Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Royal Society Report

I missed the #ASEchat about the Royal Society report about the future of STEM education. I have since taken the time to read the summary of the report https://royalsociety.org/~/media/education/policy/vision/reports/vision-summary-report-20140625.pdf and the full version too: https://royalsociety.org/~/media/education/policy/vision/reports/vision-full-report-20140625.pdf

The key recommendations of the report are below. In the full report page 12 has a time line for achieving the vision.

I think that all the points are important.
All young people study mathematics and science up to the age of 18.
Of all the recommendations I believe that this is one of the hardest to implement. I will be interested to see how the demand on the number of maths teachers changes as students have to study maths to 18 if they have no achieved a grade C at GCSE. I would also be interested in knowing how this would impact at GCSE. Science is such a vast knowledge base that I can't see how we could agree on a satisfactory curriculum.

However, I also believe that I am coming at this from the status quo. We should be thinking about what 16-19 education is for. If we can move away from it being a ticket to university only, then there is the opportunity to reassess what and how we teach students post-16.

I am concerned about the number of students who do only one science A-level. Science A-levels are the most common essential or desirable qualifications (after maths) for getting into university and don't only one of them often isn't enough. A rethink of the qualification suite at 16-19 would be welcome.

Curricula and their assessment are stabilised and support excellent teaching and learning.
I can't disagree with this. We have just had a curriculum review that changed very little. Does a change in the assessment require a change in the specification? Do we need to have a big swap round every 4-6 years or can we have incremental changes where they are necessary?

In the future more knowledge will be accessible from the web through subscriptions to publishers resources. Incremental changes and resources that keep pace would justify the subscription format. Although I don't mean to justify this practice by having constant change.

The recommendation includes setting up an expert body to oversee the curriculum. I would welcome this. It is important that we include people who have thought carefully about how progression of learning, how the topics will relate to the skills that need to be built and to the knowledge and skills that are needed once the students leave school. I think an expert body is best placed to oversee this. It should be tied to the long-term prosperity of the country and not be a political football.

I can't see this happening though. This government cut the quangos in order to give teachers and schools more autonomy and the DfE more control (that I can see). This kind of body would have to be funded by the government to avoid allegations of bias and I can't see that happening.
Teachers have high professional status and there is a strong supply of science and mathematics specialists.
This is a bit of a circular issue, if we don't have good teachers, then we probably won't have a supply of them as young people won't be enthused by the subject areas. I want to see support for existing teachers and better professional support.

I and really pleased to see that the Royal Society also included technicians in this area. Effective and knowledgable technicians are vital to high quality science teaching. Their knowledge and organisation support science teachers and boost their CPD.

The other comment that interests me under this heading the summary of the report is that subject-specific professional development should be a requirement. I feel that the SLC (in their own interests I grant you) have put forward a strong case for this. However, professional development is more than just going on a course and I hope that the engagement of teachers in their own development and reflection on their practices continues to grow. I see this happening, however it still needs to be formalised and linked to evidence and research into impact.

This is an area that the government need to think carefully about. What does a career path for a teacher look like and does it represent the best possible way to ensuring that there are the best possible teachers in the classroom. I think the current system promotes leadership and school based issues over subject specialists and those who want to spend time in the classroom.

Students understand the significance of STEM through better careers awareness and guidance.
This is an area that I feel that I am weak in. I really have little idea what scientists do beyond go to university and research things. I know that there are companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca who are very keen to promote good science teaching, I assume because they want scientists... But what does working for them look like, what would you do? It is easy for me to say to students that science is linked to every part of life, but how does that really link to careers?

I would like to see more practical ideas for how this could be accomplished without having resorting to vast amount of work for individual schools and departments that I envisage. It is certainly not an area many schools can prioritise as they need good attendance of students to lessons to help them focus on grades. This means there is less time to visit companies or have outside speakers.

The success of students, teachers and education systems is judged through appropriate and broadly based assessment and accountability measures. 
I see that the Royal Society has a vision where some teachers are trained to become expert assessors. I have heard this idea before and I am coming to like it. I think it is certainly something ofqual (and score) should look at further. We need to be able to bring back teacher assessment as a trusted part of the assessment of science qualifications.

I also like to see that the Royal Society feel that accountability should be more than just exam results. I understand why exam results are so liked, but I have to agree. Perhaps the school's alumni or destinations should be looked at (although I would hate young people to be forced into careers for the sake of league tables), perhaps the engagement students have with the wider community. Perhaps an e-portfolio of the work of students so that progress can be assesses?

I hope that the Royal Society are keeping an eye on the work that the Heads Roundtable (and vice versa) are doing on accountability measures. The aims of the two bodies may be aligned.

Education policy and practice are better informed by evidence.
I agree with this statement, we need to find out what influences students to study STEM and work out what puts them off. I would be interested in finding out how many students have science as their favourite subject in Year 7 and how many of them have maintained that to Year 9 or 11? How then can we change our approach to have an impact on that.

On area that I have been interested in recently is girls being put off physics, seeing it as too masculine and not for them. I am interested to see where the IoP go with this and if they can find a way to have a positive impact on the proportion of girls and boys studying physics.

What is the best way to teach science? Does it depend on the topic? Does practical really help? Can we teach problem solving in science lessons? We are science teachers, we should be able to look to evidence to work out the best way to teach.

It is a really interesting report and I suggest you have a look.

Monday, 21 July 2014


As I have mentioned before. The girls at my school will all be arriving at school in September with iPads in September. I want to make sure that I am utilising them from day one for two reasons. 1) I am interested in seeing how they can impact on my practice and 2) I want to make sure that the iPads are value for money for the families.

I am using explain everything, audio boo, nearpod, iDoceo, QR codes and pinterest. I have had a go at Aurasma and will continue to work on iBooks too, with a view to the new curriculum.

However, another tool I want to utilise is Socrative.

It is a website and app that allows students to answer multiple choice, true & false, and short answer questions.

It is possible to upload an image to the question, which is very useful for science questions. 

In the summer term I trialled this with a few classes using their mobile phones. They did find it hard to find the website and put in the room number to start with and there was some staggering of starts of the quizzes. I would hope to get over this as the students start to get familiar with the site and/or app (if they chose to download it). I also want to look at  using the teacher paced idea to help students keep up and not race ahead. 

I would also suggest that keeping a quiz short will help to reduce the time lag between the fast and slow finishers. I have perhaps made too many questions with 12.

After the quiz it is possible to download the report to see how students have got on. I am interested in doing this and uploading it to evernote and ultimately idoceo to help create better, personalised, feedback in reports and parents evening. 

I have also noticed that it is possible to download the quizzes and hand them out as paper resources. I think this really adds to socrative: It takes a long time to type a multiple choice test, but this means that it will be better to type it into socrative and get a paper or online test. Two birds, one stone. It will also mean I can keep a copy in my teaching file or give a copy to a student who forgets or breaks their iPad.

When I have completed all the work for P1/3/4 from the Gateway science GCSEs suite I will share the resources, including the socrative quiz numbers. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Financial Cost of Being a Teacher

During my career I have always used my own money to support my teaching in some way. At first it was buying pens. I could fight and argue with students, I could pick discarded pens up off the floor, but in the end I bought them from ASDA or Tesco every Sunday and gave them out to students, about 30 per week. Praise stickers and stamps were bought and and other prizes like chocolate for use in class.

Towards the end of my second year of teaching I also bought myself an Apple PowerBook, this was a serious investment in my own teaching. Even in 2005 it wasn't common to be permanently connected to the internet so this computer was bought for making presentations and worksheets on as well as storing all my electronic information.

At my second school things got a little more serious. We weren't allowed more than £10 per year of photocopying. That was one set of sheets per class per year. This was because all the photocopying was done the summer before and therefore we wouldn't need anything that wasn't in the scheme of work. But I did. I wasn't going to give my students hand written sheets that were photocopied on an angle so you couldn't see the bottom corner of the sheet. So I bought a printer, laminator, coloured paper, paper cutter etc and set about making my own worksheets and paying for them myself. They were mine, no one got to share them and I took them all away when I left.

As a science teacher I have spent considerable amounts of my own money on things for experiments. We have petty cash in the department and you can get expenses, but it seems trivial to ask for 59p for a pack of strawberry laces or 40p for two packs of spaghetti. If I am honest I don't mind about this. I once bought a class set of hand-held fans for a lesson on air pressure and I did claim for them. I would always expect my technicians to claim for shopping as they do earn significantly less and I would never judge someone who wanted the 20p for spaghetti back.

I also care about my own CPD, I have hundreds (if it doesn't run into thousands) of pounds worth of teaching books, revision gudies and textbooks that I have bought with my own money. I was once told by an SMT member that I should claim this back too, but I didn't because I want to own the books not the department. I spend my own money going to the ASE conference, the ticket as well as the travel and accommodation. I don't think anything of it.

I bought myself an iPad, I use my own camera, I have my own leads for connecting the iPad and my macbook air to the projector. When my partner is challenged by his management about why he leaves school within half an hour of the end of the school day his response is that we have better equipment at home to work on that at school and it is true. We've spent money ensuring that we have the necessary equipment to allow us to do our job.

I pay a membership to the ASE, my union and the IoP. I will probably have to add the college of teaching to that in the future.

I have always just got on with spending my own money. It is part of the teaching culture.

Until now. The next step down this line is into the world of IT. I have bought myself a new iPad mini (as my original iPad doesn't run iOS 7) and I have started buying apps. I didn't really think about this either, I find playing with the apps fun and don't begrudge £2.99 here or £0.69 there. I have a dropbox account with 100GB of storage that costs me $9.99 per month via paypal. I don't even think about the cost of that, I use it to store things for work, but I also use it to back up my photos.

I am considering upgrading to evernote premium (£35 per year), if you want to embed videos into a wordpress account it is $60 per year, and edublogs account which can embed video and manage student accounts is $39.95 per year. Nearpod is $120/year. I can pay a subscription to pocket (sounds really useful actually), I can pay a subscription to feedly. I can pay twitter to remove the adds, I can buy more add-ons in apps like moldiv. Popplet is $30 per year. You can up grade Prezi for $59 per year. Picktochart upgrades are $24 per month.

Where does it stop? How many lots of $9.99 per month can I pay, how much equipment should I be supplying that will allow me to do my job? And why don't I claim it back?

Thursday, 17 July 2014


I have seen audioboo mentioned as a possible medium for students to express their learning. But I hadn't really thought about using it. I don't want to get my students signing up to things, so they end up with a lot of social media accounts that follow them around for the rest of their lives. However, last night I was looking through the app store, saw audioboo and decided to give it a go for myself.

I am glad that I did. You don't have to have an account to see the audioboos someone else has made, so this means I can make short clips and my students can listen to them.

I believe that audioboo gives me a much quicker alternative to explain everything or making an iMovie. I have produced three audioboos today that I feel relatively happy about sharing.

Learning from experience of making videos I made a script of what I wanted to say. Even doing that I re-rewrote it a few times as I spoke the script. Spelling mistakes, bad hand writing and line reruns in odd places made getting the right word out and the best rhythm difficult and meant I re-recorded often. Audioboo allows you to edit your clip by cutting bits. I used that a lot. Leaving big spaces between sections to allow easier clipping.

This post was my first attempt.

https://audioboo.fm/helenrogerson80 This link takes you to my profile, with the list of other boos.

I wait to see what my students think of this and how much use they make of it. Either way I am impressed with audioboo, thanks to all of you who brought it to my attention.

Friday, 11 July 2014

First Attempts at Making a Video using ExplainEverything

I have this vision of being able to use videos to help my students learn. But first I need to practice and become quicker at this.

I have heard a lot of people recommend ExplainEverything, so I gave it a go. My first attempt is not for public consumption, took my hours and I didn't think it looked very professional. Then I searched for some tutorials. Perhaps I should have done this first. http://www.morriscooke.com/?p=134

I learned that you can upload a presentation and each slide in the presentation will be a different slide in the ExplainEverything movie. So I decided that I would create a presentation and use ExplainEverything to talk over the top. It seemed (and it is) much easier to do this in ExplainEverything than in iMoive.

I wanted to make the film look slightly interesting, so I took inspiration from Jamie Clark: jamieleeclark85.wordpress.com/ The resources he makes always look great and I saw no reason why I couldn't use keynote to create attractive slides and make the short film more interesting to the young people who will use it.

By far the worst thing about making a video is doing the voice over. I strong recommend writing a script and reading through it. Even then I make mistakes and change my mind when reading it. I have found the experience of voicing a video very interesting. I don't find it easy to succinctly describe physics phenomena, so I imagine that I babble on in class. Creating the video means that I need to use as few words as possible and get to the main points. Hopefully this makes it clearer what students need to know.

If you watch the video you will see black stripes down the slide. In future I need to realise that I must make the background presentations with 'wide screen'. Which is a possible selection in Keynote. This should eliminate the issue.

I wish that in the video below I had used more features of ExplainEverything to actually move the hand around. (I think it can do this). But I will continue to play and make more resources. Hopefully it will help to engage my students.

At the moment I plan to only make instructional videos for GCSE, as I will teach Key Stage 3 with a more discovery approach and I don't want them to always be told the answer. Plus I have online textbooks and activities bought from OUP for them. A-level is changing in September 2015, so I am going to leave that for now. I hope to make very short videos for GCSE so that they will be useable in the new specifications even if content is shuffled about within the modules.

I am on holiday at the moment and I am concerned whether I will be able to keep up the creative juices when I get back to school, but as twitter colleagues have suggested, students will be able to make the videos too! I look forward to that.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Decisions Decisions; where to start when using ICT

I have said this before, but in September all the students will have 1-2-1 iPads. I have spent two days thinking about this opportunity. I would welcome suggestions and possible pitfalls.

One thing I have realised is that there is too much choice.

Do I use google, showbie, dropbox, onedrive, Evernote or what to share content with students? Do I create a blog? Will what I choose cause confusion if other staff go with something different? I have read about iTunesU, but I don't have permission to 'bind my institution to the terms and conditions'. Which is disappointing. I think that despite the enthusiasm on the internet for this, I will give it a miss for now.

However, after a recommendation from a colleague (who like me didn't get an iPad in the roll out) I have settled on nearpod as a starting point. I only get 50MB storage though, and probably need the gold package. However, as you can link to websites I should be able to link to youtube so won't need to upload videos and therefore manage to keep presentations small.

I do love the way that you can allow students to draw a picture as one of the actives in Nearpod, this means that I can allow students to show their working in physics and maths questions that are hard to type due to all the funny symbols. I might have to ask my students to consider a stylus though.

I think that I will ask my students to get an evernote account too. I feel that evernote is the best way to keep your lesson notes organised. Being able to tag notes will also help as well as being able to add photographs to notes. (Which reminds me, I must help students by adding suggestions for tags to my presentations, especially as you can also add tags in pages on the mac).

Until reading this article, I hadn't really considered the full idea of workflow. I have thought of how to get work from me to them, but not whether I want to get electronic work from them, mark it and send it back to them. At my previous school the Head of Chemistry used moodle to set all homework and loved that he could annotate the work that students did and they could see his comments.

I actually think that I would like my feedback to remain in their notebooks for now. There are a couple of reasons for this, firstly that I think the notebooks will be more ordered (as they will be chronological) than folders on their iPads. I don't want to have to get into how to keep work organised as I want to teach my lessons. I am not sure that I want to check their online folders for organisation, and I am not sure that they'll refer back to them anyway. When the inspectors come in they will want to see exercise books and folders, and I am not sure I can produce electronic resources for every lesson anyway. So even if students take electronic notes, they will likely be answering questions on worksheets. The exercise book also allows me a quick flick back to reference previous targets I have written and their contexts. ISI are due this year, and I suppose in another 5 years when they come back we will have moved on and so will they.

In the past two days I have started to write a list of videos that I would like to make. I wrote a script then I had a quick go with explain everything today, I wasn't happy, but we have to start somewhere. I think that I want to make my own graphics to include, so I need to think about how I will construct them.

I am very keen to look at online testing. Nearpod will allow this, but also socrative and googleforms. I have access for key stage 3 to activate and I hope that this will allow testing and recording of the responses. I had a look at quizlet today and I can really see how useful this would be for MFL. I think that I will borrow a textbook and use the glossary in the back to help populate quizlet for GCSE as this should help some of the girls who struggle with key words. I wish it would allow images.

I know I don't want to just produce resources that may or may not be looked at as part of revision. My GCSE Science and BBC bitesize are already there. Often students look in the revision guide and still need to come to me or have another look at the experiment. This year I found myself saying to students "you don't need to understand why an electric current is produced when a magnet moves relative to a coil, you just need to know that it happens, describe how to make it bigger and why the current would change direction". They wouldn't get that feedback from a video. However, being able to have that kind of conversation because the students have more time to answer questions that draw out their knowledge is appealing to me. I hope that technology will help with this.

I foresee a busy, but creative summer ahead.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Nurture 2014 continued

Highlights and lowlights of the year so far:

  • The ASE conference is always a massive highlight to January.
  • Richard and I agree to get married, the date is set for 30th August.
  • I bought the new laptop that I needed.
  • I managed to organise a campsite for the accommodation so we can go to the commonwealth games without having to commute from Edinburgh or something like that!
  • A colleague and I took Year 7 to see the Superleague Netball at Bath. They loved it. 
  • We had our ASE west teachmeet and it went well.
  • March was busy with a Year 5 STEM day, the last as I don't feel that we need the hassle or that the school quite understands the issues around putting such a day on. Throwing my toys out of the pram, certainly.
  • We also took (almost) all of Year 7-10 and a few VI formers to the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham. Something that upset the rest of the school. Apparently taking 5 separate trips might have been OK, but taking everyone so that cover is easier to deal with and giving the rest of the staff a free day isn't popular. The kids enjoyed it.
  • The science week assembly went down well, it was delivered by the deputy head who received a round of applause at the end.
  • I very much enjoyed attending a video-inset by Teachit, where I was inspired to create my own.
  • I taught an IT-only lesson. Work needed! 
  • After the Easter holidays many staff were given iPads as we move to 1-2-1 iPads for September. Many, many members of staff, but not me. I was very upset to say the least. It was my own fault, as I was asked directly if I could do without as there wasn't enough to go round. I feel very stupid now for saying that I would manage. I imagined that other staff with their own iPads would be asked the same, but this wasn't the case. My original iPad only has iOS5 and I can't even open my own keynote documents that I have created on my phone or laptop. I am very bitter that I have had to buy a new iPad mini (only 16GB and I am already struggling).
  • In May I went to school on three Saturdays to help Year 10 revise for their core science exam.
  • Richard went out cycling a lot of those weekends too as he keeps up the stamina he developed for LEL in 2013. His aim is to prequalify for PBP in 2015.
  • I delivered my first ever assembly.
  • I enjoyed the school lecture from the director of Westonbirt Arboretum.
  • I have been to ResearchEd West Midlands, Pedagoo South West, and the Education Festival.
  • I went to the Cheltenham Science Festival.
  • My car had a warning light on, but didn't cost as much money as last year to fix it.
  • On the penultimate Friday of this term I had to talk to the Governors about what we had achieved in science and I believe they were impressed.
  • I have bought lots of new resources, particularly activate to allow students to access online resources that support their learning on their iPads.
  • I have tried a variety of resources and teaching activities this year that I want to embed further next academic year. 
I have made a few resolutions.

  • I will use all the appropriate online tests on activate with Year 7 to trial them.
  • I want to create videos for instructions key stage 3 practicals.
  • I will thoroughly investigate the new A-level courses.
  • I will use iMovie and explain everything to create resources to support my learners. 
  • I will embed iPad use into my teaching... I need to decide what this will look like.
  • I will give my students more opportunities to answer open questions so that I can mark and feedback on their written communication as well as their science knowledge.
  • I want to get a team together for the Engineering Education Scheme.
  • I want to get the Big Bug Bag Man (Pete) into school next term.
I will also enjoy our wedding, my cousin's wedding, our trip to the commonwealth games and our visit to York for the Yort Tweetup.