One I Made Earlier

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.)

 

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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.

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Collecting Evidence

As promised – and much faster than usual – here’s a modified version of my own CPD tracker. The idea of this is for teachers to keep track of evidence towards the Core Standards during their training or NQT year. I think it might be useful for those doing GTP as well as the PGCE route I took, and presumably for other approaches such as TeachFirst. Obviously, this isn’t official or endorsed by anyone, but it seems to me that it would make filling in paperwork much easier even if you can’t submit it as primary evidence.

How To Set It Up

  1. You’ll need a Google account. You may wish to set yourself up a ‘professional’ account (Mr.J.Smith.Sci@Google.com or whatever), especially if your current address is, shall we say, informal.
  2. ‘Save a Copy’ of the spreadsheet I’ve done to your new Google Drive and consider renaming it. Make sure it’s set to Private, not Shared, to start with.
  3. Have a look at the data entry (‘Form’, then ‘Go to Live Form’) to see how the prompts match the columns.
  4. Edit the column headers (and linked GoogleForm) if necessary.
  5. Save a link to the form on your mobile devices and desktop.

All of this should only take you a few minutes. You can add data to your spreadsheet directly, which may be useful for catching up with previous pieces of evidence. I think it’s easiest to edit them on a desktop, but this can be done less often. My main aim was to produce something which can be easily updated ‘on the go’, potentially by a variety of people, and then demonstrate a continuing record of progress towards the Standards.

How To Use

After any event – a seminar, discussion, observation, taught lesson etc – which shows your progress against the Standards (listed on a separate sheet), fill in the GoogleForm from whatever device is easiest. The prompt questions are to help you organise your responses to the event, consider how they match up to the Standards and plan further actions. In theory, all assignments should contribute to something; don’t neglect less formal situations like staff room discussions, reading a teaching magazine or catching up with professional blogs.

When you review your spreadsheet, choose a couple of areas to develop further. These might be those where you have less evidence (as shown by the highlighted Standards), or those where you have identified problems or weaknesses. Advice from mentors or colleagues will help you decide what to do, whether it’s about planning observations of particular staff members, talking about practicals with the lab techs or reading a recommended text or article.

Try to ensure that at least some of the rows include a link or reference to further evidence. This could be to the full lesson observation form, or to the university assignment, for example. A couple of ring binders, ideally different colours, will let you match up paper with electronic records quickly and easily. In addition, you may choose to record details in a linked blog or in EverNote, which allows you to access longer notes from anywhere if you paste a note URL into the GoogleForm.

I suppose there’s no reason why you have to be the one to fill in the form. If you email the link (to the form, not the spreadsheet itself) to your mentor they could fill it in after lesson observations or joint planning sessions. You might also choose to share the spreadsheet (I would recommend read only access) with your mentor, ITT Coordinator or University tutor. Try to stay in the habit of spending a bit of time every few days adding your thoughts. It’s a habit that is easy to forget once teaching a full timetable!

I’d value any comments from early-career colleagues, ITT Coordinators, NQT mentors and anyone else with particular interests in this area. My aim was to streamline the record keeping; we all want to spend more time on gaining skills and less on paperwork, after all! Hopefully this will help make life easier for all of us.