Revision Tips for Students

Here are some methods you may like to pass on to your students and there are plenty of myths to bust too.

Screenshot from Video
Click the link below to open the video on YouTube.

How to study for exams – Evidence-based revision tips: 

The video above explains the reasons why just re-reading, highlighting and summarising have low effectiveness.  Activities with a high cognitive function are more useful.  The video explains these too.  This is why I asked you to do so many tasks so that you had to think about what you had learnt.  Make sure you have finished all the tasks and then close the Class Notebook and see what you can do active recall by making flash cards, mind maps, tables and diagrams without looking at the notes.

You can do all these for free on paper but here’s a program to help you if you prefer:

“Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it’s a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn”

Web version:

More resources you should try: 

10 Techniques for Retrieval Practice – all well explained with visual examples

“Brain Glue” The best and worst strategies for making your training stick! PDF

Spaced_Revision PDF

Spaced Revision Basic principles for students

Transformation exercises PDF


More techniques you should train your students in, from 


Screenshot of video on Study Tips
Click link below to open video on YouTube

The 9 BEST Scientific Study Tips
I’d love to know if you try any of these techniques and how successful there are.  Comment below.

Students asking about climate change? Here are some answers.

TODAY 1.4 million students demonstrated in 2,233 towns and cities in 128 countries taking part in today’s Climate Strike

School children protesting with banners in Melbourne
Melbourne School Strike for Climate Action 2
Credit: Julian Meehan Licence

“From small actions, like that of students who went on strike for the first time across India, to large demonstrations in the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Sweden and Australia, the strike for climate action spread across more than 2,000 events.

“The co-ordinated strikes were organised via social media by volunteers in the countries under the banner of Fridays for Future.” Read more about these unprecidented acts of frustration by young people here and here

UPDATE: As a result of the school strike, António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, is bringing world leaders together at a climate action summit later this year to demand concrete plans to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero by 2050.” Read more.


Teachers and parents, if you have children or young people asking about climate change, here are some answers.

Chris Smith is a research fellow in Physical Climate Change at the University of Leeds. He has focused on three big questions we often get asked:

  • How long is the planet going to last? I heard it was 12 years…
  • What would be the most effective policy to end climate change?
  • What’s the single best thing I could do in my life to help the climate? – be warned he lets you think it is ok to focus on indivdual action.

Read his clear answers with links to further explanation here: Climate change: a climate scientist answers questions from teenagers

Compare this with the more nuanced An Audacious Toolkit: Actions Against Climate Breakdown (Part 3: I is for Individual)

The big question: Why didn’t the older generation do anything to stop climate change?

George Monbiot explains this and what we must do now to support the youth movement.

Scientific evidence

Here’s why there are mass protests across the world: Graphs and Facts collected to explain protests.

For the more scientifically curious students looking for credible evidence, try this site recommended to me by Will Lambert.  “The polar portal website in particular is very good website for getting daily recorded updates direct from the monitoring stations.”
“In particular to note the overall accumulated Ice mass loss and gain from Greenland shown here, along with prior year averages for comparison.”


Sustainable Thinking from BBC Ideas one of 16 brilliant video stories, each under 5 mins, that the BBC have just created to explain the current situation and take it seriously.

The Story of Stuff “The Story of Stuff Project’s journey began with a 20-minute online movie about the way we make, use and throw away all the Stuff in our lives.” Free videos a free quiz, plus lesson plans and materials you can buy too.

What should you focus on? World Economic Forum explains: Why plastic pollution shouldn’t distract from other environmental challenges

How much would individual action help?

NASA Resources for Educators 

WWF Resources

A multimedia project I wrote that you could adapt for your students: Climate Emergency

Interactive Whiteboard Resource Very clear Twitter thread by Ben See @ClimateBen a Literature Teacher informing pupils of the scientific reality of the Ecological Catastrophe & urging them to act. See also @urgenceclimatiq & @ClimateHound  See

Take it further: If you have accepted that dramatic changes to society are inevitable, you will be interested in Deep Adaptation  Jem Bendell’s blog

Based in Derby? Why not check out the latest events organised by Derby Climate Coalition.


What is the school/college/university doing about it?

WATCH: Five tips to help your school become more sustainable (Tes Schools Awards 2018 sustainable school of the year)

25 interesting ideas for reducing the carbon footprint of your workplace

The climate is changing; colleges and universities must adapt

How US Campuses & Students Are Helping to Save the Planet

Mapped: The UK Universities that have Pledged to Divest from Fossil Fuels

What about you?

It is immediate and obvious to many young people.  Another question is what are you, my teacher, doing about it?

Before reading on, please consider the value or danger of focusing on the indivdual at all.  Is it a distraction? Read An Audacious Toolkit: Actions Against Climate Breakdown (Part 3: I is for Individual)

Here’s my story:

28 years ago, I was 15 when I learned about global warming and I thought we’d have this sorted by now. I refused to learn to drive when I was 17. I learned to drive ten years later when I thought it was irresponsible with children to have only one driver.

In 2009, I screened the film ‘The Age of Stupid’ and had Sustrans manager and climate campaigner, Dave Clasby as guest speaker.  I showed it in two primary schools to parents and teachers and to staff at Derby College. Update from The Guardian: “Ten years after climate movie The Age of Stupid had its green-carpet, solar-powered premiere, we follow its director as she revisits people and places from the film and asks: are we still heading for the catastrophic future it depicted?” Watch this short film about this here.

Apart from cycling, for two years my wife and I have had a hybrid car and that has let us enjoy driving again. Well done if you have cut out dairy and meat.
I learnt from The Age of Stupid that it makes you feel loads better when you are doing something about it. Reducing plastic is very popular now but we need to focus on reducing CO2 emissions. HOWEVER nothing we do as individuals compares with the 85-85% of CO2 emissions produced by large corporations.  Read on…  The most valuable thing is to put pressure on goverments to put controls on production and transform our way of life. Here’s just seven things that might make you feel better:

  1. It’s great if you travel via public transport. Tell others to stop flying and don’t fly yourself. I haven’t since 2006. 5 of us went to Antibes in the south of France last year by train. It was bliss.
  2. Turn your heating down a degree or two and wear another layer. If this makes you wince, adapt you house to make it cosier and shut doors. See George Monbiot’s article in point 4 below.
  3. Turn off lights and appliances and things left on standby. More here:
  4. Reduce your carbon footprint. Grow your own. Shop at an ethical wholefoods shop. Research where your stuff comes from. George Monbiot who was in The Age of Stupid gives you 15 ways here: More on reducing carbon footprint.
  5. If you haven’t already, switch your electricity and gas supplier to a company like Octopus or Ecotricity who will turn you bills into windmills!
  6. Campaign. Take advice from a charity: or
  7. More to ethical banking and take your savings and ask your employer to divest from fossil fuel investments. ‘Derby city councillors give the lead and call on pension fund to divest from fossil fuels’:


One last thing that’s really quick and costs you nothing

Scientists make it clear – we’re facing a climate emergency

“On 8th October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a vital report on the state of climate science. They warned that if the planet warmed by 1.5C there would be some devastating consequences, such as the loss of most coral reefs, and increased extreme weather such as heatwaves and floods. Yet the consequences of allowing 2C warming would be truly catastrophic. Given that the planet is currently heading for 3-4C warming, keeping to 1.5C requires a radical shift across energy, land, industrial, urban and other systems to reduce emissions, unprecedented in history for its speed.” Read more here.

If, like me, you are frustrated by lack of progress in prevent mass extinction in government circles and would like to take the focus away from the current obsession and actually do something to limit catastrophic climate change, then you may be interested in a petition to get local government to make commitments that will limit CO2 emissions locally and put pressure on national leaders.

At the time of writing, in the UK alone, 38 councils (including 1 authority, London), representing 17,698,328 persons have already declared a climate emergency and I would like Derby City Council and Derbyshire County Council to do the same.  If you agree, a petition has just started, with more information here

xrDerby Generic Flyer June 2019 v3

Employer-Led Projects


The “proportion of employers that view 17 to 18-year-old education leavers to be well prepared for work” is 68% for college-leavers compared to 58% for school-leavers, according to the Association of Colleges.  This is something we need to take advantage of and develop.

Employer-led projects are assignments and creative activities following a client specification agreed by a real company.  A representative from the company gives feedback on the student’s design and their product.

Giving students an opportunity to work with employers on advanced projects is something we can offer that is rarely found in school provision.  By developing this across the college and marketing it effectively, we can win back funding by increasing the number of students coming to college and staying.

This blog post will enable you to understand what works in this form of employer engagement and start to plan your own so that you can develop this as a unique selling point for your department.  This gives an opportunity to

  • improve retention through greater interest and relevant enrichment,
  • develop a deeper understanding of the subject and application of technical skills,
  • encourage higher attainment through wanting to do a professional job for a real live client,
  • develop employability skills,
  • impress moderators and standards verifiers,
  • and encourage students and parents to spread the word about your course.

This is a chance to enhance the industrial links in your provision and make your course more engaging for all.


Employer-led Projects as part of a study programme

The following phases in cogs moving togther: Vocational Qualification, Work Experience, Employer-led project

Students record all of the planning, documentation, interactions and meetings.

They submit this along with the product and an evaluation as coursework for a specific unit.

Work on the project outside of lesson time goes towards work experience hours.

Students are expected to rise to the challenge and exhibit a range of professional characteristics including

  • creativity,
  • individual responsibility,
  • self-management,
  • etiquette,
  • support of others
  • and problem-solving ability.

Students can continue to work with the employer/client to develop the product further.


Employer-led project examples

Here are some examples used in the Computer Science Academy where I work:

  • designing and running a social media campaign for a small business
  • designing and building a website for a small business
  • designing and building a computer game for a small business
  • designing and building a database for a small business
  • creating an application and having an interview for work experience at a small business

Examples of documentation by students

Your Project

Generate ideas for your own projects including:

  • Type of business you need for a client
  • What your students can offer
  • What you need from the client –brief, content, initial talk/visit to employer
  • What feedback the client can offer the students: face to face / online
  • What units it can contribute towards
  • Timeframe
  • Issues
  • Benefits e.g. future work experience

Plan with your Work Experience Officer and ask them to do the liaising for you.

Students should plan the project management tools they will use.

Planning Tool

Download this planning tool and print it out A3 to write down and organise you ideas:

employer-led project planning mat print a3

Good luck!  Comment below with any feedback or questions.

Equal Funding for Education

*UPDATE: See comments section below for what happened when parliament debated this.*
Further education is a vital route into 100s of careers, improving subject knowledge, English, maths and many employability skills and without it we have no competitive workforce.  So why is it underfunded compared to schools which, after 16, offer only part of the work that FE does?  Is it because school funding is a more emotive subject with voters?  Why is it?  Schools are fundamental to education and so are further education colleges.
“Further education (FE) colleges provide high quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. In the year 2017-18 they prepared 2.2 million students with valuable employability skills, helping to develop their career opportunities. Sixth form colleges (SFC) provide high-quality academic education to 16 to 18-year-olds enabling them to progress to university or higher level vocational education.” Key Facts, Association of Colleges.  PFD of Facts:


Students enjoying College – Photo by: 

Much needed help

For students who need extra help colleges are second chances for developing what school has not managed to help them achieve.  Colleges stretch budgets to provide for special educational needs.

High achievers

For high achievers FE offers a wider curriculum, better employer engagement and preparation for university through more self-management experiences and independence, not to mention more experimentation with specialisms before higher education and employment, leading young people to make better life choices.

What’s the problem?

According to this article from BBC News: The students who fear for their ambitions amid college cuts:
  • Shakira Martin, NUS President, asked how students could be supported when college “budgets have been cut, and cut and cut again”
  • The amount of cash spent on pupils drops significantly once they turn 16
  • A drastic reduction in the number of learning opportunities for adults
  • College teachers earning £7,000 less on average than school teachers

But college is just for a minority, isn’t it?

In the year 2017-2018, “one-third of English students aged under 19 who entered higher education through UCAS studied at a college.” Association of Colleges
For those entering employment: “36% of large employers who train their staff do so through a college, compared with 33% who do so through a university.”  The “proportion of employers that view 17 to 18-year-old education leavers to be well prepared for work” is 68% for college-leavers compared to 58% for school-leavers.  Association of Colleges

So what should we do about it?

Shouldn’t FE have equal funding per student as schools?
You may be interested in signing this petition which is dear to my heart.
Petition: Increase college funding to sustainable levels – all students deserve equality!
View from The Roundhouse at Derby College showing the rail tracks left as a reminder of the rail industry heritage and a metaphor for the future that colleges unlock for many thousands of students each year. Photo by Edward Pickering-Symes
View from The Roundhouse at Derby College showing the rail tracks left as a reminder of the rail industry heritage and a metaphor for the future that colleges unlock for many thousands of students each year. Photo taken after the last day of term by the author

Evidence to support the use of Learning Technologies

In Social Media and Learning Technologies we looked at a range of learning technologies and we learned how to be critical when choosing the right ones.  I recommend you read that blog post first.  I should also check out all the ideas and resources at Improving Digital Literacy: Good habits for your students.

Publications with evidence to support the use of learning technologies

Many scholarly articles were written before social media was ubiquitous and there are not enough studies on the effectiveness of use learning technologies. Student working on a laptop while others talk with the teacher

However, there are a few more promising articles.  Unfortunately some are behind a pay wall that your instution may not have paid for.

  • R. Säljö 2010 “Digital tools and challenges to institutional traditions of learning: technologies, social memory and the performative nature of learning”
    • You can read the abstract without going through the pay wall here: abstract
  • Jones A, Issroff K 2004 “Learning technologies: Affective and social issues in computer-supported collaborative learning”
    • You can read the abstract here: abstract
  • Lockyer L, Patterson. J 2008 “Integrating Social Networking Technologies in Education: A Case Study of a Formal Learning Environment”
    • The above paper presents a case study that examines the technology and experience in a formal education context. You can read the brief abstract here: abstract

Find your own articles by altering your search to Scholarly article.  Here is an example of a scholarly article search in Google.

Alternatively, the Association for LearningTechnology would be a good place to start:

It lead me to find this book you can download for free!
Ed. Havemann L and Sherman S 2017 “Assessment, Feedback and Technology, Contexts and Case Studies in Bloomsbury”, Bloomsbury

“In 2014, the Bloomsbury Learning Environment (BLE) Consortium initiated a wide-ranging, two-year-long research and dissemination project focusing on the use of technology in assessment and feedback.” The book was published in 2017 and is a collection of reports by institutions within this group Bloomsbury.

Press in support the use of learning technolgies

A brief overview of the current use of learning technologies in the classroom, successes and issues:

  • Luckin R 2018 “We must equip teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to be confident and effective users of ed tech”  TES article
  • Mullen J 2018 “How technology can help meet the challenges of two-year degrees”
    • Only click this link if you a) work in Higher Eduction and b) don’t mind using up your one free article: article
  • Ravitch, D. 2017 “5 Risks Posed by the Increasing Misuse of Technology in Schools” Edsurge.
    • US article showing issues for balance: article
  • Renwick, M 2018 “Busting Myths, Telling Truths” Language Magazine
    • another US article with a cautious view: article

Find your own articles by altering your search to News.  Here is an example of a news search in Google.


Further Reading

For guidance based on the experience of my colleagues and I using technology see Digital Literacy.

For more guidance on better use of search engines see my article on Better Searches.

Learning Technologies Part 2

In Social Media and Learning Technologies we looked at a range of learning technologies and we learned how to be critical when choosing the right ones.  I recommend you read that blog post first.  I should also check out all the ideas and resources at Improving Digital Literacy: Good habits for your students.

Since I wrote that post I have taught myself some new technologies which you may find useful.

Students working happily together with desktop computers and laptops.
Students working together with desktop computers and laptops.


Microsoft OneNote is a quick way of recording text, images and documents and a collaborative working tool.  It has an online version, where you edit in your web browser and a desktop version which is installed on the hard drive of your computer and synchronises with the online version.  The desktop version comes free with Office 365 which you may get free from your institution.

OneNote Class Notebook

Class Notebook sets up for you a number of connected OneNote pages.  This gives you the ability to create three areas:

  1. an area of content only you and chosen teachers can edit,
  2. individual students’ areas where they can create pages and only teachers can see them,
  3. collaborative learning area where students can all add and see pages, each can edit each others and they can see who is editing what.

Even after you have created the class notebook you can add students and teachers:


Class Notebook

Find out more on this User guide.

More technologies to follow.

Information Security in your Workplace

Computer drawn image of a padlock in front of a log in box in front of electronic circuitsInformation is so precious in an organisation it must be carefully shared and protected when people join your organisation, move to a new department, and when they leave that department or the whole organisation.

Use the links to complete a plan for a Joiners Movers Leavers policy for your own workplace.

University College London’s Joiners Movers Leavers policy

West Midlands Police’s Joiners Movers Leavers policy

Write down the main difference between these and J Pryer Solutions’s alternative version

Find out what RBAC is?

Cartoon on a burglar running away with a swag bag with zeros and ones leaking out of the back of itAwareness

How many times do each of these documents mention aware and awareness?  Does this have the same meaning each time?

How is awareness of information security maintained at your workplace?


Keys on keyboardTraining

From Induction onwards, what training have you had?

What do you feel you need more training on?



In groups of about three, research how you personally must do at work to abide by the following laws:

  • Human Rights Act
  • Data Protection Act
  • Computer Misuse Act


Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability (CIA triad)

Use the following links to write in your words what each part means in practice:


Further reading:

An information graphic depicting the dangers of cyber attacks. (U.S. Navy graphic/Released)
U.S. (Oct. 3, 2017) 171003-N-N0101-110 WASHINGTON (Oct. 3, 2017) An information graphic depicting the dangers of cyber attacks. (U.S. Navy graphic/Released)

Improving Digital Literacy: Good habits for your students

What does digital literacy mean to you?

What would improved digital literacy mean for your students?


“Digital literacy includes the ability to find and use information (otherwise known as information literacy) but goes beyond this to encompass:

  • communication,
  • collaboration and teamwork,
  • social awareness in the digital environment,
  • understanding of e-safety and
  • creation of new information.

Both digital and information literacy are underpinned by critical thinking and evaluation.” The Open University

The difference between digital skills and digital literacy

Digital skills are a mixture of office technology learnt at school – such as email, Microsoft Office to create documents, slide shows and spreadsheets – and using social media and creating web content.

Digital literacy is about a person’s place in the modern world. It is what they use, share and contribute. What happens when someone googles them?

Clearly, they depend on each other such as using OneDrive for collaborative working.

“For example, teaching digital skills would include showing students how to download images from the Internet and insert them into PowerPoint slides or webpages.

Digital literacy would focus on helping students choose appropriate images, recognize copyright licensing, and cite or get permissions, in addition to reminding students to use alternative text for images to support those with visual disabilities.”
Bali, M, 2016

Digital Literacy Techniques

Here are a variety of techniques you could try.  After you have read and picked a few you may wish to use these Digital Literacy Activity Sheets to help with planning.  Read on:



Use the collaborative features of your dynamic online learning environment.

We use Moodle and Blackboard and they both have modules you can set up on your course pages for students to learn from each other.  We have used forums on Moodle for students to share ideas and ask questions which we and the other students answer.  This encourages thinking about what they share and how they use online communication to solve a problem.  More on this later.


Submit both formative and summative pieces online.

This encourages work outside the classroom, makes feedback faster if you are happy marking online, and encourages reflection.  They can get some automated feedback as well.  See the explanation of Turnitin in the section below on Plagiarism and Proofreading.


Student blogs and journals

This also supports reflective practice.  Your online learning environment may have its own built-in module for setting up journals.  Alternatively, students can create blogs like this one on WordPress which is free.


Develop Critical Digital Literacy

Train students to choose verified sources.  Encourage them to ask questions of every website they use:

  1. Who is writing?
  2. Is there an instution publishing the article that uses peer review e.g. a university, industry leader or government website?
  3. Can you find another article or video that supports what they have written?
  4. Can you trust the newspaper or the broadcaster, based on previous experience?
  5. Is this second article just a copy of the same text, or is there evidence of other research?
  6. If it is about law, is it a UK article?
  7. Are the statistics used credible?

See also Sources and Synthesis below and also my guidance on Better Searches.

Teach about Fake News.  It is possible to develop the skills needed, though discussion and activities.

To get into the bigger question of how we teach the difference between satire and a news story that has been deliberately spread, we must do some reading ourselves:  Improve your own knowledge to support this with “Ten key readings for our distrustful media age” by Gianfranco Polizzi of the London School of Econonics and Political Science.


Smart use of Wikipedia

Show students how to choose resources by checking the references.  If they use Wikipedia, suggest it should be only as a starting point for a new topic.  They can use the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia page, click on them and explore the original sources.  It may be useful to have a discussion about whether they should pay for such a useful website that does not pay for itself through advertising.  What alternatives are there?


Smart use of online forums for research

Forum posts by experts and enthusiasts on specialist web forums can be the answer in a technical subject.   Tell students to compare forum posts before accepting the answers found.  These can be checked against verified sources such as the manufacturer’s support site or other recognised support websites.


Smart use of online forums for collaborative learning

Forum posts by students can mean practice writing about a topic but also means that solutions are found more quickly.  Students can post questions.  Students can reply to questions posted on the forum and so can staff.  Staff can inform students quickly.  It can be linked to their email so they get a message without already being on the forum.   Your online learning environment may have its own built-in module for setting up forums.  If not you can use a social medium.  See my post on the sensible use of Social Media and Learning Technologies.

If you want to regularly use one that does not have irrelevant things appearing from the rest of their lives, you can try Edmodo.  This also meets the Safeguarding requirement not to be able to send and receive private messages that are not through a college/school system.  See


Collaborative tools

When I ask students to work on a presentation in a small group they automatically open PowerPoint Online and they use OneDrive to manage the files and the sharing.  They are careful who can edit and who can only view.   Similar tools exist as part of Google Drive and Google Docs.


Smart use of presentations

Whatever software is used, Prezi, Sway or PowerPoint, slides can help by being limited to headings, diagrams and short bullet points, allowing the student to talk fluently about the detail of the subject.  If students find this difficult to embrace due to past experiences, ask for an image-only presentation.  Avoid students talking down into their and speaker notes by only allowing one word of phrase per bullet point on their speaker notes.


Encourage use of a variety of IT tools to manage projects

These can include Gantt charts, spreadsheets, tables in Word, quizzes they can create online as questionnaires to gather information.  They can also be used for a quick way to plan.  This could be a table with dates that each part should be completed by.  They could also use mind-mapping software such as MindGenius.  They can type in words or phrases and move them around to order them or categorise them later.  See my post on Social Media and Learning Technologies and scroll down to the section on MindGenius.


Get More Digital Literacy Techniques

See my Prezi slideshow for a lot more on this: Improving Digital Literacy Prezi

It covers habits to avoid and habits to cultivate in your students.


My students seem to have all missed the class at school on summarising.  It appears to be a challenging skill these days but it has become even more important in the Internet Age.  This is because there is a tendency to scan pages rather than actively reading them.  This seems to be with the goal of quickly finding only one short answer that looks like a fact.  Summarising forces you to make decisions about what is important.  This often leads to more understanding.  Try printing out a long article and highlighting one subtopic in one colour and another subtopic in another.  You can also do this in Word with the highlighter tool.  Here are some other things to try:

  1. How to summarise, paraphrase and use direct quotations Webpage from De Montford University Leicester
  2. Summarising a written text BBC Skillswise page still current
  3. Plan an exercise that asks them to read a web article and then summarise the text into bullet points.  Below is what one of my students did with a Business article you can read here.

Why is Effective Communication Important in Management?

  • To lead you must have effective communication skills.
  • Managers who communicate well are likely to be good problem solvers.
  • Employees who show an aptitude at verbal and written communication are more likely to advance up the corporate ladder.

Better Employee Relations

  • The best managers understand the need for building alliances.
  • Effective communications skills are a must for breaking down barriers.

Gains in Productivity

  • Managers must clearly articulate strategies and plans so that an employee team knows what to do.
  • Managers are the linchpin of a company’s productive efforts.
  • If the manager can’t make the employees understand their job then the work won’t get done properly.

Sources and SynthesisUsageRights2.png

Encourage your students to leave behind the habit of using the first result they find.  Demonstrate on the board how you select from your search engines.  Show them beyond the first page of results if you need to.  They need to decide whether the text or image is copyrighted.  See Better Searches.

Any research involves taking other people’s ideas, comparing them with other information and choosing the general points from all of them.

Sources could be text, video, audio, online or offline.  Ask them to make notes on each one, picking out the parts they understand best from each one.  Use one of the summarising techniques above.  This supports constructivism. Only then should they close all the original sources and write their own original document.  This way it is much easier to produce a document in their own words.  Tell them, “Don’t waste time converting words from one text using a thesaurus.  Instead, use notes from more than one source.”

This diagram shows the steps necessary to summarise the main points from at least two different texts:


Referencing other people’s work

Ask students to include just the name and year within their main text, then give full details in the bibliography on the last page of their document. For example:

Coxhead (2009) states “Wikipedia is not a primary source (although often a good provider of references to original sources). Wikipedia articles are mainly useful as overviews.” This shows…

According to BBC News (2001) Bloggs also said that it would cut the amount it spent on improving stores.  This implies that…

Bibliography example:


Tackling Plagiarism and Poor Proofreading

Do both with an online submission system that checks both.  For years these were the domain of universities but now there is software such as Turnitin.  It gives a report on spelling, punctuation and grammar.  It also reports on similarity with online texts and previously submitted work.  This can integrate with your existing virtual learning environment e.g. Blackboard or Moodle.

Here is an in-depth guide to using it in Moodle.

I use this for the students to submit an essay to, in order to check it themselves before submitting to the final upload link on Moodle.

If you don’t have this set up at your institution, Grammarly has one online:


More Techniques

Here are some more practical demonstrations to share with your students:

  1. Better Searches Blog post I wrote for staff to use with students
  2. Research-and-Referencing poster I made for Derby College – PDF format
  3. Don’t-Distort-Images Colour Poster/Handout on 3 pages I made to improve the use of images in documents while embedding the maths concept of proportion – PDF format
  4. PROOFREADING_CHECKLIST Poster I made to remind students – PDF format
  5. Speech Notes a website that uses the computer’s microphone to recognise speech and write it to the screen for you to copy to a Word document afterwards.  Try this but if you don’t get on with it, you can search for other software.  It worked well when I tested it.
  6. and the reverse: From Text To Speech – Free online TTS service. Free web-based Text To Speech (TTS) service. Convert online any English text into an MP3 audio file.  Good for students reluctant to read your handouts but also they can use it as an alternative check – it won’t read out words that they have missed out.
  7. iTest-Digital-Literacy-UofExeter A useful digital literacy test and reflection
  8. iTest-Digital-Literacy-UofExeter-ColourBlind A version I made that does not depend on colour recognition.
  9. Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning (CALL) Posters of Apps and resources to support learning and special educational needs and disability (SEND).  There are lots of things that you might find interesting for encouraging learners to support themselves but the legal poster is for Scottish Law:

Create your own activities to suit your subject

Gain a deeper understanding and get guidance on what different aspects of digital literacy to include with these worksheets for teachers to work through:

Digital Literacy Activity Sheets

Refresh your use of Active Learning using Geoff Petty’s excellent resources.  Apply them to the modern world where students don’t remember pre-internet learning.


Briggs, S. 2014, 20 Things Educators Need To Know About Digital Literacy Skills

OU 2016, Digital and Information Literacy Framework

Bali, M, 2016, Knowing the Difference Between Digital Skills and Digital Literacies, and Teaching Both

JISC, 2016, Quick guide – Developing students’ digital literacy

National Literacy Trust, 2017, Fake News and Critical Literacy



Improving Digital Literacy: Better Searches

Exact Phrase: double quote

Search for a exact sequence of words, not only for the pages which e.g. contain each of your search words in a different sentence.

Assuming you are trying to find sites about ‘transition words’. Instead of typing [transition words] into the search box, you will likely be better off searching for the exact phrase. To do so, enclose the search phrase within double quotes.

“transition words”

Exclude Words

You can exclude pages from your result list by putting a minus (-) directly in front of the keyword which you do not want to search for. This also works with more than one exclusion and with domain names.

ebooks -amazon.comsmart jokes -laughter -video

This search query can be helpful to eliminate all those annoying price comparison sites:

Blackberry Playbook -shop


Compare with:


Use unique, specific terms

It is simply amazing how many Web pages are returned when performing a search. You might guess that the terms blue dolphin are relatively specialized. A Google search of those terms returned 2,440,000 results! To reduce the number of pages returned, use unique terms that are specific to the subject you are researching.

Don’t use common words and punctuation

Common terms like a and the are called stop words and are usually ignored. Punctuation is also typically ignored. But there are exceptions.

Common words and punctuation marks should be used when searching for a specific phrase inside quotes. There are cases when common words like the are significant. For instance, Raven and The Raven return entirely different results.

Maximize AutoComplete

Ordering search terms from general to specific in the search box will display helpful results in a drop-down list and is the most efficient way to use AutoComplete. Selecting the appropriate item as it appears will save time typing. You have several choices for how the AutoComplete feature works:

Use Google AutoComplete. The standard Google start page will display a drop-down list of suggestions supplied by the Google search engine. This option can be a handy way to discover similar, related searches. For example, typing in Tucson fast will not only bring up the suggestion Tucson fast food but also Tucson fast food coupons.

Use browser AutoComplete. Use this Google start page to disable the Google AutoComplete feature and display a list of your previous searches in a drop-down box. I find this particularly useful when I’ve made dozens of searches in the past for a particular item. The browser’s AutoComplete feature must be turned on for this option to work. Click one of these links for instructions detailing how to turn AutoComplete on or off in I.E. and Firefox.


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Customize your searches

There are several other less well known ways to limit the number of results returned and reduce your search time:

  • The plus operator (+): As mentioned above, stop words are typically ignored by the search engine. The plus operator tells the search engine to include those words in the result set. Example: tall +and short will return results that include the word and.
  • The wildcard operator (*): Google calls it the fill in the blank operator. For example, amusement * will return pages with amusement and any other term(s) the Google search engine deems relevant. You can’t use wildcards for parts of words. So for example, amusement p* is invalid.
  • The OR operator (OR) or (|): Use this operator to return results with either of two terms. For example happy joy will return pages with both happy and joy, while happy | joy will return pages with either happy or joy.
  • Site search: Many Web sites have their own site search feature, but you may find that Google site search will return more pages. When doing research, it’s best to go directly to the source, and site search is a great way to do that. Example: rapid storage technology.
  • Related sites: For example, can be used to find sites similar to YouTube.
  • Change your preferences: Search preferences can be set globally by clicking on the gear icon in the upper-right corner and selecting Search Settings. I like to change the Number Of Results option to 100 to reduce total search time.
  • Forums-only search: Under the Google logo on the left side of the search result page, click More | Discussions or go to Google Groups. Forums are great places to look for solutions to technical problems.
  • Advanced searches: Click the Advanced Search button by the search box on the Google start or results page to refine your search by date, country, amount, language, or other criteria.


Set a time limit — then change tactics

Sometimes, you never can find what you are looking for. Start an internal clock, and when a certain amount of time has elapsed without results, stop beating your head against the wall. It’s time to try something else:

  • Got to a specialist web page for that subject and use itsearch
  • Ask a peer.
  • Call support.
  • Ask a question in the appropriate forum.
  • Use search experts who can find the answer for you.


Don’t use copyrighted images

Use the advanced search options to select the correct usage rights.

  1. Search using Google images


2. Click ‘Search Tools’ and select ‘Labeled for reuse’.


Get copyright-free images:UsageRights3.png

Enjoy better results!

This web page is also available as a Sway presentation here.

What is a flipped classroom?

What is it?

A classroom that uses videos or podcasts as tools to help time-shift the instruction of concepts so students receive the most support with the teacher present.  Having done the knowledge-building before the lesson, they can use the teacher and each other when they are working on the heaviest cognitive load (actually solving problems, working on understanding and using the content by themselves.)

What will teachers do with class time if they are not lecturing as much (or at all)?

“The important thing is to keep the lower-order things on Bloom’s taxonomy to the videos and the higher-order things in class,” says Jonathan Bergmann, who’s been experimenting since 2017, “That classroom time is the most valuable time we have with students.“

Bloom’s Taxonomy


What are the benefits?

  • Encourage independent learning
  • Create an engaging interactive environment that is study-centred.
  • Make the best of your face to face time with students
  • Practice application in class – give feedback
  • Focus on deeper meaning and connections


What if the students don’t buy into it?

Explain in terms of Bloom’s: Traditional classrooms focus on bottom two levels of remembering and understanding.

You are focusing on applying, analysing, evaluating, and creating.


What lesson should I choose?

Pick a lesson where you would be spending most of your face to face time delivering content to students.

Pick a lesson that you want more discussion or interaction with the content in class.

It may seem obvious that classroom activities will change, but no one is going to lay out a roadmap.


Over to you

Write down two lessons you could flip.

TED Lessons

TED Talks have set up a facility where you can embed their videos in a lesson format with questions alongside it hosted on their website.  You can sign up for free and even use other people’s lessons that are already set up as quizzes.  Here’s an example:

Here’s a list of other lessons:

Here’s a video showing you how to make your own quiz from any YouTube video:

More ideas

Here are some more ideas in this graphic by Mia MacMeekin:

25WaysToFlipFound on via Leah Ecaruan on Pinterest