Sunday, 30 April 2017

Security Settings and Google Classroom

This is a different kind of post - covering admin issues for education: if you would like more or less items like this please let us know via @star_classroom

The recent announcements from Google that Classroom is open to all is on the face of it a real win for what is one of our favourite tools (indeed one that has exploded in popularity in our schools in the last six months).

The change means that anyone, whether they are affiliated with a school or not, can create online courses for people to enrol on.
We believe that Classroom can make technology work effectively in any learning relationship between an instructor and student, no matter what shape that takes. We’re excited to see new educators and learners join the Classroom community, and are looking forward to seeing how they’ll use it to meet their needs. 
Experience tells us that there many people out there who can produce compelling learning resources and publish them on the web either as teachers publishing outside their work, or people from the wider community. Great.

But what about e-safety? What is the risk of someone creating "rogue" courses as a means to make contact with children? It might be a low risk, but it is our job to make sure that can't happen.

On our admin system ( > Apps > Google Apps > Classroom > Class Settings) we have set up the rules for staff and students shown below.

Currently only people signed up with our system of 33 schools can log into any of the classes set up by our staff (and who on our staff can create a course is limited to those added to the "teachers" group). This is the most restrictive approach, but in the future we could whitelist other domains (perhaps to allow people from a school we were working with to join one of our courses) or indeed we could open it up to everyone - but as it is one setting for every course, that is unlikely!

We set things so that students can only join courses that are run by one of our staff. In theory we could allow a particular domain (so maybe a company might offer a Google Classroom course that we whitelisted).

So provided you set up Classroom correctly there is no increase in risk. I'm glad I checked ours "just in case" and suggest that anyone that administers a G-Suite system does the same!

It would be great if we could add a new setting in the admin panel: "Allow courses to have an individual setting for access." That would allow us as a Trust to say "a course manager can override this default to make it available outside" so that we didn't have to choose between a complete lock down, or a broader risk.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Clip from our e-library

DRET staff and students have access to an excellent and ever-growing collection of eBooks over at, which can be accessed on any device, from home or school, or anywhere with an internet connection.

We are regularly asked by teachers how they can best make use of this great resource in lessons, for homework or for revision, or annotate over the top of certain pages of eBooks. In our latest training video we demonstrate how Snipping Tool and the Edge browser can all be used to take screen shots of pages from our eBooks, and then annotated before, during or after lessons. These screenshots can then be shared with students in Google Classroom, Powerpoint, ShowMyHomework or wherever you usually create and share resources for students.

Click the picture to see the video

For more videos see our Spring Collection at A much wider selection of videos is online for DRET staff on the DRET.TV training channel, or for more specific information on how to use our eBook library see 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Revision Guides in the eLibrary

There are many ways to approach revision, and nothing to say that an eBook is by any means the best - but having access 24/7 to a library of thousands of eBooks is still a pretty good bonus for staff and students at our academies.

To highlight the availability of a wide range of GCSE Revision Guides as eBooks we've put together this short guide (revision to walk through the process of getting your password, logging in and getting eBooks onto your mobile phone or home PC.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Snipping tool

We're coming into exam season, and students all over the country are doing practice questions and revising pages from text books - and teachers are looking at innovative ways to help their students in the run up to these crucial weeks of the year.

In one of our latest training videos, we look at a classic Windows tool, much loved but often overlooked - Snipping tool. Snipping tool allows you to easily take screenshots, save them and edit them, which then means you can insert that saved snip wherever you like - PowerPoint, Smart, Google Classroom or email for example.

Snipping tool is perfect for taking screenshots of practice exam questions, pages from e-books or web pages, and add them to your lessons, homework or revision guides.

Click on the picture below to see the video.

For more videos see our Spring Collection at A much wider selection of videos is online for DRET staff on the DRET.TV training channel.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Creating Interactive Newsletters with Sway

Microsoft Sway is a free and easy-to-use tool which will accept content from a PowerPoint or Word document and transform it into a professional looking digital resource. You can add interactive content from other resources, videos, audio as well as text and images, which can then be shared with others with just a link. Sway can be used in a variety of ways, such as presentations, tutorial guides or just generally to make policy documents more interesting. It also works as a great tool for generating newsletters for parents, by gathering resources from many different formats i.e. class videos and pictures, auto-generating professional looking designs, which is then shared online with just one link.

First, take static content in the form of a Microsoft Word, PPT or PDF.

Then, with Sway transform it into a dynamic and professional looking resource within minutes. To bring the sway to life you can also add videos and other types of media, then share it with others with a shareable link that it creates for you. It looks great on any device too!

The Sway viewed on a computer vs a smartphone.

Here is a video to help you get started with Sway.

For more videos see our Spring Collection at A much wider selection of videos is online for DRET staff on the DRET.TV training channel.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Charnwood eLearning Day - and our 1000th Yammer User

It was a real pleasure to work with colleagues from Charnwood College today to build on their use of IT to support learning. Many staff are already familiar with many of the tools in the Star Classroom programme because of the heavy use of Chromebooks by Sixth Form Students but it is always useful to step back and look at practice.

While Ben worked with the Star Classroom team to look in greater depth at the use of Google Forms, Yasmin and I were able to run workshops for everyone else including:

  • How to access and use Yammer. We created a Yammer Community for the day to allow people to find useful links and post questions and over the morning a good number of people signed up, in fact we went over the 1000 user mark.
  • A good look at Google Drive as a replacement for the staff shared drive, that portable hard disc or pen drive... how to upload files, manage them and share them.
  • A review of the eLibrary - how to access it and how to use eBooks in lessons.
  • An introduction to Google Classroom.
For me a key moment was seeing colleagues take a folder of revision resources from their staff shared area, upload them to Google Drive, get a shareable link and post it to their class via Show My Homework. All simple things but connected together in the right order, suddenly access to that material on any device for the student (and any new material added in the future) becomes simplicity itself.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Back to Work Bulletin


To start the new term, we’ve released a set of eleven short training videos covering a wide range of areas including using Microsoft Sway, Google Drive and eBooks.

The videos are at

eLearning Conference

This year’s eLearning Conference (which is free for DRET staff) will be held in Newark on 27th June. As well as some great speakers and the chance to learn from colleagues, there will be opportunities to start up and get involved in projects in 2017-18. Find out more and apply for a place here.

We’re also planning our first DRET coding cup on the same day with small teams of programmers from our academies in competition.

Revision Guides as eBooks

The eLibrary ( has a good range of eBooks including text books and revision guides you might want to suggest students take a look at (or use in lessons yourself). This website runs through a quick guide to getting access to the service if you don’t use it already.

IT Security and Data Protection Advice

Dealing with Dodgy Links

From time to time at work or at home you’ll get an email that pretends to be something that it isn’t. It will try to look like it came from your bank, traffic enforcement, a delivery service. The pattern is always the same – tell you something to alarm you enough to open the attachment or follow the link. This simple guide will help you spot them and tells you the best thing to do.

Encrypting Emails

When you are sending any confidential data by email it is possible to encrypt the message by putting the text [Confidential] in the subject line (including the square brackets).

The person receiving the message will have to either type in their password again to open it or request a passcode. This means that if their computer or phone is stolen, or if they forward the information to someone else, the data is more secure.

Please do only use this for things that are genuinely confidential as otherwise you’re asking colleagues to key in their password extra times for no reason, which might become slightly annoying…


You will soon be receiving a reminder to change your password. Please do not use the same password for work as for any other accounts you might have. Here is a short video that explains how to change your password quickly and easily.


We have had to stop filtering Dropbox in order to allow it to be used for Effective Maths. Please note however that Dropbox is not approved for staff use except for particular cases by finance and sport teams and using it otherwise for work purposes would be in breach of the Acceptable Use Policy. This includes use for teaching material.

Teamviewer and Logmein

Sometimes people use products like Teamviewer to allow a technician to work on their PC. After they have finished, always make sure the program is not left running. Leaving such programs on all the time is a serious security risk.

Paper Copies of Confidential Files

Much as we try to be paperless, inevitably we sometimes have to print things.

Please remember though that a confidential document on paper should be kept in a secure place, and shredded when no longer required. If you habitually leave any confidential documents in bags or on work-surfaces please make alternative arrangements.

Using External Hard Drives and Thumb Drives

A lot of people store all their work files on a portable storage device of some kind, to bring them to and from home. It’s a habit that once you’ve settled into it becomes hard to break.

Doing it poses some serious problems.

  • These devices are not intended for heavy duty use and a small number will inevitably fail at some point - we have had cases of colleagues losing all their teaching resources. If you keep things on these and do not have a backup you will eventually lose them.
  • They present a data protection risk. It is entirely possible that a colleague might store personal data about their students or their families inadvertently. This would be in breach of the data protection policy and our acceptable use policy. 

Good alternative arrangements (such as using OneDrive or Google Drive) are available. Staff are encouraged to stop using these devices. At some point soon we will place restrictions on our system that block them, so now would be a good time to find out about the alternatives (there are some good training videos on

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Spring CPD Video Collection

We've just released a collection of eleven short training videos for David Ross Education Trust staff - some are specific to us and some we hope are of interest to anyone - all are open for anyone to view.

Topics include making a newsletter in Microsoft Sway, using the Windows snipping tool, top tips for the Windows onscreen keyboard, making Google Forms, and applying that to make a 'pick your own adventure story' and much more. Head over to to see for yourself.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

First Awards using Open Badges

Our Awards site ( went live over the Easter Break and after a little testing the first applicants have requested and by now received their first Open Badges (congratulations James Kirkland who was the first to get an application in and now is the proud owner of a number of awards recognising his skills).The Awards website sets out the different awards available (at the moment there are 22) and the criteria to receive them, and has a form that a member of staff can use to upload evidence to apply for one (although generally, at least at first, we expect to issue awards by directly "nominating" people after they successfully show progress during or after training and coaching work).After trying out a number of systems (our work to develop Open Badges goers back several years) we went with Badgr which is simple to manage and, we think, good for award recipients.The greatest challenge was to set out a clear idea of what the skills and awards should be - we've been working on a number of CPD programmes ranging from entry level to leading change in the last few months, but it was only when we sat down to really hammer out what the essentials are that we came up with this initial set. We plan to add more entry level awards in the coming months ready for the new academic year.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Assigning tasks in Google Drive

If you've read previous posts on this blog, you will know that we are huge fans of Google Drive.

Our latest training video explores the use of 'assigned tasks' in Google Drive. Within Google Docs, Sheets and Slides you can assign tasks to different people via the comment feature of G Suite apps.

This is a really useful tool for team meetings, group organisation, or for your own personal workflow.

It is not only great for workflow and admin purposes, but students can use the features too, to allow for group projects or collaborative planning.

Assigned tasks in Google Drive - a really useful addition to an already super useful product.

See the video here (no log in required), or get in touch for any further help.

Have a DRET log in? See all our training videos here