Archive for September, 2010

Today was the first day of NGfL Cymru‘s presence at the Skills Cymru (Cardiff Millenium Stadium) and we were showing ourFree Vocational resources and our links with National Learning Network (NLN) to teachers and students. We were also engaging the children who stopped at our stand with some fun activities, like building walls with Lego bricks, folding napkins (we have learnt many fancy folds today) and building loudspeakers out of plastic and paper cups which were kindly donated to us by Starbucks and Burger King. Unfortunately, McDonalds decided not to be quite so generous and gave us no cups (I was very surprised about that, but maybe they too feel the effects of the Recession). Check out the instructional video on how to make the speakers below.

I have adapted this activity from one of the workshop the Institute of Physics does, i.e. Son of New Ideas. The link takes you to the group about this workshop on TalkPhysics. The IoP version of this loudspeaker is made with cup cake paper stuck at the back of children exercise books and it is a really nice activity, but because there is a lot of noise at the Skills Cymru event we went for a more powerful version and a bit quicker to build!

This activity is really good to get students engaged with Electromagnetic Induction, because they all have speakers and getting to know how they work and make one in few very simple steps brings the Physics to life immediately. They actually were amazed to find out that there really isn’t much more in a commercial speaker than the version they made (well there is a bit more, but the basic principle is the same). They are also finding very interesting to discover that their friends’ speaker is louder than theirs, for example, and they ask a lot of questions about why this might be! This is a good opportunity to use this activity in the classroom, as you could investigate whether the volume of the cup makes a difference in the intensity of the sound emitted, or the number of coils, the material of the cup, etc. And it is a nice opportunity to dig out your data loggers to measure the sound intensity and develop some interesting aspects of How Science Works. I hope you will have as much fun as we at NGfL Cymru are having with this nice idea.

Thanks to IoP for their ever amazing bank of resources and winning ideas!

The 7th Microsoft Innovative Education Forum is a one-day conference, free of charge to all teachers and educators who wish to attend and will look to address the theme of ‘Connecting Learners, Connecting Teachers.’
This forum aims to connect Teachers with Teachers, Educators with Educators. Allowing you to share expertise and learn from each other. Giving insights into how you can connect your students with technology and connect them with their learning. The forum is sponsored by the Partners In Learning Network where many teaching resources for a wide variety of subjects can be found. Have a look at the links to some Science resources (below) and keep reading if you want to attend the conference.
This year the Forum is being held at the Hilton Deansgate Hotel in Manchester on the 30th Nov.
We have a packed agenda with Keynote speakers at the event will be the world renowned Prof. Sugata Mitra famous for his ‘Hole in the wall’ project and Michael Furdyk CEO of the young person’s online community , Taking IT Global.
In addition, Delegates will be able to choose from a range of practical workshops covering areas such as using free software and Web 2.0 technology, games based learning and managing innovation in schools.
Workshop 1- TakingITGlobal – Mandeep Atwal, TIGed UK
Workshop 2- Outdoor learning & technology – David Rogers, The Geography Collective
Workshop 3- From the cloud to the classroom, making innovation stick! – Guy Shearer, Head Teacher, Lodge Park Technology College
Workshop 4- Creative use of technology in the classroom – Dan Roberts, community school
Workshop 5- Office 2010 in the Classroom – Stuart Ball – Microsoft Partners in LearningWorkshop 6- Kodu Games based learning – Nicki Maddam, Hartsdown Technology College, Margate
Find out more details about each workshop here>>
What’s on your mind?
For the first time we are holding an Innovative Teacher Meet, 29 Nov. at 7:30pm
Join us for drinks, canapés and a series of TeachMeet style pitches from leading teachers at Hilton’s vibrant Cloud 23 bar, providing 360-degree views of Manchester.
Share with like-minded teachers in a series of 3-minute open pitches.
Also, find out who are Microsoft’s 2010 Award-Winning Innovative Educators. The awards will be presented at this event, to Teachers who have submitted projects that illustrate the innovative use of technology to enhance teaching and learning. Not only will they receive award recognition, but have the chance to be invited to The European Education Forum being held in Moscow next year. These project will be on display at the event.
Don’t miss out, register today
Stuart Ball | Innovative Teachers Programme Manager | Public Sector | Microsoft Ltd
Mobile +44 (0) 7970 778 360 | Email

Register today for our free conference –

I had always thought I understood what a mind map was and that I was drawing effective mind maps until my eye was caught by a second hand book in the Oxfam Charity shop in Cardigan (West Wales). Little did I know at the time that the book I was holding in my hands was the great classic “The Mind Map Book” by Tony Buzan himself. And what is even more amazing is that it was only 10p!

I devoured the book and I soon realized I was not an expert in mind mapping after all, but quite far from it. And who was better to “hear” it from than the inventor of mind mapping himself? After reading the book (and partly while I was still reading it) I felt compelled to try the mind mapping rules the Tony Buzan talks about and it was a revelation. My maps became a lot more enjoyable both to draw and read and I could use this fantastic tool not just to remember concepts, but to create and consolidate meaning and as a planning and creative tool. Even since I have been trying to get my students to appreciate the usefulness of mind mapping in various way, as I have written and shown in my previous blog post.

Here is in a nutshell the rationale behind some of the most important rules in mind mapping explained by Tony Buzan. Its a great video, if you want to introduce mind mapping to your class in five minutes!

When I wrote the blog post on my top 5 list of features in Office 2007 I mentioned INK for Office 2007 as one of them and one of the reasons I like it so much is that you can use it in PowerPoint to create very nice mind maps that blend beautifully your own handwriting and powerful images that you can find on the internet. It is very important in the mind mapping process to have the freedom to write and draw on your map by hand and so expressing your creativity. That is why no mind mapping software has yet been able to substitute your hand in this highly effective and enjoyable activity, although iMindmap is very good and the closest to fully hand drawn mind map in my view!

Anyway, although drawing your own images is important in mind mapping, in a subject like Physics accuracy and clarity are also important. That is why using images that can be pasted on PowerPoint together with branches and words handwritten using INK (which you can find on the bottom left corner in presentation mode, or on the review ribbon, if you are using a Tablet PC) can be a very powerful tool. Well, pasting images from the internet can also save a lot of time and still make your mind map very beautiful and articulated.

I made the mind map in the above video to help my A-level Students to understand Magnetic Fields, but then it occurred to me that they would have probably been confused by it without an explanation of “my mind”. So, I decided to narrate the mind map to them! I did that in class, but I also recorded my explanation using Community Clips, so they could download it from our VLE and use it for revision any time they wanted (I would love to be able to say I can picture them with their earphones on the bus listening to my mind map on their iPods, but I can’t).

Anyway, that was the mind map and the idea was that they would have narrated the next mind map I made and the third one they would have both created and narrated. We had a very professional sounding narrator who would give a really hard time to any BBC presenter, but I didn’t think it would be fair on him to display his voice to the world without asking.

I hope you have enjoyed reading and listening to this post and that you will start using mind mapping with your classes too, if you haven’t already!

Any feedback is welcome. Thanks!

I saw this “Magic trick” performed as a lesson starter by one of the best Student Teachers I have ever observed, Bethan Rowland-Jones, who was at the time a Student Teacher in Swansea University. The lesson was an introduction to light aimed at an audience of yr 8 pupils and, as you can see from the video of the trick I reproduced below, she grabbed the children’s attention right from the start. The pupils were just spellbound!

This was an excellent icebreaker, especially because it generated many questions and discussions. But what is actually happening here? Well, there are a number of things that your students will notice.

First of all, while the level of water is rising the children can see the effects of light refracting from water to air, because it looks as if the coin is lifting up. However, they know this is impossible because the coin is under the glass and not in the water at all!

Then, when the water level is high enough, the coin seems to disappear. This is the effect of total internal reflection of light inside the water. At this angle the light reflected by the coin hits the walls inside the glass at an angle greater than the critical angle and it gets totally internally reflected back inside the glass. That is why we don’t see the coin anymore! What we see (at that particular angle) is the reflection of the wooden board on which the glass and coin are standing.

I cannot think of a smarter and simpler starter for this topic and I thought the lesson was outstanding!

There have been a few people who were not convinced by the TIR explanation, so I have added the video below and you can see how it works in this great simulation. The video should convince anyone, or at least any Physicist, that this cannot be explained in any other way than TIR as you get two reflections of the coin inside the tall glass. If the disappearing coin were an effect of merely refraction, we wouldn’t see any reflection inside the glass!

Yesterday it was quite strange not to walk in a classroom for my first day of work. After teaching for six years I am seconded for a year to work with National Grid for Learning in Wales (NGfL Cymru) as a Field Officer. I feel excited and refreshed to be part of this valuable and interesting project!

So what is NGfL Cymru and what do we do?

NGfL Cymru is a non-profit organization funded by the Welsh Assembly Government for the development and sharing of teaching and learning resources. Membership is free to any teacher and to download most of our resources you don’t even need to be logged in. Having a membership is useful though, because it gives you access to quicker and easier ways to organise and find the resources and topics you are interested in!

One of the great things about NGfL Cymru is that almost all the resources uploaded are available both in English and Welsh and this makes NGfL Cymru a unique portal for Technology-rich Leaning in Wales. And if you teach in a school in Wales you will be glad to know about our partnership with eChalk. In fact, they have agreed to allow all schools in Wales to use their resources free of charge and without the need of subscribing to anything. So, next time you find yourself in a school in Wales have a look at the resources that are available to you via eChalk, many are very good IWB lessons starters/enders.

Well, my role will mainly be that of Content Developer, which is like a dream come true for me. I will be focussing on Physics and Science, but I am hoping to have the opportunity to coordinate projects from different schools and subjects too… Oh, didn’t you know? If you are teaching in a Welsh school you can apply for an IRF (Innovative Resource Fund) which means that you can submit the proposal for the development of an innovative learning resource and either your school will be paid to release you for the time needed to develop your creative resources, or you could be paid for the work done in your own time. That is how my relationship with NGfL started! I submitted two IRFs and eventually applied for the secondment as Field Officer, and because they were so fed up with my nagging they gave me a job I suppose 😉

Please, have a look at the NGfL Cymru resources and enjoy using them with your classes, because they are there for you!