiles you can score with just one grid. This is great for building literacy skills and again naturally draws students together to find new words.
    memneonIconThis is a bit different. At first you think it’s just a very simple memory game where you only have to remember which neon lights lit up for 5 seconds on a grid to complete a circuit. It seems quite tricky so you find yourself developing your own strategies for remembering which lit up. I even started remembering shape names to jog my memory. This really gets the brain working hard.
    minecraftMinecraft is one of the most popular games in history and has been used by many schools as an educational tool. The key is the collaborative nature of building worlds and objects together. The planning and teamwork required to accurately build a specific thing is something that naturally develops but can be planned by teachers. How about this incredible example of Classroom Minecraft Authentic learning where students worked with the city museum to build an 1st World War experience exhibit.

Team building

Sometimes we consider the term team-building as only something employers organise. I’ve found this to be powerful in my classes, especially with boys, who are often less social and likely to work well in new teams. You may have heard of Google 20% time, well this is an endorsed form of team-building / brain ignition time. Give it a try!

EXTRA LINK: Games are good for you

I’ve modified and added to this from a previous post.

Can social media help manage a successful classroom?

Humans are all about relationships. This is why learning is all about relationships but that’s also why social media has both taken over the world and will have a huge impact on education and learning.

Social Media wallsNotice there, where I split the education and learning into two distinct topics. I do this because the term education implies the familiar formalisation of learning that we are all accustomed to. “Education” makes people think of buildings and classrooms, testing and grades and not necessarily learning. Just as social media has challenged and transformed the business world over the last decade, it will increasingly challenge the education institutions built on the 20th century’s model of one-size fits all and their view of what successful learning is.

Whether schools like it or not…

The tools and features within social media that allow individuals to make connections, build networks, share learning, receive feedback from peers and grow one’s own learning are already challenging the purpose and even need for a classroom, as we’ve known it in the past. Social media, be it school based, such as Edmodo, or public like Youtube, is itself teaching young people that networks that share a common goal often prove more powerful than the sum of their parts.

Connected generation

“I’m currently working with a group in Iran” – Grade 7 New Zealand student.

Clash-of-ClansYou might think that the quote above that came from one of my students this year is unusual but what was more unusual was that he didn’t think anything of the statement! It was me, his teacher, who had to point out how special his circumstance was. The context was that we were doing a project on world connections and he was an avid player of “Clash of clans” on his iPad.

Only when I ran through some comparisons and highlighted how the world had changed so quickly did he become inspired by his collaborations and how those very real experiences might impact on his perceptions and future interactions with people from other parts of the world. He went on to include in his project his meeting with an Iranian employee of his father who he’d made a special request to meet.

Authentic and relevant audience

I hear many frustrated teachers bemoan the lack of writing quality amongst even their senior students even after they’ve experienced over a decade of education. I like to highlight that developing an intrinsic desire to takes one’s writing seriously when your audience is one teacher and the reward is an abstract grade has always been hard for most students. This is where, I’ve always liked the concept of Quad-blogging founded by David Mitchell. A class of student bloggers, team up with 3 other classrooms elsewhere in the world (arranged by the website) . One format is that each week or month, one class’ blogs become the focus for the other 3 classes to feedback on. This system then rotates. For me, the ‘unknown’ audience of peers makes students take much more care over what and how they present their writing and projects. They now see their work as much more an extension of themselves exposed to the world outside the classroom.

The world is now layered with thousands of online networks and it’s time for classrooms to allow these networks to make learning a relational and authentic experience. It’s online networks that can stretch learning beyond the four walls that until now have only isolated young people from the world they might become a key players in.

David Mitchell explains his Quad-blogging story:


EduWells Pofile Pic 2015Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.


Teaching a Room of Nerds and Noobs

What was my most challenging classroom and how did I turn it around?

This story wont be new to everyone but it’s an important one all the same. A common discussion amongst teachers is differentiation and how to allow for faster and slower learners and/or catering for different styles of learning. This was a key problem for me in 2012 when I had to introduce an advanced Computer Science course to a class of students with very differing levels of experience.


iPadwells Pofile Pic 2015Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter :  @iPadwells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.


Some students had no experience of the terms or concepts, where as some were keen computer nerds chomping at the bit to discuss the most advanced computing technical aspects they could get their hands on. There were visible tensions in the room regarding advanced students being held up by the inexperienced. So how do you plan lessons for a class you know will be at vastly different levels of understanding after just 5 minutes? Answer: Flip it !

DifferentiationI started the year by announcing I would not be teaching the class once that year. That is, there would be no teaching of any concept to the class as a whole. Students then set about personal, subject-related project work, whilst I recorded 5 minute videos of the usual content I’d normally be covering in the following week. I found that before we got half way through the year, I’d already recorded all content, diagrams, animations and videos and arranged them into playlists. Some students had watched the videos as I made them and arrived at class with specific questions, some were confident enough to leave many of the videos unwatched until the exams drew closer. The personal projects I mentored in the classroom were also significantly more in-depth then we’d managed in previous years.

Important fact: When I did this for 6 senior high school courses, the total video delivery for any individual course never exceeded 4 hours! That’s right folks, no high school course’s entire year’s content takes more than 4 hours to deliver. If it’s condensed with clean, edited, uninterrupted delivery of all information all students need to know.

Grades that year were over 20% high than previous years and 2013 became a year of tweaking videos I’d already made allowing me to dedicate my time to full project based learning in class. I was able to focus on developing team skills and project management because the content delivery worked for all. Some students reported watching each video more than 10 times, some said they hadn’t bothered watching some topics. In  over 80% of cases, Computer Science was the top grade for any particular student in the class.

If you haven’t considered it, try flipping your content into videos, but NOT as fixed, timetabled homework.