Thursday, 15 January 2015

Adobe Voice

A useful app for creating short videos using their extensive graphics library and also adding sound. See the example. This has been embedded into the blog.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

ASE conference - practical science

The unofficial theme of this year's ASE conference had to be practical work and how to assess it. It seemed to be the topic on everyone's lips.

I was really excited this year to be asked to be part of a panel debate on the topic of the royal societies 2035 vision for science and maths education. I was asked to speak for three minutes, I managed to say what I wanted in four. I was really pleased to be invited as it helped me clarify my thinking about the report and its importance to the future of science education. It might not be perfect, but it is a great deal better than what we have got.

Afterwards I was able to talk to Tanya Demster, who is the ASE field officer in the East Midlands. I found myself being encouraged to send in my CSciTeach form (which I have written, but not sent). She suggested that if I achieved it I could be presented with it in assembly. Which I thought was a great idea. As someone who is supportive of the professional learning journey model I suppose I should get my act together. I see CSciTeach accreditation as a useful CPD reflection tool on a personal level as well as a sign post of potential quality and knowledge of a teacher to senior leaders.

This image below shows the model, at the Wellcome Trust reception on Friday, where the post it notes show where we were invited to comment. I wondered what professional skills are, and whether subject knowledge is actually harder to come by than subject pedagogy? (I know of too many teachers not passionate about their subject).

From the point of view of the ASE and other science education bodies, where does the relationship between the ASE and the teacher go when the teacher moved into senior leadership? I don't know the answer, but I suspect cracking it would help retention of members.

The Thursday afternoon debate has become a 'must' attend session for me. Last year it was about research this year about practical assessment. I feel we must do something that empowers teachers to see the benefits of practical work in their own practice. It is a good experience to hear the range of opinions from around the room and different angles.

Jane Winter spoke passionately at the debate, I think I want to be a reception teacher!

I think a really important part of the conference is the exhibition. The stands with the biggest crowds and that I enjoy visiting are ones like SAPS and the RI. Hands on tasks and wonderful science to look at is more inspiring than a leaflet.

I did manage to catch up with OUP, (I didn't see Deb, but got the rep to label my for, for her attention! A new version of advanced physics for you should be heading my way). Collins, Pearson and Hodder. The exhibition was quiet at 9am on Thursday so managing to do my school focused visited so quickly was a real bonus.

Another session that was very useful to me was by Natasha from OCR science, taking about the changes to GCSE science. I was really shocked to hear that the exam boards have to use the national curriculum as their specification. I was expecting them to be able to put a twist on it that would improve what we've got. I really do think this is a mistake by the government. If we should trust teachers, then we should also trust other educational professionals like exam board staff.

I did hear during this talk that one of the main issues with controlled assessment in science is that it is predictable, and assessment should not be predictable. I like and dislike this idea. I want to know where the goal posts are when teaching my students...

I was interested in the talk by the Lord Speaker, Baroness De Souza (not that one). She seemed very shocked when one lady expressed concern over the fear that teachers feel during their every day lives. As a friend said 'does she not read the papers?'

It was fabulous to see the practical hub, sponsored by AQA so busy during the conference. If practical work is dead thanks to the changes then this part of the conference proved to the contrary of that. I went to hear from Gemma Young and Tony Sherborne about engaging science, a new set of resources using a tool to help with the delivery. I was interested to hear that Tony is delivering training to go along side it. He is right that giving resources without supporting people with the pedagogical approach means often they can't make the most of what you are trying to achieve.

On Saturday I went to see Fran Scott blow stuff up using computers.

To be fair, she said a lot of really interesting and useful things about how to engage young people. Fran really makes an effort to understand the science she is demonstrating during 4 minutes on TV.

She showed us three attempts she had to explain Archimedes principle and her reflections on each one. The third one being one that obeyed her rules above and ultimately was nominated for a children's BAFTA.

Her talk made me think about how I might start to consider if I understand my own subject well enough (could do better) and how I help students understand.

I have to say the main thing about the conference is the chance to talk to like minded educators outside of my own school. Swapping ideas and feeling the positivity.

Well done to the ASE conference team.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Embedding a Pinterest Board into a Website: A test

Follow Association for Science Education (ASE)'s board ASE Teaching & Learning Board on Pinterest.

I just wondering about the benefits of using Pinterest to collaborate and share links for organisations. But I suspect that because you have to be a member of Pinterest to see boards these days that it is not useful.

I also don't think that it is practical to search within a pinterest board.

I am after something that can allow us to share links very easily, is collaborative and searchable...

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Why the ASE conference is important to me

I am so excited about my attendance tomorrow at the ASE conference. It has become one of the highlights of my year and if I could only choose one CPD event to attend it would be this one.

Firstly, it represents great value. Three days at the ASE conference is still cheaper than one day on a course lead by the CPD companies out there. To visit only the exhibition is free, and this represents a useful day out as there is the open conference and other talks going on in there too.

Secondly it provides variety. I can learn about literacy strategies in key stage 3 and a workshop on microscale chemistry in the morning, then attend a lecture about the development of bilingual children and take part in a debate about practical assessment in the afternoon. There is so much on offer. Some might say too much.

Thirdly, everyone is there. This year I need to talk to exam boards about A-levels. I want to know where the pitfalls of the new A-levels will be, what the exam boards think schools will do about As level entries and what they know about what universities will expect. I want to meet publishers and discuss the discount I am getting for the new books I will be buying in September! More than that though I want to talk about resources that I want to see. Giving my opinion may mean that the gaps I see might be filled. If I don't ask about something I want then I won't get it.

This year I need to meet the Pearson book rep and find out who they are. I will probably by buying A-level resources from them. I want to see what I can get. I also want to talk to the OUP/Nelson Thornes and tell her how much I love kerboodle and ask about the likely updates to Advanced Physics for You and Calculations in A-level Physics. I also need to see the Hodder rep about the future of the little white revision guides. From all of them I want to see what support they will have for practical activities.

I want to see the A-level Physics boss from Pearson as I am confused about how we prove the radioactivity skill when it isn't included in any of the practicals.

I could spend a day just in the exhibition learning about science education by talking to the people there.

But more than just companies the experts within science education are there and I can hear from them and talk to them. I might even be staying in the same hotel as them. (I was in the same hotel as Michael Reiss and Prof Hal two years ago). Alice Roberts, Paul Hardaker, Martin Rees, Michael Riess, Tim Oates are all people I have heard speak. This year Fran Scott, Simon Mayo, and John Holman will be speaking.

Fourthly, I want to know what I don't know. Last year I spoke to Julie from Practical Action and it resulted in Year 6 having a great time making flood proof houses. It has actually really fired me up regarding the importance of renewable energies. Two years ago Brenda Naylor was kind enough to talk to me about primary science and Stuart was as helpful last year.

You go with aims, but you learn so much more.

Lastly, I get to see my friends and colleagues. I do think that the ASE conference is better because I am involved in the ASE. Taking a colleague is great and meeting up with people is even better.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Tetbury,United Kingdom

Friday, 2 January 2015

Pass/Fail practical assessment part of 2015 GCSE science

I have been kind of whining about the fact that we shouldn't have the whole idea of tracking practical work throughout Year 10 and 11 and then deciding if students pass or fail at the end of that. I understand why people think it will be a better system than we have now.

What I think is that it won't improve it enough to be useful.

Either you are a teacher who believes that practical has an important place in science teaching and learning. That allowing students to experience investigations and make discoveries in an authentic way is valuable to the development of students understanding. Or you are in a position where practical work is not, well, practical for whatever reason.

Either you are going to do practical work because of its value. Or you are not. And if, as I suspect, you are not going to be moderated every year then either you are going to do practical work because you feel it is valuable or you are going to do just enough to cover your backside just in case.* You will find a way that involves the least amount of effort (this is not about laziness) and tick the boxes. My conclusion from this is that there is little value in the pass/fail addition to GCSE science.

A far better way to encourage practical work in science, if indeed that is what we want is to create a curriculum that lends itself to valuable practical work. (When I say 'we' I mean the exam boards as the curriculum is now in place).

In the specification I follow too many of the suggested activities don't actually teach the specification statements. Why on Earth am I going to take time out of a busy teaching curriculum to teach something that isn't actually going to be examined and might actually distract my students? We'll observe refraction because they need to know about it, we'll look at the relationship between wire length and resistance because it is explicitly written about in the specification. If I am teaching about stars I am not going to make a telescope unless it is important that my students know the composition of a telescope. (They don't in Gateway). I am not going to get the whole class to create wind turbines if my one demonstration will be sufficient.

When we moved to the current specification styles on 2006, I hated it. I hated it for exactly this reason. Bitty, incoherent and no time to go into detail before you moved on. Don't get static electricity? Never mind we're studying half lives now. Practical work was often irrelevant, particularly in core science. (I think I do one class practical in the whole of P2). By the time we get to additional science students are not interested in getting out of their seats in lessons.

If we return to a curriculum where we can teach topics together and the specification builds from simple ideas to those that are more complex we can start to use practical activities more in our teaching. I don't like to run a lesson on sun cream resistance into a lesson on ultrasound to make space for an investigation. However, I would be more inclined to do that if the topics were related.

When I taught pre-2006 AQA specification I was able to decide which statements went in each lesson. In the post-2006 OCR Gateway specifications that has not been practical to do.** If the new specifications allow more flexibility (and because they are terminal they should) then more practical work and more importantly more valuable practical work will be able to be carried out. I am actually quite excited about this.

So lets use the curriculum to encourage practical work, lets give time to teachers to teach students about 'how science works' and lets accept that good teachers need less constraints to do a good job and poor teachers will find ways around them.

*Something that sticks in my memory is an OCR IAU examiner telling a group on a course he was leading that there were many schools whom never allowed the students to do their own practical work in the data task and gave every child the fall back data. There are schools out there doing everything they can to make practical assessment as straight forward as possible for themselves. In a way I can't blame them, it is an administrative nightmare and we should be trying to cut this for teachers wherever possible.

**Partly because both the schools I have taught it at have 70 minute lessons, and I found that 50 minute lessons mean pace in lessons is high, but there is more time to stop and consolidate at a latter date. And partly because the specification is split into 8 sections per module, and each section should take a week to teach.