The development of apps to support teaching and learning has exploded over the past few years.
In my classroom, these range from apps for specific purposes, such as Number Pieces (a virtual representation of a base-10 set for counting and representing numbers) and Times Tables Rockstars, (which helps children learn their times tables in a competitive format), through to versatile applications such as Book Creator (which allows you to create online books, including comic strips) and Google Expeditions.
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When we first started enhancing our teaching with technology, we found that the children were producing amazing work (I am the Volcano poetry recitals recorded in front of a green screen with a volcanic backdrop, for example), but we had nowhere to save it. That's where Showbie comes in.
An online exercise book
Showbie offers simple, interactive cloud storage for children’s work. We refer to it as their online exercise book, and instil the same expectations for the quality and quantity of work submitted. As a teacher, you can create folders by subject and within these create assignments for your classes.
You can save assignments with titles including emojis, enabling children who struggle to read to locate work quickly and easily. Once an assignment is set up, you can set it to be locked as read-only (so they can have a preview of work to come) or editable so children can contribute.
You can save all sorts of documents. I recently used Book Creator to create a template archaeological notebook for a history lesson in which children used the text boxes and photo placeholders to insert their findings while we virtually visited a cave (complete with skeleton), ready to learn about the Ancient Greeks.
There’s the option to share with the whole class or set work for an individual or group of children who might need something a bit different.
Once you’ve uploaded a piece of work before a lesson, you can use the annotation features to point children in the right direction, for example, by recording a voice note to explain what they need to do (as every teacher knows, even the best explanation will leave a few children needing a reminder).
Children can also access accounts at home. I asked my class to snap a photo of a page of their reading book and then record a voice note of themselves reading it. Reading evidence sorted! It’s accessible on any device with internet, too, including smartphones.
The best feature of Showbie is, hands down, the feedback possibilities. Once children have submitted work (and this could be as simple as a photo of their written work), you can mark it however you want.
At my school, we use highlighting and blue pen for marking, both of which are possible within the app. The voice-notes feature is even better: you can pinpoint a section where you want to give feedback and place a voice note in that exact location. Children can then listen to this and act on it.
There are some drawbacks, though. One is that Showbie, for now at least, has no option to sign in using a QR code, so younger children (we find below about Year 3) can struggle to sign in because it requires a password.
The other downside is cost: the pro version of Showbie is about £100 per teacher. However, all children connected with that teacher do get access to pro features, so we just pay for a few teachers to have this to reduce the cost. There’s also a free version that does most of the basics very well, if savings need to be made.
All in all, Showbie provides a lot of possibilities for opening up your classroom, making learning exciting and connecting it to home.
Rachel Walker is a Year 5 teacher, and digital and maths leader at Sneinton St Stephen’s CofE Primary School in Nottingham. She is an Apple Distinguished Educator and tweets @mrswalkerteach