Monday, 15 September 2014

Practical work in A-level

I haven't quite taught two full weeks of classes yet, due to INSET and start of year timetable giving out mornings etc. However, I am already thinking ahead to next September and what I will do differently at A-level.

My first year 12 lesson involved using a micrometer and measuring small stuff. We wrote down our measurements on scrap paper as, while using a micrometer is an interesting step forward, the measurements are not needed for future reference. What if I need those measurements next year, how will I get students to record them?

In today's lesson we looked at density (using Archimedes buckets to measure volume - badly) and the impact of upthrust on the value on a Newton meter. We calibrated the Newton meters first. Again, I wrote the measurements on the board and we compared the different values. Realising the volume was the factor affecting up thrust.

In year 13's lesson last Tuesday we spent an hour experimenting using the air track writing the minimum down to calculate change in momentum and seeing how far our conservation of momentum calculations were out. The girls levelled the track, learned to use the timers, set up the light gates and evaluated the issues with the track. Next time year we will need to record it as evidence.

Although I am using practical work to illustrated scientific concepts and help the students see how they are arrived at, the work they write does not illustrate this.

I am going to have to change my approach in September 2015. My first step will be selecting a revision guide I can trust. I won't be writing notes for exam work. I will incorporate reference to revision guides into my lessons, these will be the notes. I will buy transparent post-it notes or some such to help the students annotate their work.

I would like to have a practical write ups in a note book and any practice questions in a file. But what will the practical write ups look like? I have never taught it at a-level, and I don't believe I was taught it myself.

I know everyone else is in the same position. But today's lesson made me reflect. I need to carefully think about how my approach to practical works needs to adapt and change this year to ensure my students get the 'pass' mark they need in a-level physics experimentation.

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Location:Tetbury,United Kingdom

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Research Ed 2014 - a few observations and hopes

I am writing this on the train on the way back from the second national research ed conference.

As I read through the twitter feed I realise that I am not alone in very much enjoying the day and finding it worthwhile.

I remember exchanging a couple of tweets with Hélène after the West Midlands conference about the direction that research ed would take. She didn't give much away, but I felt today that the movement took a massive step. At the previous events I felt I was bombarded with 'teachers must engage with research, but watch out for snake oil'. Telling this message to a few hundred teachers is not enough to make it a reality, the barriers to engaging with valid research are difficult to surmount. However, today I have felt that Research Ed is developing into something that can help bridge the gap. Tom Bennett is right about the momentum building and it is good news that he will be able to work on Research Ed more next year.

It was great to hear from Hilary Leevers from the Wellcome Trust who spoke about the great work Wellcome do in supporting science education. One of the comments she made was about how Wellcome would like to use research Ed as one method for spreading word of their research to real classroom teachers. To be able to interface with Hilary and her team at such events could be really valuable to schools. The EEF are engaging with Research Ed and I hope other organisations will too.

My day started with the talk from John Tomsett, Alex Quigley and Rob Coe about the development of the role of research leads in school. I hope Research Ed can help those research leads make links and contacts as well as informing those of us outside of the project of its progress.

I loved Dylan Wiliam's presentation, extremely engaging. However, it also helped me understand the limitations of research and particularly transferring research to other contexts. This was extremely useful. I am interested to read blogs and perhaps watch video from other sessions with the loose theme of interpreting research.

The session with the most laughs was Bob Harrison's. A useful whistle stop tour through research into the impact of educational technology. Again it highlighted issues related to research and of policy.

I wanted to see Paul Black speak, but the room was too full. So I went to see Jonathan Simons from policy exchange. It was a useful insight into the limitations of government and why policy isn't more thoughtful. I imagine Jonathan was trying to be hopeful when he said we can influence policy though social media towards the end of his talk, for me it was scary.

I know there were other sessions about the media and personal appearances by politicians. This is a useful insight for teachers and I think knowing about what goes on can only be a positive thing, helping the profession reflect on what it can do to limit damage by outside influences, whilst also striving to solve issues within education.

Mary Whitehouse and Carol Davenport's sessions were the type of thing I was interested in. I want to go to sessions where I can find out about research work that others are doing and reflect on how it impacts me. The diagnostic questions that York Science are working on are valuable to me and the gender imbalance research is both fascinating and disturbing. I hope that researchers will continue to use research Ed as a vehicle for sharing their ideas.

An extremely positive day. And although I don't have masses and masses to take back to school on Monday, I have had a glimpse of the future of the way that teachers might better understand and link with research.

I hope Ann Mroz doesn't feel the need to add too much red pen to this blog post.

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Location:Rodbourne Road,Swindon,United Kingdom

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Using QR codes

I first heard about QR codes in 2010. In January 2011 I went to a micro-presentation about them from a lecturer who was using them with his students at university. He explained what they were and a bit about the history. Back then I filed the information away as interesting, but not relevant to me, yet.

Now we are teaching a class that all have iPads, with the possibility of a QR code reader app on them it is possible to start utilising QR codes. The main advantage that I can see is sending students to specific web addresses. Particularly when they are long like the one below.

To get to this BBC bitesize link I would normally put a long list of instructions and things to click on. A QR code allows students to scan it and go straight there.

There are numerous QR code readers in the App Store. I have always used a free one. They usually allow you to both read and create QR codes.

Once you have made a QR code it isn't easy to recognise what it is linking to. However, the app you use to create the QR code will save them. Alternatively, using an app like 'Over' or 'Skitch' or by inputting them to a word document you can add text to them to describe what they do.

Potential uses for QR codes include adding them to displays so students can find extra information. Printing them on the front of exam practice papers with a link to the mark scheme and/or examiners report. Including them on worksheets with links to websites and videos students can find extra information and support. Anywhere a link would be useful.

QR Codes can also include some text, so it is possible to use it to share answers, information or instructions.

Further reading:

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Friday, 22 August 2014

Making Groups

I saw this tweet and thought of another activity specific to science teaching that I got from a former colleague who used a similar idea to put students into groups.

She printed out stickers or cards in a set. The set contained the name of a piece of equipment, a scientific drawing of the equipment and a photograph of the piece of equipment. She explain to the students the group should contain a name, a diagram and a photograph and then let the class organise themselves into groups.

An alternative for pairs would be a diagram and photograph.

This can help to organise random groups for the first few lessons while you get to know the students.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Multiple Choice Questions

Using technology gives us the opportunity to make life a little easier. Although there will be some preparation involved, multiple choice questioning is one of those areas. this blog post has convinced me that there could be advantages to regular testing of students.

It is possible to get students to complete multiple choice tests using technology that easily tracks the answers the students give. There are a number of ways of doing this.

These sites and applications that have been recommended to me, having been used with success by colleagues. Each one has different attributes.

Plickers is useful as the multiple choice question is not input to the software and therefore it is possible to use existing resources. Students are allocated a numbered card, which they hold up in a particular orientation depending on their answer, their responses can be immediately read using an app on your phone. The app saves the responses.

Quick Key reads multiple choice responses using a phone too. Students fill in a sheet you download from the site with their A-D responses. Allowing the app to do the marking means quizzes can be marked almost instantly.

Flubaroo carries out analysis on questions and grades tests for quizzes completed using google forms.

Socrative requires students to have a device, but they don't need a log on. However, using socrative codes it is possible to use quizzes other people have written, and this would save time. It isn't necessary to set up classes as the students add their names when they compete tests. Socrative tests can be printed out, and it is possible to type them on an excel template and upload, which is quicker than using the app.

All four methods allow responses to be saved. Having the data to hand allows the progression of students to be tracked, giving an indication of strong and weak topic areas, and therefore gives a starting point for intervention, reports and parents evening discussions. This blog post Austin Booth explains how he uses a spreadsheet to track the attainment of students in the topics he has taught.

Writing multiple choice questions isn't always easy. There is some advice here: , examiners reports can give some ideas for incorrect answers and it is also possible to find more online via a search.

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Tuesday, 19 August 2014

York Tweet Up 2014

Yesterday was the third #YorkTU, hosted by Mary Whitehouse at University of York.

During the day we had numerous presentations by a range of people involved in science education. I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to ask questions after the presentations.

For me there were two powerful things about the day. Firstly there were no expectations of outcome from the day. What you take away from the event and put into practice is entirely down to you. And secondly there are some very reflective practitioners out there who are taking on board external ideas and using them to help them make an impact.

For a few the starting point of a talk was 'We are in this position, but we are doing this to turn the situation into a positive and useful experience for students and staff'. The choices and resultant practices of science teacher colleagues are deliberate and with purpose.

Alongside the ideas that can be used back at school is the opportunity to talk to people with knowledge of the current curriculum changes and development.

I don't know why this type of event needs to happen independent of the knowledge of schools and school management, but for me this is when the best sharing happens and I am at my most reflective.

I found the presentations of Austin Booth and Rebecca Walsh powerful. They have used spreadsheets that 'RAG' the confidence of students in specification areas. I am certainly considering how we might use this to help students and teachers identify strengths and weaknesses. I feel that for students who benefited from seeing the BTEC tracker to motivate them, this is a possible useful approach to GCSE, and this applies to the disappearance of modules too.

I also enjoyed Katy Bloom's presentation about her research into feedback. I was interested to see that her research backs up the finding of other studies. (Sometimes I wonder if research is transferable). It was also interesting to see that students only recognise written feedback as feedback.

Richard Needham's presentation highlighting the increased numeracy demand was also of great interest. I just feel that I am coming to terms with literacy within my teaching, but now need to properly address numeracy. 'We already do that via equations triangles and drawing graphs' isn't quite going to cut it! This is something I need to put into my plans for the coming year.

Lastly, I need to raise again the great resources on the STEM elibrary and commend them to all science teachers.

Thank you to Mary and the UYSEG team for hosting, and to all the presenters who raised my morale and inspired me to be that bit more reflective.

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Friday, 15 August 2014

Socrative Quizzes

I want to use socrative to capture student's progress at the end of a lesson. So I have made a few short quizzes and will make some more.

If you would like to take a look at the first ones that I have done then the codes are below.

P1c A spectrum of waves (features of transverse waves and wave equation):12371027

P3a Speed (distance-time graphs): 12195705

P3b Changing Speed (speed-time graphs): 12198553

You can then import my quizzes. I hope there are minimal mistakes, but do let me know if you find a problem.

I think that it will be quicker to use the excel template to import questions and answers as it doesn't involve quite so much clicking.