Tonight’s #asechat will involve Charles Tracy, the IoP’s Head of Education (and one of my bosses), discussing the new approach adopted by exam boards from this year. There’s lots of information at Supporting Physics Teaching, which is free to access and needs no sign-in. Other sites and resources will hopefully move over to this terminology (BBC Bitesize already has, for example). But why should we bother?
Energy is one of those topics, isn’t it? We teach it several times, but the kids seem to hang on to their misconceptions. Partly this is because it’s a word which is used in everyday life, often interchangably with power. Partly it’s the way students get mixed up with energy ‘resources’ (or as I prefer to teach it, ‘ways to make electricity’.
We shouldn’t be surprised that this causes problems. Energy is at heart a very abstract concept, and so one which is difficult for students to grasp. Does it make things happen? Well, not always – and this leads to students confusing energy with force. I used to divide the ‘types’ of energy into potential and moving categories, which I suppose could be seen as a crude version of this new approach.
In the simplest possible description, energy is about bookkeeping or currency. It turns out that when objects interact, often via forces, then we can do some maths which describe the change. What’s interesting is that if we pay attention, then the same number comes up more than once. This tells us that something is conserved.
We call that something energy and say it has been transferred from one place to another. Calling those places stores emphasizes that they still have whatever they were given. This sounds similar to past approaches but avoids the idea of distinct ‘chemical energy’ being turned into ‘electrical energy’ and so on. SPT has a good comparison.
So we teach energy concepts to make it easier to do calculations. We can’t measure energy directly, but the equations we use allow us to make measurements, which allow us to make deductions, which in turn allow us to make predictions.
That sounds a lot like science, doesn’t it?
Energy moves from one store to another via pathways. These are actions – verbs, if you like – which describe a change in a system. The IoP is suggesting using the word shift rather than transfer. (I would suggest one good reason to do so is to avoid the mix up with transform, which suggests there are different kinds of energy.) I found the diagram of possible pathways at SPT useful.
Several approaches are possible, including taking a ‘snapshot’ before and after an event, or showing the amount of energy in each store with orange liquid. There are of course others, many of which are visual and so provide an anchor for students to observed reality. This isn’t to recommend VAK of course – only to suggest that making this concept ‘stract’ can only be a good thing.
I’ll be taking part in the session this evening, and I’ll add a link to the archive afterwards. I’m sure there’ll be an advert for TalkPhysics, which is one place to get access to ongoing advice and support on this and other approaches. It may be short notice but please pass on the link for tonight’s chat; the more the merrier.
Filed under: CPD, physics, teaching, web | Leave a Comment
Tags: #asechat, Physics
So anyway, here’s the contents of my bag, about to be packed ready for my induction tomorrow into the Hall of Fame. I mean, Justice League. Okay, it’s actually into the Stimulating Physics Network, but that’s honestly nearly as good. Just with less lycra.
Starting at the top left:
- Moleskine 18 month planner, hacked with elastic to hold a pen (Leuchtturm1917 make one if you don’t have the bits handy) and with plastic tabs to save time. Hint: Stick a few post-its in the back for convenience.
- Decent ballpoint which stays put and a keep-in-my-pocket Uniball fineliner. These are 5 for £4 in Tesco at the moment, go and buy some quick.
- Pencil case, bought for me. Filled with, well, pens and stuff.
- Elephant Wallet, basically some elastic sewn together to make a great minimalist wallet. Made to order, tiny in your pocket.
- Earbuds for podcasts, music and blocking out the world when on a train. Cheap because I’m always losing the damn things.
- Small notebook with detachable pages in a leather sleeve, bought on sale at a silly price from Waterstones. I am a bit of a stationery nerd.
- Nexus 2013 edition, shiny gadget running Android. For once I was an early adopter with a Samsung Tab, but this is lighter and faster. And half the price of an iPad mini. Small enough to hold in one hand (great ebook reader) but has a big enough screen to make working possible.
- It’s stored in a Cocoon Grid-It, basically a neoprene sleeve with loads of elastic across it. You can stick an amazing amount of stuff in there (currently: two sets of business cards, spare pen, painkillers, cables, book of stamps, coffee disloyalty cards, ruler, worked flint tool from 10k years ago, memory stick) and it all stays put.
- To make the tablet a bit more practical, add a Bluetooth keyboard. There are loads about but it means you’ve got a kind of DIY netbook. I’m not linking to this because it’s acting up, but that’s possibly me.
So there we are – add in my phone (cheap android, tethers the tablet when needed, and what I used for the photo) and we’re done. All in a bag that I forgot to take a picture of, but it’s a rucksack because I have delusions of youth. Briefcases are for grown-ups and satchels are for schoolgirls in Enid Blyton books.
More posts coming soon, but I need to sort out what the rules are going to be for sharing resources on here. Hope everyone has had (or is about to have) a great start to the new school year.
Filed under: organisation | Leave a Comment
I had an old webcam. I had time on my hands. And I had an idea.
This was never going to end well.
I’m actually pretty pleased with the result. It’s nowhere near as pretty as the one on Instructables produced by Glen Gilchrist (aka @mrgpg) but it didn’t need any power tools. Which were in the shed, and it was raining.
Start with an old webcam and a cheap lamp, in this case one from Ikea. It’s the sort of thing you might have, just make sure it has a long neck which holds the head steady. It will need to support a bit of extra mass. (Not weight. Well, yes, weight. Anyway.)
I used Lego, Sugru and cable ties to hold everything together. This has the advantage of being reversible, as well as quick. How you link the two parts depends on the exact models, but Lego means angles can be fixed and changed to suit your purpose. Plus, you know, Lego.
Sugru feels like blue-tack but dries within 24 hours to a firm silicone rubber. I’ve used it for outdoors repairs, making cufflinks (again with Lego, as it happens) and repairing odds and ends from cables to memory sticks. They don’t sponsor me. (Although if they want to send me some free samples…)
It works fine on my laptop, but I’ll need to try installing the drivers on a memory stick to make it properly portable. The plan is to demonstrate this in my new job and try it out myself, without the cost (100UKP+) involved in the decent models. I’ve read about uses (for example these for primary science from @dannynic) but never had the chance to put them into practice.
My first thoughts:
- use student work immediately for “good because” and “even better if”
- turn a small-scale practical into a class demonstration
- have a student commentate on an experiment in progress
- show hands-on methods like measurements and graph drawing in a realistic way
Not particularly exciting, I know, but I’m expecting to do a lot of improvisation in the new job. I’m currently putting together boxes of demonstrations, quick practicals, tips and tricks for the teachers I’ll be working with. (Post about this coming soonish.) But for now I’d love to have comments giving me better suggestions for how to use my Blue Peter Sugrued visualizer.
Filed under: ITT, practicals, software | 2 Comments
Tags: demonstrations, lego, practicals, sugru
So yesterday was the first proper day of the holidays. I say that because the weekends don’t really count, do they? But the first weekday when you get to lay in bed, relax over a cuppa, wear shorts rather than a shirt and tie… now that’s a holiday.
However, it’s a bit of an odd one for me. As you may have realised, depending on whether you caught the tweets or not, I’m moving on from my current job. In fact, it’s a bit more than moving on from the school I’ve been working at. As of September, I’ll not be a classroom teacher at all.
I’ve accepted a post with the Institute of Physics as a Teaching and Learning Coach. I’ll be one of 35 (some experienced and some like me new to the role) across the country. As part of the Stimulating Physics Network we’ll be promoting and helping physics teaching in secondary schools all over the place. My patch will be Derbyshire, mainly up towards Chesterfield, although we’re yet to finalise the specific schools.
For the first time in ten years I won’t be a classroom teacher, although as part of the job I’ll be visiting science labs and hopefully doing some work with various classes. I’ll still consider myself a science teacher, but they won’t be my classes. For the first time in a decade – since before my eldest son was born – I won’t be spending the summer stocking up on red pens. I will however be getting my head round various schemes of work and exam specifications, arguably more than before.
It’s exciting. And a bit scary. (Not least because with this being a part time role, I’ll have to manage some supply and/or freelance writing to support my coffee habit.) But I’m really looking forward to starting and seeing what kind of impact I can have. I suggested at my interview that the informal mentoring I’ve done in schools, and with the electronic staffrooms of blogging and twitter, could be seen as good training. Now to see if I was right.
I’m still planning to blog. I’ll still be tweeting “informally but informatively”, although I’ll be staying away from education policy for obvious reasons. Disclaimers have been added to my twitter profile and about page, making clear that these are my opinions, not those of my organisation. This means I’m now a writer-for-hire, so drop me a line if you’ve something I could be involved with. I’m still planning to join in with twitter chats and so on. All of that will be in my off-duty persona.
Spreading of identities, it’s probably time I formally came out of the closet. It’s not been that hard to link my real name with this account since I started writing elsewhere and linking to this site. So here I am, finally stepping out of the shadows.
I’m Ian Horsewell, and I’m a blogging addict.
Filed under: blognews, teaching | 2 Comments
There, I said it. Am I stepping out of some intellectual closet here? (Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference, answer in the comments.)
This doesn’t make me a character in The Big Bang Theory, which I see as undemanding (rather sexist) comedy rather than a life blueprint. It doesn’t make me a genius. I’m neither a scientist nor an engineer. It makes me a person who recognises a fact about the world that I’d probably take for granted, if I didn’t have to make it explicit in a daily basis for my students.
Science is cool.
Not just because it leads to great stuff. Although it does. Not just because it involves big explosions. Ditto. And not just because it’s useful (candidate for this year’s understatement award) when facing crises like climate change, water scarcity and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Science is cool because it’s arguably the best way to answer one of the first abstract questions human beings ask.
Yes, I know that often the explanation of cause and effect involves people and their motives as well as scientific principles. Yes, I know that sometimes we’re answering the question in terms of justifying a choice rather than explaining how something works. But in its simplest possible incarnation, science is about describing how the world works and suggesting a reason for it. Magic and religion may have offered the first explanations, but science offered the first that actually worked. And still does. So science is cool, and thinking scientifically is useful to everyone, and lots of people think they can’t do it.
Filed under: non-teaching, students, teaching, web | 1 Comment
Tags: expeRimental, kids, Royal Institution, summer
Six weeks of summer holiday stretching ahead and I’ve laid in a stockpile of books, both paper and electronic, to keep me out of trouble. I’ve also got a long list of saved articles to catch up on; lesson study is something I want to look into much more closely, for example.
Every term or so I’ve been buying a book that’s relevant to my teaching. These alternate, vaguely, between vaguely popular science and education. I want to be a better teacher and engaging with a good book can’t hurt. I’ve always liked paper copies, because it’s easier to scribble in the margins. (I am looking at ways to annotate ebooks and then share/search main points, but that’s another post.) But this means that I’ve got overflowing bookshelves.
Could you help?
I’d like to start some book swapping. Choose one of the books by adding a comment, let me know your address by email and I’ll post it your way. It doesn’t count as CPD unless you think about it, so when you’re done type something about the book. Good points and bad, ideas you liked or how you’ve put it into practice. I’ll host that as a guest piece and/or link to your own site.
Maybe you’ve got books you’d like to offer as loans to fellow teachers? (If you don’t already do something like this in your own school, can I suggest you set it up first to save postage costs?) If so, include a list of titles/authors, maybe with a few words about who might get the most out of reading, in the comments. It should be really easy for us all to get a couple of new teaching books to inspire us over the next few months, for a few stamps instead of the often high purchase cost. And then the discussion will help us develop the ideas further.
Worth a try? You know what to do.
Filed under: books, CPD, ed-research, teaching | 8 Comments
Tags: books, summer reading, swapping, teaching
There are some great things about teaching. Changing kids’ lives. Sharing the passion for our subjects. That ‘lightbulb moment’. Showing kids they can exceed their own expectations. Never ever being bored. Great questions and interesting answers.
July and August.
But all good things come to an end and the summer break – where we get time off in lieu for parents evenings, marking, revision sessions, mock exam scripts and all the other overtime – will indeed finish at some point. Of course, the shops are already putting up ‘back to school’ displays, which must be as depressing for the students as it is for the staff.
And the summer is followed by September, both anticipated and dreaded by teachers through the land. Anticipated because, no matter what the students think, we actually enjoy teaching. But dreaded because the days are nearly as long as the lists of jobs. Because additional tasks descend upon us from the SMT corridor with a casual “Oh, and we need this done by tomorrow.” Because the exciting introductions and carefully planned demonstrations get trampled by the inevitable timetable tweaks, photograph schedules and welcome assemblies.
So let’s make September better.
- Make yourself a cuppa, look back at your planner pages from last September and write a list of the problems that showed up.
- Using next September’s school planner, can you eliminate some of these?
- Add deadlines now for coursework, reporting and exams. Calendarpedia might be worth a look.
- Double check you’ve got access (or copies) to schemes of work, lesson resources etc for the topics in the first month. Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote and so on are your friends.
The rest of these, in no particular order, very much depend on your approach. They’re based on things I do or have thought about. YMMV.
- Find yourself a few good teaching blogs to follow. They could be subject-based or about leadership roles, pedagogy, behaviour… it doesn’t matter. The odds are they’ll be quiet over the summer so you can catch up with old posts and steal some ideas.
- Buy a book. Even better, swap your copy with a colleague, with a set of post-its, so you can add annotations and argue about the ideas come September. (HoDs – why not encourage a half-termly book swap for next year?)
- Sign-up for emails from a teaching organisation: NFER, SCORE, IoE are just three examples.
This is likely to be more of an issue in September, as you’re getting to know the classes and they’re getting to know their way around.
- Choose four good lesson starter approaches eg pictures/diagrams of apparatus.
- Create a Powerpoint with the title September Starters.
- For the first week, make slides for all classes using the first idea.
- Repeat for second, third and fourth weeks.
- Over the year, you’ll probably want more variation, with starters better tailored to the lesson. But this will mean when time is short you have an easier option.
A lot of September is about establishing expectations and making habits, not learning lots of science. How will you make sure that the mistakes kids are making in September aren’t still an issue in July 2015?
- Clear expectations and shared checklists for layout and presentation.
- Department-wide (ideally school-wide) annotations and format for comments.
- If you could print feedback stickers for the ten most common errors (with QR codes to detail if wanted) what would they be? “Use a sharp pencil and ruler for the axes of a graph.” is one of mine.
- How will you use praise/rewards/credits for those students who have it sorted quickly to encourage the others?
The probability of a class list changing is directly proportional to the time you’ve spent creating lesson plans and organising directed support. Find a system that works for you, and do what you can ahead. This might include:
- Printing blank seating plans for your lab or classroom.
- Making sure you have photos you can cut/paste into a useful layout.
- Creating a board with ‘task groups’ of four pupils who will work together each lesson. (Teams named after scientists for KS3, numbered for KS4.)
- Buying a supply of pipecleaners for the fidgety kid to fiddle with.
Stationery and Equipment
- Decide now (with reference to school policy) what you’ll do about ‘forgotten’ pens and pencils. Visit Poundland for supplies if needed.
- Stickers and/or stamps; do what suits you.
- Try not to spend too much of your own money on shiny things. (Moleskines are my own particular weakness.)
- Wardrobe audit; clear out old ties and ragged shirts, repair buttons, spend money if necessary.
Over the summer it’s great to be able to catch up with family and friends. This tends to be murder in September, particularly if (like me) you have children of school age.
- Spend a couple of days making freezer meals (my son and I will be doing this together) so you have a little variety in September.
- Throw away all the takeaway menus and uninstall JustEat from your phone.
- Declutter accumulated ‘stuff’, school-related or otherwise, to charity shops, eBay or recycling.
- Put a good book to one side for the odd moments in September you’re not actually working.
- Try really hard not to be heavily pregnant over the summer (or have a partner who is) so that the autumn has a new baby as well as a new term.
Filed under: planning, teaching | 2 Comments
Tags: summer jobs, teaching