Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Using Your Own Device in a Physics Lesson

Today I set myself the challenge of only using ICT (and some practical equipment) to teach Work and Power.

I have known for a few weeks that I would have to do this.

I used http://issuu.com/ , http://padlet.com , Google Docs (a spreadsheet), http://www.socrative.comhttps://bitly.com , http://www.pinterest.com , YouTube, and http://piktochart.com .

The first issue was remembering to bring the devices. This *shouldn't* be a problem in September when the students all have to bring iPads to lessons. Also being a science teacher will help as they will be able to charge them in my classroom, so a flat battery shouldn't be a problem either.

The second issue was finding the resources in the first place. I wrote a bit.ly link on the board, but this proved difficult to input correctly and took them to all sorts of websites other than the issuu magazine I had uploaded.

I can see resolutions to this, either by e-mailing (time consuming) links, creating QR codes to scan, or uploading to a department blog. The issue with using QR codes is that students will need to have a QR code reader, the issue with the third is that blogs are blocked at my school. I hope that the school will allow us to use blogs or edmodo with the students as this would be a great place to start with lessons.

We all got to my worksheet. However, for some reason issuu mangled the link to the googlespreadsheet, so back to bit.ly to provide me with a link to that. Then the students had to find their own mass and enter it into the spreadsheet; I always allow students to use my mass if they don't like it. The spreadsheet calculated their weight. Then we measured the height up the stairs and each timed ourselves going up the stairs. Then returned to the classroom, and inputed the data.

My next aim was to get the students to use the data and work out the equations linking mass, weight, work, distance, power and time. Their ideas when then put onto padlet. They really liked using padlet and seeing the collaborative work of their peers, but there were quite a few half finished sentences or just a name hanging on the wall, so practice at using this website would be useful. I was also frustrated because I wasn't able to upload an image that I wanted to include in the wall (with the answers). School firewall! I will have to approach this issue at school ready for next year.

After that they watched a video from my-gcsescience.com and one that I had made. It took me two hours to make 1minute 22 seconds of video and I could have spent a lot longer. It is very poor in relation to the videos I know others can make, and listening to my own voice echo around the classroom wasn't great.

Then we tried a secretive quiz. The students were cross with me as they got a few questions 'wrong' that the explanation said were 'right'. I think because I didn't indicate the right answer when making the quiz. I will have to be more careful with this in the future.

The students were really excited by the idea of collaborating on the same document, and they liked making notes from my YouTube video. They also appreciated the instant feedback that socrative quizzes provide.

I made an inforgraphic summarising the key ideas using piktochart and uploaded it to pinterest, which should help the students with the key ideas in their learning.

Next step is to think about what apps I want students to have on their iPads come September, and to work out how I will use the devices in more lesson. I think that I will be busy making videos and socrative quizzes during the next holidays!

Bring Your Own Device

At Easter all our students were asked to supply an iPad as part of their school equipment. I have read blog posts from senior leaders who explain why Bring Your Own Device has not been successful because teachers have not embraced. I am worried that this will be the same situation at my school.

The students often do have their own IT equipment, the older students use laptops for coursework, research and typing up their projects. Younger year groups like to make videos with theirs. But there has never been the expectation that students would use ICT in lessons, and I haven't been.

I know of schools that use iPads in their lessons and many teachers that would love the opportunity that I will have in September. In areas of America they seem to embracing iPads in education with enthusiasm.

However, BYOD presents me more issues that using 1-2-1 devices that have an image controlled by the school. Can I insist that students download certain applications? I might be able to do that with free applications, but what about paid ones? What if their device is full, can I insist a student deletes an app so they can use the one I want them to?

I also wonder about other aspects of students having their own devices? Should I be incorporating e-safety more obviously into my teaching? Should I be worried that a year 7 student might make a video clip for me and upload it to YouTube?

Another concern is that the using the technology will take longer than doing an alternative with paper and pen, detracting from the learning of the concepts. We struggle for curriculum time as it is, and devoting more lesson time to creating digital content may mean lessons have less learning?

On the other hand, ICT presents an opportunity. Students can use video to supplement their understanding, they can collaborate on experiments more easily, they can take photographs allowing recording of work more easily. Do they need everything written in a book or file?

iPads in the classroom should make my life more easy; student using online, immediately marked, homework packages would be one example. I would like students to be able to find records of their learning in videos and photographs as well as in notes. A variety of ways they can access information can only be helpful.

I want to help my classes use ICT to become more organised. I already use my iCal applications to organise my calendar, it would be great to do the same for the students, even sharing calendar events.

But using iPads in lessons is going to be a major change, I will have to think about how I resource every lessons and work on creating more resources than presentations and worksheets. Editable forms, blogs, videos, online quizzes will all become part of my practice and I need time to be able to create these resources. I need the equipment myself to create these resources.

Then I ask myself, will it be worth it? Will my attempts to use ICT in lessons be scuppered by the student who is waiting for a new one because they have smashed their screen or can't take a photograph until they have deleted the 3000 they have on their device already, or the wireless network that decides to switch itself off during my lesson?

I suppose I will have to try it and see.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Scrapping Levels: Opportunity or Threat?

I have read a few things lately about the use of levels in schools that help me to understand why some teachers and managers are happy at their demise. However, these comments also make me feel that we need something to replace levels.

If schools and teachers are using levels and not using the information to inform intervention and support progression, then I would agree levels are not fit for purpose. But I would question why they would not.

I am not really interested in measuring students; schools will need a way to do this. They can use grades A-E as I had when I was at middle school (before levels) and compare students against other students in the school. An A or B grade will keep parents happy. Tracking can be done through percentages and scores on tests. If schemes of work are built where content gets harder then we'd assume that students are progressing in their studies if they get more than zero in a test?

I would agree with those who question the use of levels in reporting. I would ask: 'how honest are the levels we report to senior management and parents'? And I suggest the answer is not very. Is it possible to accurate to within a sub level? Are students always learning at the same level and does that level get incrementally bigger each term? In the case of science, I would say not. So why does a good proportion of reports, I have seen, imply this is the case?

Another question would be 'how confident are teachers with level descriptors'? In my experience, not very! I have watched lessons that were engaging and entertaining, but not above level 3. I have seen levelled objectives that were not levelled correctly. I have worked with many teachers who couldn't describe level ladders even in a simplified version such as 'identify', 'describe', 'explain', 'use key ideas', and 'link key ideas'. Without understanding the levels and progression they represent then levels are useless.

However, how do teachers ensure they are pitching their lessons correctly, how do they know whether some concepts are more difficult than others, how do they know what advice to give to students to help them move forward in their understanding?

I want to take my students from a concrete understanding (level 4) to an abstract one (level 6), how will the teachers of the future know this without having the structure of levels? Will we be taught it? Will it be forgotten?

I won't stop using my knowledge of levels to help my student progress. I won't stop using that knowledge to help students understand the generic outcomes and how to improve their understanding and written work. I won't stop using levels to understand where to pitch the difficulty of my lessons.

What will the science teachers of the future do to help them understand the difficulty and progression in key stage 3 science? I am concerned that the 'scrapping' of levels means that we are throwing away the idea of progression in the thinking of our students and instead of helping students to understand more difficult concepts we will just expect students to know 'more'. This is not the same.

What is more difficult, understanding the particle model or understanding balanced and unbalanced forces? What constitutes a higher level of knowledge, remembering the first 20 elements of the periodic table or being able to explain the difference between metals and non-metals?

I don't ever believe that if a system isn't working we should just throw it away before firstly considering what the problem is and secondly thinking about why the system was introduced in the first place. We need to ask ourselves what Paul Black was trying to achieve in his work that underpinned the idea of levels, and if we are throwing that away when we throw away the level descriptors. I think we are.