Sunday, 28 September 2014


I was recommended Nearpod by a colleague at school who's daughter had suggested it to her. I love it and I think my students really like it too. Or at least the ones that I have used it with. When we get fibre optic broadband installed I will use it with all my classes

It is an app for tablets, but it also works on chrome or safari on a laptop.

What is it?

It is an app and website that allows you to send your presentation to the students' devices. You give them a code and they enter it to find your presentation.

So what?

That's not all, you can add interactive slides where students feedback to you. If you subscribe (and pay) for the premium version you can link to external websites too. For me this is the real power. I explain something to the group and immediately they answer a question that helps me to understand how well they grasped it. I can change my teaching then and there.

For example, I gave a demo of a longitudinal wave then the group copied notes from a slide on nearpod about longitudinal waves. They then answered the question 'what is a longitudinal wave?'. Most of the answers said 'a wave that vibrates backwards and forwards'. True, but not specific enough for GCSE level. I can go back and ask questions about how to improve the answer. I can even then share an example of answer (anonymously) that I have received from the class.

I had a student come in late to a lesson. I whizzed through the nearpod slides she missed at the end of the lesson and she took screen shots to copy up later.

A lot of students struggle copying notes from the board. Having the presentation next to them will help this process. Being able to take screenshots instead of copying will also help. (Although I feel the revision guide is good enough notes, I want my students thinking in lessons instead of mindlessly writing. My students don't agree).

Any drawbacks?

At the moment nearpod isn't working as well as I would like. The adsl internet and the number of switches between my room and the backbone means that there can be quite a lag between me forwarding the slide and it registering on the iPads. Without enthusiastic students I can see the lessons being difficult.

I can't measure the impact, but for me it means less paper and the potential of better transitions. In homework mode (£££) it could encourage independent work and flipped learning. I am excited.

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Monday, 15 September 2014

Practical work in A-level

I haven't quite taught two full weeks of classes yet, due to INSET and start of year timetable giving out mornings etc. However, I am already thinking ahead to next September and what I will do differently at A-level.

My first year 12 lesson involved using a micrometer and measuring small stuff. We wrote down our measurements on scrap paper as, while using a micrometer is an interesting step forward, the measurements are not needed for future reference. What if I need those measurements next year, how will I get students to record them?

In today's lesson we looked at density (using Archimedes buckets to measure volume - badly) and the impact of upthrust on the value on a Newton meter. We calibrated the Newton meters first. Again, I wrote the measurements on the board and we compared the different values. Realising the volume was the factor affecting up thrust.

In year 13's lesson last Tuesday we spent an hour experimenting using the air track writing the minimum down to calculate change in momentum and seeing how far our conservation of momentum calculations were out. The girls levelled the track, learned to use the timers, set up the light gates and evaluated the issues with the track. Next time year we will need to record it as evidence.

Although I am using practical work to illustrated scientific concepts and help the students see how they are arrived at, the work they write does not illustrate this.

I am going to have to change my approach in September 2015. My first step will be selecting a revision guide I can trust. I won't be writing notes for exam work. I will incorporate reference to revision guides into my lessons, these will be the notes. I will buy transparent post-it notes or some such to help the students annotate their work.

I would like to have a practical write ups in a note book and any practice questions in a file. But what will the practical write ups look like? I have never taught it at a-level, and I don't believe I was taught it myself.

I know everyone else is in the same position. But today's lesson made me reflect. I need to carefully think about how my approach to practical works needs to adapt and change this year to ensure my students get the 'pass' mark they need in a-level physics experimentation.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Tetbury,United Kingdom

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Research Ed 2014 - a few observations and hopes

I am writing this on the train on the way back from the second national research ed conference.

As I read through the twitter feed I realise that I am not alone in very much enjoying the day and finding it worthwhile.

I remember exchanging a couple of tweets with Hélène after the West Midlands conference about the direction that research ed would take. She didn't give much away, but I felt today that the movement took a massive step. At the previous events I felt I was bombarded with 'teachers must engage with research, but watch out for snake oil'. Telling this message to a few hundred teachers is not enough to make it a reality, the barriers to engaging with valid research are difficult to surmount. However, today I have felt that Research Ed is developing into something that can help bridge the gap. Tom Bennett is right about the momentum building and it is good news that he will be able to work on Research Ed more next year.

It was great to hear from Hilary Leevers from the Wellcome Trust who spoke about the great work Wellcome do in supporting science education. One of the comments she made was about how Wellcome would like to use research Ed as one method for spreading word of their research to real classroom teachers. To be able to interface with Hilary and her team at such events could be really valuable to schools. The EEF are engaging with Research Ed and I hope other organisations will too.

My day started with the talk from John Tomsett, Alex Quigley and Rob Coe about the development of the role of research leads in school. I hope Research Ed can help those research leads make links and contacts as well as informing those of us outside of the project of its progress.

I loved Dylan Wiliam's presentation, extremely engaging. However, it also helped me understand the limitations of research and particularly transferring research to other contexts. This was extremely useful. I am interested to read blogs and perhaps watch video from other sessions with the loose theme of interpreting research.

The session with the most laughs was Bob Harrison's. A useful whistle stop tour through research into the impact of educational technology. Again it highlighted issues related to research and of policy.

I wanted to see Paul Black speak, but the room was too full. So I went to see Jonathan Simons from policy exchange. It was a useful insight into the limitations of government and why policy isn't more thoughtful. I imagine Jonathan was trying to be hopeful when he said we can influence policy though social media towards the end of his talk, for me it was scary.

I know there were other sessions about the media and personal appearances by politicians. This is a useful insight for teachers and I think knowing about what goes on can only be a positive thing, helping the profession reflect on what it can do to limit damage by outside influences, whilst also striving to solve issues within education.

Mary Whitehouse and Carol Davenport's sessions were the type of thing I was interested in. I want to go to sessions where I can find out about research work that others are doing and reflect on how it impacts me. The diagnostic questions that York Science are working on are valuable to me and the gender imbalance research is both fascinating and disturbing. I hope that researchers will continue to use research Ed as a vehicle for sharing their ideas.

An extremely positive day. And although I don't have masses and masses to take back to school on Monday, I have had a glimpse of the future of the way that teachers might better understand and link with research.

I hope Ann Mroz doesn't feel the need to add too much red pen to this blog post.

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Location:Rodbourne Road,Swindon,United Kingdom