Archive for January, 2011

I had the great pleasure of meeting a fellow Italian at Collabor8 4 Change during BETT 2011 who introduced me to one of the most innovative ideas I have come across recently, Dabblerr.

Silvia Lombardo (silvia@dabblerr.com) is the Vice President of Communication e Co-Founder and this is what she says about Dabblerr:

“At Dabblerr you have the chance to post anything you’d want to learn from any expert suggested by you,

of your choice at no cost. Once a high demand is reached we’ll inform the expert to organise a live
online training session with him/her at no cost for our users.  It is a win-win enabler which flipped
the traditional educational system to make it by demand. The website will be also used for
statistics/marketing research purposes, as we will be inserting graphs and charts.
It is a crowdsourcing educational model invented by TED fellow, inventor, entrepreneur, innovator Apurv Mishra.
We are looking for publicity or just simply knowing what you’d love to learn.”
Wouldn’t it be great if, whilst studying English Literature, your students could ask J.K. Rowling how to write a book? And have a real interaction with her?
Have a look at their website for some inspiration, and if there is anything that you and/or your students want to learn from the source, then just ask and you might build enough interest to actually get your wish!
I think Dabblerr is a really interesting way to personalize learning and if they crack it, this could really transform the way people learn about things and, in particular, about what they are really interested about!

Last night I had the great pleasure and privilege to give an online workshop on Livestream and how my Yr10 classes used it to produce a “TV Show” on the EM Spectrum on our Croesy Physics TV channel (you can read more information about the project here). The CPD was organised by the great @stevebunce who works for Vital, an agency that provides great courses and opportunities for teachers’ professional development in England. I had joined two of these online workshops before as a spectator, and had the good fortune to see @deputymitchell showing the great work he does with his Primary Blogs!

Vital uses a service called Elluminate, which allowed me to stream my face (the least interesting part of the course) from a webcam and/or send a screencast to all the attendees. I was quite amazed to find that I could even show Livestream and Procaster in action and I was broadcasting live on our NGfL Cymru Live channel on Livestream, whilst running the course on Elluminate. It was also very nice to be able to answer the questions from the audience that were posted on the chat room in Elluminate. You can now see the recording of the session here.

This service that Vital provides is one of the best opportunities for CPD I have ever experienced. It just takes half an hour of your time and at a time of the day which is quite convenient to most people (even someone who has three little boys to put to bed like me)! In a time of financial difficulties that is seeing many schools tightening their CPD budget, Vital is showing great initiative,  innovation and real understanding of teachers’ needs.

Thanks Steve for another great opportunity.

This sound like a really interesting competition. Get your kids to Rap about Science! Writing poem, rhymes and songs is a really engaging way for students to remember and understand Science concepts more deeply. In fact, writing a song which has certain parameters and with rhymes is a fantastic tool that helps learners to develop not only Literacy skills, but also thinking. A Rapper often uses his/her wit and humour to get their message across with the interesting way they have to play on words. Transferring this skill to Science is really useful, because it can help learners to represent difficult scientific concepts in a more memorable way and think deeply about the meaning of physical, chemical and biological processes as well as building their own models to consolidate understanding.

A good example is the first verse of this poem written by one of my yr 12 pupils last year:

The photoelectric effect is easy

UV light hits the metal causing it to become a little queasy

The metal releases a photoelectron without a fight

More electrons are released when the intensity is increased of the light

You can download the full leaflet about this competition launched by Hands on Science here HOS Rap competition A4

I am sooooo pleased to announce that the fantastic online TV show our Yr10 pupils produced last year, the one and only “EM Spectrum Show“, was awarded first prize at the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards at BETT 2011!

My Yr10 students put together a really creative programme of resources that we used to broadcast live as our “EM Spectrum Show!” on the 17th December 2009. The original plan was to broadcast from the school, but unfortunately our school network filtered the stream from our classroom, so my students and I decided to record their work and broadcast the show live from my house. In many ways this turned out to be a very valuable alternative, because it meant the world to our children to be able to watch the show from their houses and know that leading Educators like, Les Foltos (Director of edLAB Puget Sound Center for Teaching), from across the globe were watching and praising the educational value of their work. Also, the students’ parents could watch the show with their children and become involved and engaged with their learning on a completely new level.
What I like most about this project is that our children chose to use free software for the majority of their work, but still produced a really engaging, creative, rich and fun programme that contained a wealth of really good Science in it! We used mainly free Microsoft software like Photo Story 3, Songsmith, Movie Maker and Community Clips, and we created our very own online TV Channel with Livestream (http://www.livestream.com/croesyphysics). Some people get the impression that to create really innovative and engaging activities for our children they need state of the art equipment and spend large sums of money, but I believe this project proves just the opposite. In fact, all our students had was a laptop between two, or three, and a headset with microphone and still got involved in true active learning!
Winning the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards is simply amazing, because we know we were against other fantastic projects.
We would like to thank all the people who supported and believed in our project and especially ASUS for their overwhelming generosity, which will allow us to continue to engage even more regularly in projects like this one! In fact, we will now have the really difficult task to choose from their amazing range of great hardware and spend the £7500 award they so kindly offered to support these awards. By sponsoring an initiative like the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards ASUS has shown that they put innovation and education at the heart of what they do and I am proud to be sponsored by such a company!

After a whole and very intense day at BETT 2011 I am really shuttered, but I am so excited and inspired about the great things I have seen and the great Educators I could network with that I feel compelled to blog about the Thursday at BETT 2011!

The day started off by finding good old friends at the Microsoft stand (you can’t really miss it). Stuart Ball (@innovateach) and Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) looked fab in their MS blue polo shirts 🙂 and it was hilarious to spot Dan using an iPhone 4 near the stand with his polo (that naughty chicken).

Then, I had the privilege to represent our yr10 pupils at Croesyceiliog School at the ASUS Stand (K29) and present our “EM Spectrum Show” as one of three finalists in the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards and it would be great if you took 10 seconds of your time at BETT 2011 to vote for us. Just drop a dark blue ball in the long perspex tube at the stand, please! I was getting all excited when two foreign guys walked towards me and asked for a ball. I handed a dark blue ball to them and told them to put it in the tall tube with a smile, but they thanked me for the ball and walked away with it, obviously not understanding what the ball was for 😦 I was at the stand for over an hour and I had a good look at their excellent equipment and I have to say that I was well impressed by two things in particular; their Tablet netbooks (I just loved the portability and how versatile they felt and also the very competitive price) and their laptops. Again I was really impressed by the value for money of these machines! I had a complete tour by Jonathan and he showed me their awesome 3d glasses on their laptops too and their new Android Tablets. It’s well worth spending a few minutes at this impressive stand and seriously considering some of their kits for your pupils.

After lunch I went to get Dan for our joint session at the BrainPOP stand as part of the TeachMeet Takeover. They are great supporters of TeachMeet and they will make a Tim and Moby video to advertise your local TeachMeet events if you ask nicely. They also throw in some nice freebies to give out at your events! By the way have seen their iPhone App? It is awesome and my three little boys absolutely love it (especially Moby nodding when they get the right answer!). My theme was “Why is broadcasting our kids work a confidence booster?” and I am repeating the same talk tomorrow (Friday) at the Scholastic stand at 12.30, still with Dan stealing 7 minutes from me ;-). I hope to see you there! Dan was showing the great stuff Saltash.net (his school) does with Web 2.0 tools, hand held devices, etc… (really worthwhile attending our team TeachMeet Takeover)!

Then, I did spend a few minutes on our NGfL Cymru stand J59 and had a chat which some lovely people that stopped to look at our free resource and took with them our free Thinking Tools CD!

The day ended with a great and inspiring event; the Collabor8 4 Change. Great talks for about an hour and then into tables for 4 x 20 min sessions. I lead one of the tables and was really privileged to meet so many passionate colleagues. The discussions that everyone generated were really thought provoking and enjoyable! I was presenting two sessions. One was the same as the TeachMeet Takeover and the other one was “Why can’t my kids mindmap?”. In both sessions the questions and answers from the Educators on my table really helped me reflect on issues I had not thought about before. The event ended with a really cool video shown by Steve Bunce (@stevebunce) from Vital of his two year old boy playing with an iPad and it was just amazing to see how he could choose and use different apps and get really really excited about it. Steve’s theme was about how quickly technology changes and the possibilities that these changes open up for our children’s development and learning.

I am looking forward to another great day at BETT tomorrow!

I am very proud and privileged to announce that Croesyceiliog School, for the second time in a row, will be represented at BETT for the great and innovative work its pupils produced in Physics. Last year our Yr12 students received a laptop each for their great News Report on how we used Google Wave to create a collaborative Physics revision club, but this year our “EM Spectrum Show” (that our Yr10 pupils produced to be broadcast live on the 17th December 2009) has been shortlisted  as one of three Finalists in U.K. at the Guardian Classroom Innovation Awards.

I am very grateful for all those who voted for our project and we hope you will continue to support us. We will present our project at BETT in the next few days and we would love you to come to the ASUS stand (K29) and vote for our project. I will present our project at stand K29 (ASUS) on Thursday 13th January at 11 am, so make sure you come and see us, if you are at BETT!

Thanks again for all your support.

It is quite amazing what you can learn by a simple visit to your old school (well I am on a Secondment, so it is still my school…). And it is quite scary, because I got this really cool demonstration by the guy who is covering me for this year and I am starting to fear they will want to get rid of me to keep him :-S

His name is Jonathan Wallace and he is an NQT at Croesyceiliog School (Cwmbran in Sunny Wales) you can contact him at jonny.wallace@live.co.uk

Anyway, have you ever seen the trick of the jelly marbles disappearing in water? Well that happens because these marbles are superabsorbent polymers that get filled with water when the come in contact with it, so when you put them into water they seem to disappear, because, being filled with water they have the same refraction index as the water surrounding them, i.e. light goes straight through them without being refracted (bent)! There is a really nice explanation of this phenomenon on Steve Spangler’s blog and you can buy these jelly marbles quite cheaply here.

But what William (Oops, I meant Jonathan) showed me a really nice twist, especially because it uses items that are a bit more familiar to the kids than some superabsorbent polymers, although they are really cool! William (Blow! I’ve done it again, I meant Jonathan) pours glycerine in a Pirex beaker and an empty (and very clean) test tube inside.

At this point you can still see the test tube inside the beaker, because the air inside the tube refracts the light going through it! But what would happen if we add Glycerine inside the test tube too?

Magic! The test tube disappears in the Glycerine! So, has the Glycerine dissolved the glass of the test tube, is it real Magic, or just another wonder of Physics? What does really happen here?

The answer is quite simple and it is very similar to the jelly marbles. The Pirex and Glycerine have the same (or at least very similar) refraction index and, therefore, light is not refracted at their boundaries and carries on through its path undisturbed by refractive effects, which means that the test tube appears to be invisible!

Thanks to William Wallace (again? Sorry, I meant Jonathan; I know it’s not funny if you are not a member of staff at Croesy, but I have to take the mick) for this great demonstration!