Transforming learning spaces with iBeacons

Why use iBeacons in Education?

The iBeacon protocol was standardised by Apple and unveiled at the Apple Developers’ Conference in 2013. In December of that year, Apple activated iBeacons across its 254 US retail stores. By 2018 retailers are expected to have installed 3.5 million iBeacons. 

What is an iBeacon? 
An iBeacon is a way of of providing information that is location based, to mobile devices. 

How does it work?

Beacons themselves are small Bluetooth transmitters. With the relevant application installed on your device you can pick up the information transmitted from a Beacon and respond to it. This is usually via a simple graphic interface that allows you to browse content and download it. A lot of this happens automatically in the background. 

With the relevant application installed you could pick up information in a location on anything from a Science project in a school to the special offers in a Supermarket. 

The Apple website below offers some support regarding how iBeacon technology works with your device:

As iBeacons lend themselves so easily to providing contextual localised information, commercial retailers and educators have been quick to spot the enormous potential of the this new and rapidly emerging technology, with many developers creating varieties of iBeacon compatible hardware transmitters (often called beacons). An Australian company, DKTOB were the first to implement iBeacons commercially for use in shopping centers, more information on this is available on wikipedia:

It’s still very early on in the development and use of beacons.  Different models with slightly different features are being released all the time, and a range of test cases and imaginative deployments are appearing constantly. 

Searching for the hashtag #ibeacon in Twitter is one way of finding developers and spotting and following new trends. 

Why use beacons in education? 

If you are looking to: 

  • Make your students’ experience more engaging
  • Motivate your students
  • Create engaging spaces in your classroom and school
  • Attract student attention and increase their knowledge and awareness of different concepts and topics 
  • Facilitate students engaging through different techniques and media
  • Enable students to access and engage with varied and differentiated content

With beacons you can:

  • Make static areas come to life
  • Connect students to more information 
  • Save valuable school funds (using beacons as a distribution system)
  • Improve contact with parents
  • Gamify the learning experience 
  • Enable different points of contact for staff, students and parents
  • Support parent and student navigation in your school (great for open days and parent evenings)
  • Enable parents/visitors/students to find specific points in the school

For more information on how to use iBeacons in your classroom and school check out the book iBeacon Projects. It covers setting up your iPad, installing the Locly application, creating your first project and assigning it to a beacon before progressing to more complex projects. The book contains 20 projects with sample content for you to try out. 

Tools for Assessment

I've been asked about collating this information together so often that I thought it would be useful to create a downloadable summary in PDF form (link below) for the most useful tools. I've created video tutorials for some of these tools in my app. Workflows and Lesson Plans for Showbie. 15 tutorials videos for using Showbie in your class. The app isn't free, but the PDF below, and the information listed here is! 

Google Forms. Google Forms are great for offering students a range of choices to respond to: open ended short answer, open ended paragraph, multiple choice, check boxes, drop down menu, linear scale (choosing from 1 to 5 as a response scale for example) or a multiple choice grid of answers.Student feedback is collated into a downloadable spreadsheet.


Nearpod offers a range of interactive tools to add to a series of slides / images. Nearpod has been constantly updated since its launch, (recent updates have included ‘on the fly’ questioning, notes feature and 360 degree panoramics), Nearpod can import existing Powerpoints and turn them straight into NPPs (Nearpod Presentations). Teachers are able to preview slides before sharing them to students and the slides and interactions are displayed on the student devices. .


Socrative is a simple to use and powerful tool, allowing you to gather student responses in three ways: multiple choice, true or false and short answer. These can be combined in different combinations to create Quizzes, which in turn can launched as straightforward quizzes or as Space Races. Space races bring an extra competitive element to the experience with student responses being given visual feedback with a character moving across the screen for each correct answer.

Kahoot! With Kahoot students see the question on the main screen with options for the correct answer, and make their choice on their devices. Points are gained for quick response times and Kahoot has a shared device ‘team’ mode also.

Playposit allows you to insert interactive review elements into online video clips (hosted at YouTube, Vimeo, Teacher Tube, Shmoop and Google Drive). Play posit fills the gap left by Zaption closing. Being able to turn videos from passive to proactive experiences and share them easily via Showbie is a a great asset, and for those teachers wishing to use their own content being to add these elements to your video when hosted on Google Drive is a great asset. Students can view these in the Playposit app.

Poll Everywhere is great for polling (strangely enough) , multiple choice and open ended questions with the facility for displaying the user feedback in different ways, for example a word cloud (my favourite).

Formative allows you to set up assessments with a variety of media, (images, PDF) and questioning.  Formative offers some quite sophisticated features allowing you to see all of the different student responses on your screen as well as give feedback and marking in real time. 


Quizlet allows you to create quizzes with a variety of tools including audio recordings. Unlike many other tools you can create classes and study sets within the tool and track student activity.


Quizziz is quite similar to Kahoot, where Kahoot displays the choices on the main screen and students vote with their devices, Quizziz displays question and answers on their devices. More points are awarded for prompter answers.

Two other websites worth checking out that offer assessment tools that can be shared via a link in Showbie:

Triventy contains pre-made quizzes (as do many of the tools here) that you can search for and run with a similar ‘screen display’ of questions and students responding on their devices work flow (as in Kahoot). and

Quizalize that displays how well students are progressing.


This PDF is taken form my app Workflows and Lesson Plans for Showbie. 15 tutorials videos for using Showbie in your class. 

Travel Blog Norway Coding Tour 09.16

One of the aspects of delivering Keynotes and Workshops in Norway that I look forward to is working with Andrew Rhodes the National Education Manager for ATEA, Norway, (also ADE and educator). 

Andrew put together a 4-day Coding tour for Oslo, Trondheim and Stavanger meaning a lot of resources traveling a lot of miles with me. 

The image above shows some of the resources I carted around with me (bar the Bloxels boards), as well as a slide of the 8-bit resources we had when I started teaching in the 80s. 

The Hobbit

The Hobbit

Apps for coding were covered, the different types, and the range of concepts they cover. This included The Adventure Creator which allows you to create graphic adventure games, (remember The Hobbit? see right - ). TAC uses coding blocks to create its code, is intuitive, fun and combines digital story-telling with coding. 

Lots of resources are available here 



The 3 hour long workshops started with Primary resources working through to Secondary, although of course some work right across several key stages. 

Bloxels has an immediacy about it that is so engaging. It allows students to work collaboratively, design games levels, animations, design backgrounds, sprites and for those willing to dig beneath a little beneath the surface configuration settings and even deeper some deep level coding. 

Below is a charming animation created by one of the attending teachers  on the Stavanger leg of the Norway coding tour. The animation demonstrates three states, idle, walking and jump.  

Osmo Coding was also extremely well extremely well received, I am so impressed with this package. Students are literally touching their code! 

Osmo is tactile, well thought out, engaging and above all it works for teaching primary students and younger coding concepts. 

You could ask where does Osmo differ from similar  target based applications, (Bee-Bot - Get the flower etc) . Its the interactivity and immediacy of being encouraged to experiment with the code blocks and seeing the results on screen. Osmo Coding has a lot going for it. 

Although Swift Playgrounds has only recently been recently I was asked to cover it at the Norway events. I'll be covering Swift Playgrounds in depth in a separate blog, suffice to say I am impressed with the extent of the resources, lessons and support that has been released for Swift Playgrounds. It is extremely well thought out and is already gaining traction globally.




I've delivered Tickle workshops extensively over the last year. Tickle uses code blocks in a similar way to Scratch and Hopscotch whilst connecting to drones via bluetooth. I use Parrot drones for the first part of the workshop. Parrot's mini drone 'Cargo' can withstand the rigours of the classroom environment, and has excellent battery life. I also use a multiple battery charging pack that is available on Amazon, once the group gets into their coding, coding more complex challenges, they get through the batteries! Adding Sphero to the Tickle part of the workshop adds a lot of diversity to the workshop activities and coding concepts that can be covered.. Tickle has been updated several times recently and has two new features worth mentioning here. 

Firstly, your code blocks can be immediately displayed as Swift code via the new Swift icon bottom right. I look forward to developments that allow the code to be transferred into Swift Playgrounds and secondly the Sphero template has a little Sphero icon allowing you to correct your Sphero's orientation. 









Travel Blog Denmark iPad event 012.09.16

At the ATEA Denmark iPad event I was invited to present my keynote, 'Connecting to the past, Delivering the Future',  a series of coding workshops and a music demo/performance with Kristian 'UFO' Humaiden, the celebrated Danish Drum n Bass artist. 

With the keynote I was asked to demonstrate the ease with which teachers can use an iPad to recycle their existing Word and Powerpoint documents before making the transition to including Augmented Reality in the classroom, which I did with Blippar's excellent Blip Builder.  

Blippar, takes AR for education to new heights, offering multiple interactions from one image with a range of media. An excellent resource. 

The coding workshops focused on recently developed new hardware / application based solutions , principally: Bloxels , Osmo Coding and coding drones from Parrot and Sphero. The latter are programmed with the excellent Tickle app,  the challenge being to cover this in 45 minutes. Tickle is intuitive and allows you to cover numeracy concepts in a very tactile way - plus coding a drone to fly is engaging and a lot fun.

Results below. 

Occasionally I am invited to collaborate with some great musicians, Kristian UFO Humaiden is a Drum n Bass artist from Denmark with a string of hits to his name. For the Kristian delivered a keynote on the inspiring work he is doing with disadvantaged young people in Denmark. Totally awesome work. As part of his presentation he invited me to do a demonstration of GarageBand on iPad's features reproducing one of his hits in front of the audience, using the one screen features as much as possible. By this I mean, without adding 3rd party microphones, keyboards etc. GarageBand on iPad is a stunning creativity tool, intuitive and powerful. We recreated the entire track with drums, keys, bass and the whole structure before finally adding a guitar interface to demonstrate the built in guitar amps and plugging in an electric guitar. (There has to be a guitar solo!) before UFO and I performed the track live, the results are below. 

This performance has been recreated several times in different parts of Denmark, and a re-union 'Tour' is being planned  , Spring 2017 in Copenhagen. 


This is the title of one of my keynotes and was put together as a reaction to the embracing of a new technology or edu-strategy as the ‘next big thing’, and discarding what has gone before, as if previous practise was now totally archaic and ineffective. 

Of course, this is just not the case. Many teachers already teach extremely well and effectively, ‘Thank you very much’. What we need is balance as we move forward with our innovations and new ideas.

Recycle your existing documents

Recycle your existing documents

As an example, teachers have accrued 1000s of Word documents and ahem, many Powerpoints. (A future blog will focus on Powerpoint). These documents took many hours of hard work to create and are used week in week out, often via a trip to the photocopier first thing in the morning to rattle off 30/60/90 copies, (delete as appropriate). 

It's time to recycle your documents, go paperless and transform the contents of your documents at the same time. 


1 Import your Word documents into Pages on your iPad. (A simple way to achieve this is to store your documents in DropBox or Google Drive and import them via the relevant cloud based app on your iPad)

2 Add images to the newly imported document. Pages is very user friendly with this, and offers image editing options such as instant alpha for removing unwanted colour borders. 

3 Share your new document as a PDF file to Showbie or iTunesU or GoogleClassroom or Google Drive or… (you get the idea) 

Showbie is my favoured weapon of choice here. It allows students to annotate with pen, text and audio directly on the PDF. In the example above we’ve just saved 1000s of valuable school budget by going paperless, recycled your Word document into an interactive document with new media added and backed up your students’ work at the same time…  


A suggested  improvement on workflow one. 

1 Import a Powerpoint into Explain Everything (using the same workflow as in point 1 above). 

2 Record voice narration and add real-time annotations to your slides using Explain Everything’s easy to use tools

3 Export this as a video to your camera roll via the Share icon. 

4 Now import this video into your previously imported Word document in Pages. Pages, can add video files to documents. 

5 Now export your document as an ePub document to Showbie, iTunesU, Google Classroom via the Share icon. 

Your ePubs, (electronic books), can be opened in iBooks, allowing your students to use the search, inbuilt dictionary, highlighting and notes tools transforming your old Word documents into multi-media, interactive experiences. A huge improvement on a photocopy! 

These are just two examples of the strategies made possible by new technologies. In a later blog we’ll take a closer look at transforming Powerpoints. 

You'll find video tutorials on this, and other workflows, in my app:  Teaching with ICT