Places To Look

There’s some great resources out there for teaching. Lots of them are free, even.  The problem, usually, is finding them. I’m in the process, as many colleagues will be, of writing/rewriting schemes of work. (Partly this is because the government pushes for a curriculum review every few years, just to keep us teachers out of trouble.) But it’s far too easy to cut and paste sections of the old scheme, just to save time. I’m trying to be a little more systematic and decided to post about my checklist for things to include, with a particular focus on  where to find good resources online. The list will in no way be exhaustive and I’d love to get suggestions via the comments. Obviously most of this post is irrelevant for non-science teachers, although there’s probably an overlap with the rest of the STEM family.

General Stuff to Include

In a dream world your department will have spent an INSET day thrashing out what should be in a dream curriculum, put it in a logical sequence and the exam is an afterthought. Realistically, you’ll have started with the exam specification.And then:

  • content to include, possibly split into foundation and higher tier material
  • reminders of main ideas (especially those that get forgotten) and specify what isn’t needed
  • links to local electronic versions of worksheets and powerpoints – organising these is always fun
  • summaries of useful videos – these days probably files taken from videos or DVDs, or acquired from iPlayer or YouTube
  • more links or references to local resources (we use Birchfield and MyWorks) TK and the school VLE
  • details of practical work, clearly labelled as demonstration/class work/investigative
  • cross curricular links, including anything citizenship-related and especially careers
  • particularly good opportunities for ICT work, or L2L (metacognition) aspects

So that’s an awful lot of stuff, isn’t it? Trawling through what you have stored in your setting – if you’re anything like ours – means fighting your way through a dozen disorganized folders, a third of which are labelled ‘misc’ or ‘to sort out’. Half of the resources don’t match the new specification, so you need to link or reference odd pages, here and there. The person who knows all the admin passwords is off sick. And every time you find something you’re sure you can clear out, someone who’s been teaching forever proclaims they use it all the time and it can’t possibly be deleted.

This is before you start looking for new ideas, resources or suggestions anywhere else online, or just give up and ask on Twitter. (You could always tag your question with #asechat or #pimpmydemo, linking you in to existing communities.)

So let’s make it easy. Where could you look? You normally have a choice between sites with a small amount of selected, reviewed material, or huge collections with little in the way of detail or quality control. This presentation (not one of mine) describes the distinction.

The TES resources site has tonnes of material. It’s organised, and some of it will be rated by popularity. Like the more recent Guardian equivalent, the biggest problem is about curation. There’s little or no editorial oversight of the majority of submissions. This means that once you’ve had a look at the “editor’s picks” there’s no easy way to find what will work best for your needs. Signing in makes it a bit more difficult, and there’s no guarantee that what you get will be more than another teacher’s hurried worksheet.

I presume that there are equivalents to the science-specific sites I use, as the Association for Science Education is unlikely to offer much to a history specialist. The ASE site doesn’t have much itself as there’s a specific resources site, SchoolScience, a lot of which is ‘sponsored’ material e.g. Steelmaking by Corus. Searching for ideas though past journals (SSR and Eis) doesn’t appeal, although they’re an interesting read. The three secondary sites of the Getting Practical initiative, Practical Biology, Chemistry and Physics, are fantastic for all kinds of detailed instructions. (I’m sure the rest is good too but I’ve not used them as much.) The Institute of Physics has a specific page of teacher resources. The site SchoolPhysics, based on the great book The Resourceful Physics Teacher, has some very useful worksheets and animations. Instructables has some interesting ideas for science clubs.

For videos there are several more options. You can still access those from TeachersTV, although many of these are intended for teachers to use as CPD rather than specific classroom resources. Searching through them on this site isn’t great as you can’t filter easily. There are many great videos on YouTube, from Sagan’s “pale blue dot” as a film or an animation, to Mr Chadwick’s Mechanics revision song. There are loads of specific channels you may find useful, but as usual searching is your best bet. More clips are available at the BBC Learning Zone which offers a searchable collection, mostly short sections from documentaries.

There are many other odd pages here and there – this one focuses on post-16 resources, for example – but most don’t have enough to be worth checking every time. And this is the problem – every page you check, every different search bar, takes time. My blog, and many others (Snapshot Science and Fiendishly Clever jump to mind, listed on the right) will have some useful resources. But how many are you going to check before you run out of time?

Let me give one you one site as an example which simultaneously demonstrates the strength and weakness of the web. The National STEM Centre runs what they call an eLibrary and it has great potential. It’s a step in the right direction as it hosts resources produced by other groups (such as the ASE and IoP) and you can search using filters; it also groups resources into collections. There’s loads here, but material is only listed if it is stored locally. For example, searching for ‘waves’ brings up some fantastic material including videos from @alomshaha, clips from Brian Cox’s lectures and simulations from the IoP. It would be even better if a separate tab listed reviewed videos elsewhere, for example YouTube, or specific external websites. Those wider links could potentially make this the site to check, instead of one among others. Too many websites makes life harder rather than easier, if they don’t link to each other. What we need is a gateway to resources everywhere – the whole point of the web is that it’s connected.

If I’ve missed your favourite place to find resources, please add it in the comments. (EDIT: added SchoolScience which I’d missed from the ASE section.)

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9 thoughts on “Places To Look”

  1. twas ever so and likely shall always be :p
    I’d browse the tre.ngfl.gov.uk in my early years of teaching – I got my blockbusters macro spreadsheet from there which is one of my most used resources I obtained from elsewhere (because it’s very easily adaptable and once you’ve set up your question bank you’re sorted)

  2. Kahn academy is fantastic for a level cover lessons. Watch relevant video, summarize for next lesson. Also can be used for
    to introduce new topics before teaching them.

    1. The issue I have with anything like K A is that O need to be able to trust it. Compare it with the simple science books I RTed today – link to follow when I can find it – with clear text, higher quality. Useful as it maybe, I’m not sure I’d put it in the same class as the others I’ve listed. YMMV.

  3. Can I mention Wellcome Trust’s Big Picture series here? We publish a printed magazine twice a year on topics relevant to Biology A-level. These are created alongside lots of extra online resources – lesson ideas, image galleries, videos, animations, quizzes and web links – the last issue included links to a well-known teaching science blog 🙂

    Recent issues include ‘Food and Diet’, ‘The Cell’, ‘Addiction’ and ‘Genes, Genomes and Health’. You can download PDF versions and subscribe to Big Picture at http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/bigpicture

    There are also lots of videos on scientific and medical topics, including interviews with scientists about current research, at http://www.youtube.com/wellcometrust

    Cheers, Chrissie

    1. I’m flattered by the ‘well-known’ – if only it were true!

      I’ve used the Big Picture, and it is useful. It’s interesting though; there have been several great suggestions from readers about good ‘places to look,’ but it really emphasizes, rather than undermines the whole point of the blog post. There are lots of good places – the problem is finding a resource which is out there without checking out all these different sites.

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