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.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Transition between QCA and Activate

Since 2000 my school has followed the QCA schemes of work. Even in 2008 when the change in the curriculum allowed science departments to be more creative we stuck with the QCA units. (Which I think was a wise decision).

However, now we need to transition to the new national curriculum.

Ultimately the plan is to teach the following activate units at Key Stage 3:

Click for the google doc.

However, we have taught the QCA units, so we need to transition for Year 8 from the old scheme into the new one.

Below is the plan for this transition.

We hope that by the end of Year 8 the GCSE curriculum will be developed enough that we will be able to use the time at the end of Year 9 to fill in any gaps that the student may have so they can be prepared well for GCSE.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Reading Blogs and Saving Articles (Feedly and Pocket)

I want to recommend two apps not usually promoted in list of apps for teachers and teaching. The first is Feedly.

I really enjoy reading blog posts. There are many people out there sharing resources, ideas and opinions. Blogs like from Amjad Ali for activities or for opinions from David Didau. Feedly is an RSS reader that will pick up blog posts from your saved blogs and show the posts from the last 30 days. This means the posts come to you rather than having to check the blog.

However, once something useful has been found then it's useful to have a way to save it for reference later. This is where Pocket comes in.

It is possible to link pocket to twitter. This means it is possible to save links and images from tweets. It can be added to safari to save links too. Or links can be copied and pasted into the app or website.

The advantage off both these apps is they work as a website or app, so you can access your account wherever there is an internet connection. Both have subscription versions, but I have never felt the need to subscribe.

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