Category: Tools For Tutoring

Should Teachers & Tutors Wear Masks?

Should Teachers & Tutors Wear Masks?

And with that one question I opened up Pandora’s can of worms! However, asking “should teachers & tutors wear masks” is an important question that many education professionals are asking themselves, and often the question is based around whether they are putting the health before a child’s accessibility in the classroom which is a difficult question to answer sometimes. Whilst I cannot claim to have the definitive answer for everybody, I can certainly talk about the types of things that I have done vast offering in person education.

Although our tuition was 100% online for a great deal of the past 18 months, having been mandated to close longer than schools, as we begin to open up more,I see more students in our tuition centre my thoughts have been turning to how we can wear masks in our classes more effectively whilst making communication effective.

In Person Tutor

Cloth masks have always been my preference from an environmental perspective, and I spent a large amount of time last summer with the sewing machine attempting to make a set for both myself and my children. I ended up quite good at it but they never managed to be quite as comfortable as the ones we bought. My attempts at making see through masks were a disaster!

Although we are reaching the potential point of masks no longer being mandatory, I’m not sure that I will banish them entirely from our teaching rooms – if only because this is the first year where I have not had a winter cold or flu which has been rather marvellous! I love my students, but during the winter they really are germ bags (although don’t tell them I said that).

Cradle Masks

As we move towards another academic year and in our case summer school with more relaxed social distancing, I have been investigating a number of different options for cloth masks, one of which being the Cradle Self Sterilising Face Mask which appeals to me as it looks like any other cloth mask but has the added benefit of a higher filtration rate and is antiviral for up to two hours of continuous wear. when teaching us all day, this requires 3 to 4 mask changes each day and unlike the additional protection of knowing that what I have been breathing into for the past two hours is not sitting in my wash bag duplicating viruses (although these do go directly into the washing machine when we get home).

smart facemask

As a Computer Science tutor (and honestly, a bit of a nerd) I’ve also been rather taken with some of the smart masks that are finding their way onto the market like the Airpop Active+ masks. I love that these come with the addition of an app to indicate when to change them, but the price tag was a bit of an eye opener! After looking into these in a bit more depth, they reminded me of why we bought a laser printer – the initial cost was higher, but they worked out cheaper long term (yes, I always get a bit of computing in every post!). As you only need to change the filters which can last up to 40 hours you can wear these for the whole day rather than needing multiple masks.

What will we be wearing next term? We don’t know yet, we’re looking forward to what happens with smart masks next!

Flapjack Learning – Snack Your Way To Knowledge

Everybody develops their own unique way that they like to learn, and this week a friend of mine coined the term for her preferred learning style. It’s similar to those times when you know that you’re hungry, but you can’t manage a whole meal so instead, you grab a flapjack; it’s nutritious, it will sustain you, but it won’t overwhelm you.

a tray of flapjacks - relating to flapjack learningAnd so flapjack learning was born – for those times when a long course is too much, but the instant hit of just reading up isn’t enough to sustain you. Flapjack learning can come from a series of webinars, or individual tutorials, or perhaps even an online course that you take over a number of sessions. Flapjacks are both fuel and a treat, and the more often you enjoy one, the more tempting it is to eat a whole bowl of porridge.

As a tutor, this rather appeals to me. I have a number of students who struggle to study independently, but would relish the chance for some flapjack style learning. This is one of the reasons why I have been developing a number of pre-recorded courses – allowing students to dip in and snack on their learning between their tutor ‘meals’ builds fabulous habits and will ultimately benefit them across all of their subjects.

So what makes a good learning snack?

Sticking to a single topic is a good start. In fact, the style of this particular type of learning lends itself particularly well to taking just one topic and learning exclusively about just that. It’s unusual to add a side dish to a flapjack, so why add anything else to your learning snack?

Give yourself a few minutes of absolute peace. Grab a cup of tea. Now enjoy the short time that you’ve set aside to refuel your knowledge. Often this is through a pre-recorded short lesson with an accompanying task which allows you to focus for a short period of time and sparks an idea for the next step.


Would You Eat A FlapJack For Dinner?

Absolutely not! (I’d be sick). But, I would use them as part of a healthy diet. Just as I use pre-recorded learning material alongside classroom or independent study to carry on learning… yes, despite teaching and tutoring, I still study. No-one ever reaches the end of their capacity to learn.

Pre-recorded courses have the additional benefit of often being cheaper than one-to-one live tuition. And no wonder really – despite the initial costs associated with writing, recording, and editing a course, a tutor will only have so many hours in the day. By creating a pre-recorded course, tutors can provide the knowledge part of their lessons to many more students. Of course, the pastoral and specific support side is missing, so pre-recorded will never fully replace that one to one relationship.

Much like my flapjack, having a learning snack may reduce my apetite and allow me to leave longer between meals.


Of course, I have the ever talented Catherine from Willows & Wildlings to thank for coining this phrase. Look out for her contributions to the GCSE Photography short courses soon.




For more information about GCSE Computer Science, revision resources, online tutoring, online courses, and teacher CPD, visit


How To Bloom As A Tutor

Ah, the words that bring fear into the heart of every trainee teacher across the land – Bloom’s Taxonomy. But with tutoring not having the same pre-requisit for training that teaching does, not everyone is familiar with the term.

The arguments for and against professional status for tutors are likely to go on ad infinitum. There are a great many unqualified tutors who work absolute miracles with individual students, and likewise a number of teachers who fail to make the transition to tutoring. With all this aside, all of us can benefit from the metacognition brought about by using Bloom in our lessons.

For the uninitiated, Bloom’s Taxonomy is simply a hierarchy of learning that shows how students build from foundations to deeper learning. We often imagine it like a pyramid showing how the foundationslead to the pinacle of learning.


In doing this we actually do us and our students a disservice. The visual of a pyramid gives the impression that students must remember before they can apply, or analyse. In fact, the benefit that a tutor has over a teacher with a classroom of 30 or more is that we can provide the space and structure to analyse and create as a conduit to remembering.

Essentially, our ultimate goal is for our students to leave us with the ability to create the new using their understanding of the knoweldge that we facilitated.

All Ages Bloom

The idea that only older students will reach the higher levels of learning is simply wrong. In fact, the youngest of our learners are the ones who take to deeper learning much easier.

Listen to any 5 year old tell you about a specific interest. They will likely tell you the names of all of the characters (remember), will explain how they relate to each other (understand), will berate you for mixing up genres and tell you why they are different (analyse), and will have made models and drawings of their favourite characters (create).


Using Bloom For Progress

Tutoring is a much more intense process than teaching, and it is this one to one contact that allows us to push progress forward. However, its also presents a risk that we create over-reliance on our assistance.

By presenting a topic of study alongside an expectation of the student analysing, evaluating, or creating forces me to take a step back. It also creates an environment where it is ok for my student to feel very slightly out of their depth, because like a parent teaching a child on a bike we’re close enough to catch them but provide more reassurance than anything else.

In the classroom, I was taught to sing a verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep in my head to force myself to give students thinking time after a question (it feels ridiculous, but please try it!). I have used this technique far more in tutoring where the pause seems to last forever. Over time, I have realised that my brain is actually running at a rate of ten to the dozen and my students benefit from that pause.

Not Just 6 Words

By using the verbs given in Bloom’s taxonomy, I can word my questions to them and indicate the level of response that I want from my student. But it’s when we delve deeper than purely those six words that Bloom’s really becomes useful.

Imagine for a moment the last tutee that you were sat with. You have shown them an exam question and they look at it blankly… What do you do?

Using Bloom’s, we can prod them in the right direction:

Can you show me any key words in that question? (Remember)

Could you rephrase that question, so it makes more sense to us? (Understand)

Where have we seen that phrase used before? (Apply)

What do you think the difference is between this and that? (Analyse)

How can you tell that is the correct answer? (Evaluate)

Now you know how to answer it, can you think of your own exam question that would test your knowledge? (Create)

In short, most of us do this naturally already but use verbs that resound with each level. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, and in fact there are a whole host of resources providing word lists that link to the stages of learning.

The Bloom’s Taxonomy Teacher Planning Kit is an incredible resource to have when planning objectives or questions to help move students forward. I particularly like the example questions at the bottom.


Despite not changing a great deal since the 1950s, I am a huge fan of Bloom’s Taxonomy as a planning tool for my own tutoring. You could almost say I bloomin’ love it!

Do you use Bloom’s in your tutoring practice? How have you used it? I’d love to hear from you.




For more information about GCSE Computer Science, revision resources, online tutoring, online courses, and teacher CPD, visit

Tools For Tutoring – The Lowdown on Headsets

One of the tools I cannot be without for tutoring is a decent headset. Whilst it’s possible to tutor online using the built in microphone & speakers on a laptop or desktop, the feedback and echo cause by them makes it difficult – let’s be honest, there’s a reason why online gamers buy decent headsets, and it’s not just to look good.

Basic Headphone / Mic Combo

A basic headset like the Mpow USB PC Headset allows you to just plug in your headset and away you go. Be careful selecting headsets that have dual microphone & speaker connections as many laptops and desktops no longer have these connections.
You may also want to check that your USB headset will be compatible with your operating system as later versions of Windows have had a number of reports of volume issues where USB connections have been used. So far, the only fix for this is to buy a headset that comes with its own drivers instead of relying on the built in sound card drivers (best to check this when you buy the headset).

Gaming Headsets

One of the ways to combat the issues of USB headsets, is to use a gaming headset. Headsets like these PS4 headsets also help with noise cancellation helping you concentrate on your lesson if there happens to be other people in the house.

Single Ear Headsets

My personal favourite is to use a single ear headset with noise cancelling. Many of these also use USB, so it’s worth doing some research to find one likethe Koss CS95. This one has been particularly useful as it has duel microphone / speaker cables (if you remember my last post about graphics tablets, my laptop is actually limited by having a single 3.5mm input for headsets, but this is easily solved using a splitter cable)

Other ideas

The only real restriction here is that you have a reasonably decent microphone, and can hear the student clearly. Another possibility if you don’t want the restriction of cables is to use a bluetooth headset.
*This blog contains affiliate links. I do not recommend any product that I don’t genuinely think is worth it, but the proceeds of these links help me to cover the costs of the website & blog. If you have any questions about the recommendations here, please contact me.

Tools For Online Tutoring – Do I Need A Stylus?

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been chatting to a number of tutors who are just starting up their businesses. I’s been really rewarding to share some of my experiences to help them with their first steps in online tutoring.
I jumped into the world of tutoring without a great deal of forward planning, and like many of us had been toying with the idea for some time, but had my hand forced after a change in circumstances. Never one to turn down a challenge, I used it as a challenge and have grown the tutoring side of TeachAllAboutIT considerably over the past year. With that said, there were a few things that I really wish I’d known about before I jumped in feet first, and hopefully this blog and the accompanying podcast will go some way to address them.
One of the biggest worries that I’ve seen is what hardware do I really need to start online tutoring?
Graphics tablets
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Whilst you could go all out with graphics tablets that cost hundred of pounds, it’s just not necessary for tutoring. The hardware needed very much depends on your subject – if you’re looking to tutor maths, dcience, art, so any other subject that requires you to hand draw diagrams then you’re going to want either a touch screen or a graphics tablet.
I like the Huion H420 USB Art Design Graphics Drawing Tablet because it has a 10 inch surface and comes with a handy glove to stop the pointer from flying about all over the place.
Combination Laptops
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Alternatively, you can look at an all in one method. After my Microsoft Surface finally died after 7 years (not bad for a 1st generation tablet), I invested in an HP Pavillion laptop. For me, this had a number of benefits: I can use it like a standard laptop, it’s 180 hinges mean that I can use it like a massive tablet and draw directly onto the screen, and I can use it as a hybrid when tutoring online.
Being a massive nerd, I spent several weeks trawling websites and shops to find the ‘right’ laptop for my online tutoring, admin, and teaching needs. To be honest, the only grumble I’ve had with it is the combination headphone/microphone socket – with recording podcasts, I like to use a specialist microphone which is not supported. But this was easily solved by buying a splitter cable.
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Something that a number of my students use is an additional tablet & stylus for writing.
Benefit – you can use it for a multitude of other things
drawback – it’s not as accurate as a graphics tablet
*This blog contains affiliate links. I do not recommend any product that I don’t genuinely think is worth it, but the proceeds of these links help me to cover the costs of the website & blog. If you have any questions about the recommendations here, please contact me.