If you asked your Year 11 class to go and revise using suitable websites and expected them to know which past papers to download, on which exam board website, and which option papers to click on, could they all do it? Even if your students do this, the trawl for information can be extremely time consuming for students. Moreover, exam board websites aren’t always the most user-friendly environments for students.
This was the problem we faced, until we found a great solution using FrogLearn.
Together, with a head of house, we planned the idea of a Year 11 revision centre that would know the subjects that each student studied and it would provide them with a personalised revision centre of exam papers and websites that would match their needs.
Our VLE is FrogLearn, and, while the product is incredible, it isn’t natively strong in terms of individually personalising itself to meet the needs of different users. You can assign sites to groups and students, but Frog doesn’t instinctively lay itself out to match the subjects and key stages of students. However, the powerful new APIs that Frog released have allowed us to easily, and quickly, create a personalised Year 11 revision centre.
Now, Year 11 students can log in and they can access a personalised resource centre showing all of their subjects, the exam papers that they will study, and all the revision resources that they need.
Below, I’ll describe how we built it so that you can see how to apply the Frog APIs to build this powerful learning centre. As always, feel free to get in touch at @TheEdTechSchool on Twitter if you would like anything clarified.
The Building Project
Step One – Data Export
For this to work you need a table containing the subjects that students study in a MySQL database.
Our MIS is SIMs and our data manager was able to instantly provide me with a CSV file that contained the Frog usernames of every student down a column. The cells in the row, next to each username, contained the subjects that each student studied.
The end result looked like the below for each student:
Once the CSV file was done I just imported it into a MySQL table.
Step Two – Get Building
This is the hardest stage, simply because of the amount of work that is needed. At this point you need to get the resources together. Get the exam board entries for Year 11 from your exams officer and start collecting and organising exam papers for every subject. At this point it’s also worth collating any high quality exam revision resources from websites, TES, and on other school websites that you can find. I then asked for heads of faculty to contribute any useful resources. Of course, informal networks are often more useful here. Asking teachers for quality resources that they use and putting out feelers to the ‘right people’ always tends to get the best resources.
Each subject had its own Frog site for Year 11 revision and to keep it simple I only included two tabs: (1) Resources and (2) Past Exam Papers. Some resources I uploaded to Frog and others I embedded from Google Apps for Education. For speed, it proved to be far easier to upload the folders of exam papers into Google Drive and then to paste the embed HTML into Frog. This also makes maintainance slightly easier, as new past exam papers can just be dragged into Google Apps and they’re in the Year 11 revision centre.
A quality job on this can take around two weeks, so you need to ensure that you do this well. After all, the whole system relies on high quality content.
Step Three: Get Scripting
Once that is all together you can get scripting in PHP.
Firstly, I created my first PHP script that when the query string ‘id’ matched the username of a student (e.g. id?=10101) it would display a list of their subjects, from the table created in step 1, which were hyperlinked to the specific Frog Revision Centres created in Stage 2. Every Frog site is assigned its own unique URL so linking up pages is very simple.
I then used Frog APIs (check out http://fdp.frogcommunity.com/ for more details) to call the username of a student and to have them redirected, through a meta refresh tag, to the first script. The meta refresh tag to script one added the student’s username as a query string using a Frog API call. So that when students clicked a link to the script they were seemlessly redirected to scriptone.php?id=username.
In testing, this didn’t always work seemlessly. So I added an third script that called the user as plain text and then redirected them, using a meta refresh tag, to script two. For some reason OAuth seems to like this method a lot better. I’m unsure why! End user experience was far more stable.
The End Product
Now, after a beta testing session, we were ready to go! Students click a link in Frog, and they’re given a hyperlinked list to revision sites for all of their subjects in Frog. If they click any subject they’re given a list of high quality resources and all past exam papers. Revision has never been so easy!
No one has to see any resources that do not apply to them.
We’ve been bringing down Year 11 classes from English Lessons to our Learning Commons every day for the last 2 weeks. Next week we should have covered the whole of Year 11.
We get students in, demonstrate the revision centre on a SMART board with one student. Then everyone logs into Frog, enters the centre and starts exploring. So that students don’t forget how to get in I also have them stick a little walkthrough in their planners. Though, a three step process is pretty easy!
It’s great to have found a way to instantly engage the whole of Year 11 with Frog in such a positive way. Come exam season we’ll have a great resource that is simple, easy to update and ready to revise from instantly.by