Sunday, 30 June 2013

A session from the ASE conference, an update on the new primary national curriculum

This session was run by Brenda Naylor and Jane Turner.
Brenda began by asking what has changed.

Programme of Study:

  • Re-written and rearranged

  • There is an organisational change, but not a change in content

  • Science enquiry has changed. - its not fair project is having and impact as enquiry has expanded beyond just fair testing

  • By the end of year 6 children are asking questions, planning which type of enquiry to use, and plan and investigation. And do it for themselves.

  • We shouldn't be doing science enquiry for the sake of science enquiry.

The other changes are:
  • Evolution introduced

  • More emphasis on outdoor learning

Brenda explained that the notes and guidance have the kinds of experiences that students might have, and gives suggestions of activities. She said that command words are included in the PoS statements.

We were told that the timeline is a bit up in the air. The NC document with score. But despite that the NC is being dis-applied from September for y3 and y4.

What hasn't changed?
The main concepts covered

Science enquiry is central to learning science

Use time to review the sow and develop science enquiry - MAIN MESSAGE

Brenda was keen to highlight the message shown by this image:

Jane Turner then went to talk about Assessment

Throughout the session Jane spoke with this image behind her:

Jane said that the Assessment and Curriculum groups are currently working in separate locations and not together. However, the people in the DfE who write the SATs do care about getting a good SATs paper out.

She told the audience that sample testing will carry on. As for the detail about assessment in the sample SATs: the DfE don't know yet. Sample tests will not be by school, a school will have students selected. There will be 9 sample tests and schools will get a variety of the 9, but one each of biology, chemistry and physics.

Brenda and Jane went on to stress that effective teaching and assessment has not changed.

When you plan a lesson consider what you want the students to learn and how you, the teacher, will know they have got it.

APP is fading away, but maybe still a useful tool without the levels attracted.
Do not throw the baby out with the bath water - we have time to implement change.

Interesting points made at the end of the session: What is more scary students being allowed to challenge their own learning, or students not knowing the content?

Different for those who believe teaching is filling the Child with knowledge.
Have you been in a situation where you and the children both do not know the answer. The new model means that we could be in that situation because students are allowed to be in that situation.

Jane Turner: practical work does not always lead to learning, practical work does not always equate to enquiry. Lesson needs to make the practical purposeful.

A great session, very reassuring and all teachers should remember that the government are not telling us how to teach. Best practice will remain best practice. Thanks to Brenda and Jane for that!

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Itch and Simon Mayo

At the ASE conference I had the please to be in a session where Annette Smith (the CEO of the ASE) interviewed Simon Mayo about his books. The books are about Itch, a boy who discovers a new element.

Annette began by asking Simon why he wanted to write a book with science as a main theme. Simon Mayo replied that while he was working at radio five he interviewed a lot of scientists and gained an interest in science. Then his son (aged 10) became obsessed with science. Simon tried to find something for him to read and found nothing. So Simon decided to write his own story for his son and that became his first book. At the same time, Daniel Radcliffe sang the periodic table song on Graham Norton and this spurred Simon Mayo on to publish as he realised someone else would spot the gap in the market.

Annette asked Simon about science at school. The audience were all science teachers after all. We are interested in learning from the experience of our pupils. Simon Mayo said that no one inspired him in the area of science at school and it is quite a departure to now be going to schools talking to young people about science.

The character Itch is an element collector. Simon Mayo was keen to ensure that the science in the books was real. The characters get themselves into and out of trouble because of the element. Simon Mayo talked to Professor Paddy Regan and Professor Andrea Sella and learned about the theoretical 'island of stability', where elements will reach a size big enough for them to be stable for days, weeks or months. Long enough for the story at least. He also learned he could get away with it if he said the new element was made in a supernova.

Someone did comment to him, that the most unrealistic thing about the books was the speed at which the new element (126 in case you are wondering) got its official name.

Simon Mayo stated that making science cool was not the intention when writing his book, he believes that kids will spot if if you try to trick them into liking science. He just wanted to write a good story.

Simon then went on to describe the session he delivers to students when he visits schools. Firstly, there is augmented reality on the front on the covers. Download the app, point it at the cover and amazing stuff happens!

He said that there was a debate between his editor, agent and himself about how much explanation of the periodic table do you add to the book? He read the section that introduces the periodic table from the first Itch novel to illustrate his point.

Simon said he tried to bring the Itch books back to elements when possible. He was inspired by this banned book on chemistry experiments:

Which Itch is too. It cost Simon £400 on eBay. He said that the kids he visits are often more interested in this boom than the Itch booms by the end of the visit!

He also told the audience that the hiding place for element 126 is a real place, although he took some poetic licence. The building is no longer a school, but it is in the books.

At the end of the hour Annette gave Simon the 'be safe' book from the ASE bookshop!

An engaging hour, and I can recommend the books as I have read them.

Did you know that if you ingest tellurium you smell of garlic for months.

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Monday, 24 June 2013

Bring Your Own Device

We are planning to launch a bring your own device scheme at school. I work at an independent school so I suppose it s easier to insist on students brining a tablet to lessons.

I can foresee issues where students will not bring their device if we are not encouraging them to use them. But how?

1) If they get the kindle reader they will be able to annotate PDFs. This means I can ask key stage 4 students to download the specification and make notes on each section as to what they understand and things they will need to recap when they revise.

2) Socrative - if all students have devices then it should be simple to use them to complete quizzes using socrative. What I like about this is that an app isn't necessary.

3) Padlet - I like the idea of working collaboratively. Padlet will allow students to give answers/comments on the wall and see those of others.

4) Evernote is a free app, allowing notebooks to be shared and it works cross platform. It is a possible way to share my presentations with students and also a way for them to collate their work on their tablet.

5) Calendars and reminders - I would hope that most tablets come with these applications and they are a good replacement for the paper planners students carry.

6) Social bookmarking - again to help students stay organised. Through, delicious and pinterest.

I hope that these ideas are simple enough to be accessible to all students and possible to use regularly.

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