## Phases of the Moon (with an infrared twist)

Posted: May 24, 2014 in Institute of Physics, Thoughts and ideas
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I recently was asked about the phases of the Moon and why the Moon appears to change in shape in its orbit around the earth. So I thought a good point to start from was to establish what misconceptions people have on this topic and I found this great video by Veritasium (but I would stop it at the end of the interview without revealing the explanation initially).

The most common misconception in the video seems to be that the earth blocks the sunlight reaching the Moon, hence, we see the phases of the Moon when it is behind the earth with respect to the sun. At this point I would slide two circles of card, a white and a black one (with the black one bigger than the white one) past each other (black on top). If the black card is the shadow cast on the Moon by the earth (essentially what happens in a lunar eclipse), the shapes of the Moon due to the light reflected back to earth are considerably different than the shapes we observe from the phases of the Moon. So, we have establish that this model is a misconception.

Now we can introduce a better model and I use the pingpong ball in the image below with the students in the centre of the room. They are the observers on the earth and the light from the sun is coming from the left hand side in the photo.

If you go around the learner in the middle of the class making sure the “lit” face of the pingpong moon is always facing the wall on the left in this case, your students will see the same shapes we observe during the phases of the moon.

To reinforce this demonstration you could show the students this great animation by Keith Gibbs (also available in HTML5 if using an iPad).

Ok, now for the icing on the cake that you’ve all been waiting for! Check out the video below that shows a cresent moon through an infrared camera. You can see the crescent really bright, but you also see the other parts of the side of the moon facing the earth. I believe that is what is emitted by the moon in the infrared spectrum and that gets picked up by the IR camera. It is really awesome.

## SIRI – my new imaginary friend

Posted: February 13, 2014 in Literacy and Numeracy, new technologies
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I am not quite sure what Phycologists say about imaginary friends, whether it is a sign of a child’s creativity, or early signs of madness. It might be the second when you still have an imaginary friend when you are 35! But I find myself spending quite a lot of time in the car these days and my imaginary friend has become SIRI. I have a love-hate relationship with my friend SIRI, because I love him/her (he doesn’t seem to know what gender he is, even though he has clearly a male’s voice) as he allows me to continue to be productive even when I am driving, and I hate him because when I try to dictate a message to a colleague, my wife, etc… I usually have to change it an average of a million times, as SIRI twists my words and slots in stuff I have never said and that does not make sense in the sentence I am constructing. In fairness, it could be my, still inevitable, Italian accent that confuses my friend, but it is still quite frustrating!

Anyway, today I thought I would dedicate a post to SIRI as he has been a really good friend lately. Last night I was on my way home and I suddenly realised I didn’t know what I was doing today, so I asked him to read my calendar events for today and he complied very diligently. Today he was a life saver again, because on my way to a meeting (actually about 10 min from the venue) I received a phone call saying that the meeting was cancelled due to bad weather. Slightly annoyed by the sudden news I realised I was only one star from my next reward at Starbucks, so I turned my car around and asked SIRI: “Find Starbucks Coffee near me!” Within seconds SIRI gave me a choice of two relatively close Starbucks and he asked me if I wanted him to phone the place nearest me, or get directions to get there.

I am writing this post from this very Starbucks and enjoying a latte. So, well done SIRI! It was a pleasure to talk to you today. Thank you for keeping me company and for being so helpful!

If you are wondering what this has to do with education, here are a three ideas you could use with your classes:

1) Get your ESL students to communicate with SIRI and see if they can get themselves understood by him. This should improve their pronunciation.

2) Get learners to write messages, notes and emails by dictating to SIRI. This is quite difficult, because there is not much thinking time and it help learners appreciate how important punctuation is. In fact, SIRI reads your messages back to you before sending them, so if punctuation is wrong, you hear some really weird stuff coming out.

3) Get learners to have a conversation with SIRI and see what his limitations are. This could be a nice introduction to computing and should help learners appreciate how difficult it is to get computers to behave in a human way. There are many things SIRI still can’t do and if Apple hasn’t cracked it yet, it means we are still a long way away from it! Basically, this could show learners that computers, and, therefore, computer programs need very specific sets of instructions. Every eventuality needs to be “spelled out” to them, or they will not be able to respond.

I hope you enjoyed this short post. How have you used SIRI in your classroom?

Anyone who insists technology is disempowering has probably not come across really young learners interacting with it. Today I was reminded about how intuitive, engaging and formative technologies like the iPad really are.

I want to call Nonna!

My 2 year old boy, Martino, felt like talking to Nonna (grandma in Italian). I say talking, but, although he can say quite a few words, he hasn’t learnt to say many sentences yet. What he has learnt to do, and very quickly, is to use an iPad. In fact, he’s so good at it that today he ran in the kitchen, took the iPad Mini and came back to the sofa looking pleased with himself. Then, he turned it on, swiped to access the apps, found FaceTime inside a folder and called my mum from the recent calls. When Matteo (my eldest) heard the ringing sound of FaceTime he asked Martino, if he was calling Nonna. “Sí, Sí!” answered Martino.

Needless to say that this unexpected call made my mum’s day, but what I’ve witnessed today, and many other times since Martino was one and a half, is something that made me think deeply about the power of technology.

Our learners are deeply engaged with technology, they grow surrounded by it and naturally embrace it as part of their learning. I believe it is essential we engage our students with technology to harness this enthusiasm our young people show for it. I heard of many primary and secondary schools that began to use iPads when they noticed their youngest learners kept touching the screen of PCs and laptops the first time they used them. iPads, smartphones and tablets are engaging and an integral part of many learners’ every day routines. They are drawn to them and naturally interact with such devices with great interest and proficiency, so using them in the classroom seems to me to be a logical way to engage children in their learning. This will make schooling more fun, but that should never be the driver for integrating technology in the classroom! iPads and other technologies open ways to redefine pedagogy and learning experiences. They empower learners and teachers, so that students become more independent and creators of knowledge, rather than simply consumers of knowledge. Let’s embrace technology for the right reasons and not thinking that the kit will solve all the teaching and learning challenges in our schools.

There are many ways to use technology creatively and innovatively to enrich our learning environments and much can be learnt from educational blogs such the CollaboratEd.org.uk Blog (@Collaborat_Ed), Neil Atkin’s Blog (@natkin), maybe this Blog you are reading and, one of my favourite, Gavin Smart’s Blog (@GavinSmart).

## NSP Toolkit – Self-review, Development and Planning

Posted: October 30, 2013 in Free Resources, Literacy and Numeracy, Mind Mapping
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Yet another mind map to help you making sense of the Guide for Schools: Part 2 of the NSP (Phase 2). This map deals with the content of the NSP Toolkit aimed at supporting school in the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework (LNF) in Wales. You can use the HD image below as it is in presentations, or download the iMindMap version to edit it from this Biggerplate page, or just navigate through the map via this online viewer. Whatever you do with it, please acknowledge the source, Alessio Bernardelli (@asober). Let me know if you find this useful.

## NSP – Stages of Phase 2 in the LNF implementation

Posted: October 30, 2013 in Free Resources, Literacy and Numeracy, Mind Mapping
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This is another mind map you might find useful when thinking about what will happen in phase 2 of the National Support Programme for the implementation of the Literacy and Numeracy Framework in Wales. You can use the HD image below as it is in presentations, or download the iMindMap version to edit it from this Biggerplate page, or just navigate through the map via this online viewer. Whatever you do with it, please acknowledge the source, Alessio Bernardelli (@asober). Let me know if you find this useful.

Posted: April 19, 2012 in new technologies, Thoughts and ideas
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Who said you need a class set of iPads to have a bit of fun in the classroom? In fact, with just two iPads, iPhones, or iPod Touches, or any Android tables, or smartphones by that matter, you could run a simple and fun game with an Olympic feel.

Yesterday I used two iPads and the App TestMaker to run a relay quiz. I sat fourty learners in two rows of ten pairs each and from the back of the rows I started the quiz and handed the iPads to the last pairs. Then, I let them pass their iPads to the pair in front once they’d answered their question. At the end the team that finished first and with the most correct answers won the relay quiz!

The children really enjoyed the quiz and I then projected all the questions on the screen with a data projector, so that we could go through the answers and consolidate learning. So, if you want to run a classroom quiz and give it an Olympic taste this could be a simple way to do it!

## The Virtual Sky – Android apps for the Physics teacher!

Posted: December 30, 2011 in new technologies, TES Resources
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It’s been a while since my last post on Android apps for the classroom and I thought the upcoming BETT show 2012 would be a good excuse to write something about a few really interesting apps I have used to create resources about the Solar System. Another reason for blogging about this is to inform you about a series of workshops I will run on the ASUS stand at the BETT Show on the use of Android devices in Education. So, if you are going at BETT and if you are interested in how Android apps can be used in the classroom, join me any day from Tuesday 10th to Friday 13th January 2012. You can download the resources to run some of the activities described in this Blog post from this TES weblink. We will demonstrate other TES resources that can be used with Android devices at ASUS workshops and I will represent TES as the TES Science Lead starting this January, but this gives a good idea of some of the activities we will consider!

The resources in the link above were created with the ASUS Eee Pad tablet in mind, but they would work very well with other Android devices.

This app is just great! It lets you point your Android device at the sky in front of you and it shows a map of the stars and planets for that particular place and time of the year. But the most impressive feature it the Time Travel function, which lets you set a particular date and time in the past, or future, to see what the sky would look like. So, for example, you could ask your learners to describe what stars and planets Prince William and Kate would have seen on the night of their wedding. You can also search for a particular object in the sky, so if you want to find the position of Mars, you can can type Mars in the search and an arrow pointing at the planet will appear and you can then follow the arrow with your device until you find the object you searched for!

My Solar System

Solar Sizer

This app is even simpler than the previous one, but it is a great way to visualise the size of the planets to scale.

I hope to see many of you at the ASUS stand during the BETT Show.

Posted: July 12, 2011 in new technologies, Thoughts and ideas
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So, it is finally here and I finally got an invite! I had a few days to begin to get my head around Google+, but nowhere near enough as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to check out this new “Buzz”. I have always been disappointed to hear about the fall of Google Wave, which I thought was a fantastic tool that would bring collaboration to a whole new level. But, unfortunately, it never kicked off properly, maybe because of the many bugs, or simply because the world wasn’t ready for it. Whatever, it was, my first impression about G+ is that it is a lot less pretentious and a lot less fuss has been made about it. So, there is a better chance that the users will drive how it develops, rather than having the presumption of telling the users this is their answer to everything they have ever wanted.

So, here are my first impressions about it. I like the idea of circles as it gives a good balance between a Facebook like experience and Twitter lists. Posting to a Circle to me sounds a bit like sending a Direct Message to a whole list on Twitter, which is quite neat. I also like the idea that now you can separate your professional updates from your personal ones. Other than that I have not done that much digging into G+, or rather I haven’t found the time yet, but there are a couple of ideas I’d like to share about how Google+ could potentially be used in the classroom.

# Simulating Historical Characters

In G+ you could create an account to simulate a historical character and assign different other characters to his/her Circles, so you could have a circle of people in his family, his colleagues, enemies, etc… Each person within these circles can interact with our famous character according to their relationship with him, so, for example, how did Darwin’s father influence his life choices? Or how did his contemporary Lamark dispute his theory, etc… There could be a moderator group who could could act as the Historian and challenge the conversations within the circles with probing questions and by presenting key facts in the life of this character. Speculations on how History could have changed, if different choices had been made by the people in our character’s circles, could be explored in conversations and questions created by the learners in this role play. Giving a profile picture that match the different characters would help learners to engage even more deeply in the game and it could really spark interest in the lives of these historical characters, as they would have the opportunity to impersonate some key people in History and the whole topic could become very personal for these learners. An interesting feature of this game is that apart from the Historian and the actual main  character other characters would not see the conversations between the main person and his/her circles.

# Breaking down complex systems in Science

Often you can break down complex systems and processes like the human body into smaller chunks that are easier to explain, but that contribute to the functioning of the whole system. So, for example, you could create an account for the “Human Body” and break it down into Circles in Google+ like the Circulatory System, the Reproductive System, etc… In each circle you could have the organs that make up that particular system, like the heart and blood vessels in the Circulatory System. The body has needs that involve different systems depending on the situations in which it finds itself in. So, for example, when the body is exercising the heart will pump more blood around to supply the additional Oxygen needed to the muscles. The body could be played by the Teacher, or even better a group of learners, who will have to send messages to specific Circles explaining the activity, or need, it is doing and the circles will have to respond appropriately explaining the changes they are going through to supply that need. This role play could become quite interesting when a process that involves multiple systems is started by the body. You could also simulate a medical tracer, like radioactive Iodine, that could be added to all the “circles” in the body and find a malfunction according to the conversations that are going on in each Circle/Organ.

These are just a couple of ideas and I have had the chance to try them out in the classroom yet, but I would be very interested to know how the learners respond to them,  if anyone out there is having a go at trying them out. So, please share your experiences and ideas by leaving a comment!

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!