“Do you know of any alternatives to Sparklebox ?”– this subject keeps coming up in my email, in direct messages on twitter and in face to face INSET days. Teachers and teaching assistants are determined to find other sites to meet the need for pre-prepared classroom displays resources. Although they want to have free to use, high quality resources, they are wary this time. Many of us, including me, took Sparklebox’s creator at face value and a salutary lesson about internet safety has been learned. I’ve written about this need for trusted sites for resource sharing in more depth for Sharing Good Practice but my intention on the blog is to explore in a weekly series of posts some of the Sparklebox alternatives that are springing up.
This week I’m going to look at 2 very new sites and an old favourite that deserves to be better known. The first 2 are Twinkl and Teacher’s Pet. The resources they provide look excellent and certainly more stylish than anything in Sparklebox. The final site is Teaching Ideas, which is more of a hub for contributions from many teachers rather than a set of resources with a single graphic vision. In the interests of transparency I’ve asked each of the site owners to explain a bit about themselves and their reasons for setting up their sites. Perhaps if we know who people are and a little more about them we can start to re-build trust.
My full name is Jonathan Seaton. I’m heavily involved in youth work too, so have a full CRBs and everyone who works with us has at least one too.
We’d love to share our story so far and vision moving forward – we’re very excited!
Twinkl is a team made up of both primary teachers and those with a passion for ICT and technology in education. We know through our own experience what a demanding and intensive profession teaching is. Like many others, we were appalled at the Sparklebox situation and wanted to make a difference for all those who could not access the resources they needed. We believe that it is one thing to complain about it, but quite another to get up and do something. So, that’s what we decided to do!
We have got a great many ideas for the future, but are always lead by those who support us and provide us with ideas. For the moment, we are 100% focused on producing a range of high quality resources for the early years and KS1. Our concept was, and always will be, to produce high quality resources with sound educational value.
Hope this is ok – thought we’d speak from the heart
The site looks good so far but it is obviously early days. There are not many classroom displays resources on the site yet but indications are good and what is there is high quality. Jonathan and his team do seem to be committed to answering requests for resources so why not give them a try?
My names Christina Mountford. I’ve been both a Teacher, Teaching assistant and ASD behaviour specialist for over 8 years now. I’m currently still teaching full time in Newcastle-under-lyme and am somehow managing to squeeze it all in. I have a reception class who keep me on my toes and everyday inspire me with new resource ideas.
Jason Loftus AKA Flashjunkie as he is known in cyber space, my partner in crime has been building flash websites for around 4 years, not only is he a flash coding genius he’s a comical genius too, without his sense of humour I think I would have given up on this project not long after it got going.
After the Sparklebox disaster I came home from school and said to my partner (the guy responsible for building me the fantastic site) “wouldn’t it be great to build our own resource website, you could make the site and I could make the resources”. That was just over 2 and half months ago and now here we are. We launched April 14th, surprisingly without any glitches and since then its been go go go.
The Teachers Pet name was born from our own pooch Benji (a 1 year old German shepherd). He’s been our logo inspiration. Now named “Dexter”-a name given to us by one of our fans from a “name the pooch” competition we ran via facebook prior to launch.
I taught myself to use illustrator during this time (this is an ongoing thing, I learn something new everyday). From illustrator I then create PDFs which teachers can then come along and download.Jason is working alongside me to help create Interactive whiteboard resources that teachers again will be able to use for free.
It was a struggle to launch in time and our blood, sweat and tears have certainly gone into it, but looking at it now we feel proud to have accomplished something (not half bad) in such a short space of time. This is by far the most complex site Jay has built to date and he has lots of plans for expansion in the near future, including a members area where people can bookmark resources, free music for the classroom and a few other surprises.
I’ve always been very creative, enjoying making/building things so being able to do that now within my passion for teaching is great! I’m just here to try and make life a little easier for teachers and their assistants, originally aiming at the UK (teachers), however its seems people from all over the globe are finding our site really useful, even parents which is great news!
Teacher’s Pet looks slightly more established but was only officially launched on April 14th. The site has some excellent resources with currently 171 free PDFs. The resources I looked at were bright, colourful and very practical. At the moment most of the resources are for KS1. Save yourself time when browsing if a category has a picture of the dog then there is nothing in it yet. However they are keen to expand their range and are actively seeking to respond to requests.
The site does have one problem. Their chosen name is also being used by another, older site that provides software for teachers. The one you need is :
Teaching Ideas offers free ideas, activities and resources for teachers to use in their classrooms. It was first set up in 1998 and originally became popular with primary teachers, but there are now increasing numbers of resources for secondary teachers too. The site was created by Mark Warner, a primary teacher in Kent, and has grown into a collection of thousands of resources, which have been contributed by teachers from around the world. All of the ideas and resources are labeled with age ranges, and are organised according to their subject and topic. A new ‘Themes’ area is currently being developed, offering cross-curricular ideas and resources based around particular themes. Teaching Ideas has a number of sister sites:
* Teaching Photos – A gallery of photographs, offering teachers inspiration for their own displays.
* Teaching News – Find out about the latest education news, links and resources with this blog, which is updated daily.
* Teaching Videos – Discover educational videos to use in your lessons, all organised by subject / topic and age range.
Compared to the first 2 sites Teaching Ideas is a massive resource collection. As the site has been in existence for 12 years I am always amazed when people don’t know about it. Just recently Mark allowed me to add some excellent Romans resources to a CD I produced for Classroom Displays INSET days. Although the site is huge it is easy to search with google and it is always worth browsing the latest uploads. These are teacher created and shared resources so they are always practical. However, artistic quality can vary and you need to decide what will look good in your classroom.
More Alternatives to Sparklebox Next Week
This is just the first part of a weekly series of posts reviewing the alternatives to Sparklebox that are springing up and reminding you of some older sites you might have missed.
Are there any sites you would like me to look into? Leave a note in the comments and I’ll see what I can do