Thursday, 27 October 2011

Twitter and the PLN...

I come to blogging because of twitter. Many teachers on twitter have blogs and it is a very good way to share practice that cannot be described through 140 characters.

I had a twitter account for a long time before I started tweeting, but quickly got into it once I started following the right people. Now I follow anyone who is a teacher or trainee teacher and a lot of people who are related to education. Mostly I like to follow those in the UK, but there are a few very inspiring North American teachers who have twitter accounts too.

I have become good at filtering through the thousands of tweets in my twitter stream per day, usually only looking back over the past hundred or so. I can spot the avatar of the people and organisations that I am most interested in and tune into their tweets, gradually building up the people I follow has helped with this.

I believe that it took me a while to get into using twitter because I didn't know who to follow. I was trying to use the twitter recommendations and only found NASA and BBC news. Finding real people is much better.

So if I could only follow 10s of people instead of 1000, who would I follow?


Would be my list of real people. They are all scientists and contribute to #asechat on Monday evenings.

There are another group who are ICT based and very much into blogging with their students. @ICTEvangelist, @ianaddison and @fraserspeirs would be a starting point.

There are also organisations on twitter. This is the part that I find the most useful: following what their latest ideas are and keeping up to date with the data being pushed to me rather than me having to look for it.


There are others, such as the department for education and the schools network. One can even follow Toby Young.

However, any science teacher new to twitter who starts with these lists should be able to build their "personal learning network" up quite easily from these starting points, and have no trouble in learning or re-learning something related to science education.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Five Year Plan for the ASE

I am a member of the ASE (association of science education). I joined because the advice and collaboration that existed during the time of the national strategies has dried up, but the need to change and re-interpret how we teach hasn't. I am never too proud to seek advice and guidance to ensure that I am giving my students the best possible science education I can.

The ASE has been around for nearly 50 years and the present moment in history is not its strongest. The ASE seems to have lost touch with its membership as the numbers slowly slip downwards. The current financial situation doesn't help.

It is vital at this time that the ASE is restructuring and thinking about the future, not just because its own survival depends on it, but also because science education needs a body to stand up for it and keep science education relevant for both the students and industry.

The chief executive of the ASE Annette Smith writes a blog to keep members up to date with news affecting science education and the ASE in general, In her most recent blog post she asks:

  • What is the purpose of ASE?

  • What should ASE’s mission statement be?

I hope that these two questions can spark debate, helping the association understand the needs of science teachers and then in turn positioning the association so it can support them. However, with the diverse education systems and schools within the UK and the falling membership reducing the capacity of the ASE I still see tough times ahead.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Making and Sharing Resources

I have recently been re-inspired to make resources by the Times Educational Supplement offering £1000 to the five resource contributors that generate the most interest (OK, I am not quite sure how they are going to decide who gets the prizes, but I believe that quality and quantity are involved).

I have re-written key stage 3 resources four times in 9 years and I am on my fourth or fifth re-write of key stage 4, thanks to moving schools and changing exam boards twice on top of the specification changes in 2006 and 2011. I find it gets tedious. I would rather add to and adapt than be forced to change everything to the new subtleties of a different exam specification.

And I have found it necessary to change: "Miss, how do you answer question 3?" "Oh, that's right... Class you can either listen to me explain question 3 or leave it out as you don't need to know about isotopes in this part of the specification." I subscribe to the idea "teach some of it well, rather than all of it badly", so I am keen to teach extra content just so they can do a worksheet I made/acquired several years before.

So what does make a quality resource?

The presentation: published resources always look better than home made ones. I put this down to the graphics around the titles, the footers at the bottom of the page completing the work so the content "ends", the spacing between lines of text and blocks of text, and the quality and alignment of the images used. Published resources all seem to fit to a layout that pulls all the scheme together and makes them seem polished.
It is possible to copy the themes of published schemes to make your own work look good. Choosing a sans serif font and using 1.3 line spacing helps. So far mine still look more "high street" equivalent to the "designer", but better than most!

Ease of understanding: too many of the in-house resources I have come across are not sensitive to the literacy levels of students in the target age group. How much text will a student engage with? (Usually not much.) How many key words should be used? I find many badly phrased questions in resources, and unfortunately published revision guides with questions can be amongst the worst offenders.

Adaptability of the resource: a key feature in my opinion. Is it possible for the resource to be used in a variety of ways by teachers with different styles? Often PowerPoint Presentations found in shared drives on school servers are tailored to the class of the teacher who wrote it. This is fair enough, we should personalise our lessons to the needs of groups, but is the personalised version the right place to start and share?

Meeting the learning objectives: most importantly does the resource support the learning of the students? Does it make them think? Does the resource fill time or move on the understanding of the learner? Does the resource support the self-assessment of students? What is its purpose, and it is evident looking at the resource?

I am probably most fussy about how a resource looks. Mainly because I believe this is the most difficult to get right. Not every teacher has an eye for what is aesthetically pleasing. (Deleting the bullet point from a PowerPoint and removing the indent from the first line in the paragraph, yet leaving the indent in the other lines bugs me).

Despite finding re-writing tedious and frustrating and finding the urge to moan about OfQual and others, I know that I would rather rely on the resources I make. So I return to my PowerBook and put together GCSE lesson plans and resources to support the development of how science works skills (newly emphasised) through the context of speed, acceleration and forces. While also hoping to create activities and worksheets that will help students pass exams too.

The £1000? That would be a fantastic bonus, if and when I get round to sharing them via the TES.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad