Posts Tagged ‘Creative’

Aaron was only 10 when he introduced me to WordPress and blogging. It is thanks to him that this blog ever started, so it fills me with joy to be able to blog again about another great achievement of his in the world of technology.

Now that he is 16 and in the midst of his GCSE exams, he has developed his first game for the iPhone/iPod. This was his personal project that he set himself over the Christmas holidays. He was not prompted by his ICT teacher, nor set this as a homework from school, just his own interest in coding and developing something good and rewarding.

You can find his game, which is actually really good and, in my opinion, stands up there with the big viral and highly addictive games like Doodle Jump, Angry Birds and Flappy Birds, here. RFLKTR is a really engaging game that uses mirrors you draw on the screen to guide a laser beam through gaps in the walls it encounters as it travels in space. This really interesting and stimulating feature of the game, which sounds easy, but believe me it is really hard, makes it a really engaging tool for Physics teachers when teaching Reflection of light!


At the moment the game doesn’t seem to work on the iPad, but I am sure a later release will fix this and I would love to have other features of light that could be used to guide the laser beam across the screen. For example, it would be awesome to have blocks of glass and other materials of different refractive index appearing every now and again so that the player could move them in front of the incoming beam as well as changing their angle, so the beam can be refracted instead of reflected with these special items, etc…

Please shout out about this game and download it, because I believe learners who take their own initiative to create something like this deserve to be recognised for their effort and creativity!

I have always found it is quite hard to show the path of the current in a bridge rectifier to A-level students using diodes alone. The diodes are tiny, for a start, and you end up following the wire with your finger around, but students seem to get lost in the process. I still introduce the rectifier using diodes and one thing I show them is that even using a DC voltmeter doesn’t change the sign. This is convincing for some, but it is still nice to be able to give further proof of what’s going on.

The diagram might also help, because it is easier to follow the path around.

Bridge Rectifier

However, I have started building rectifiers with LEDs alongside the diode version and it works a treat. The first thing I show them is the circuit on DC current. Only two of the four LED light up, so I can ask “What would happen, if I reverse the polarity?” They now seem to get it and they often answer correctly that the other two LED will light up. I change the polarity several times to simulate the two half-waves, as in the images below.

Then, I get the spinning wheel we use to observe ripples in the ripple tank (the one with gaps, I can’t remember the name) and put the LED rectifier on AC. The result can be seen in the video below.

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.

IMG_1666Needless 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 Blog (@Collaborat_Ed), Neil Atkin’s Blog (@natkin), maybe this Blog you are reading and, one of my favourite, Gavin Smart’s Blog (@GavinSmart).

It’s been a while since my last post, so my fingers are itching now, especially because what I am going to write about had virtually no input from me. My four boys have been completely immersed in Minecraft for quite a few months now. In particular, they love playing together on two iPads and an iPhone, so they can cooperate, send messages to each other and they’ve even made three beds in each of the houses they built, so they can sleep together in any house they find themselves in when it gets dark (and for those who are not familiar with Minecraft you better go to sleep when it gets dark, or zombies and creepers will come to get you).

A self organised geography lesson

One day my six year old invited the other two, four and eight respectively (the two year old can use the iPad very well, but on Minecraft he tends to destroy stuff, so it’s better to leave him out of a creative session 😉 ), to join him in his Olympic Games. So, they set off to build flags for each country (well, just a few actually, but I was pleased they added Italy). They found out what colours the flags for the countries they wanted to add were and made them out of Minecraft blocks. You can see the results below.











A bit of Literacy

Then, they created various games. There was a ring for sword fighting, a hurdle race track and even target shooting. The boys also placed some signs with some basic rules for the games, as you can see below.



And finally a bit of numeracy

Now it was time to mark out the difficulty of the target shooting game, so they added some signs to show how far from the target the archers should stand for an easy, medium and hard shooting session. This shows how you can develop “using number and measuring skills” through a video game that kids find incredibly engaging. So engaging, in fact, that they set off to create what became (in my opinion) a great learning journey completely independently. I believe this is a really nice example of a SOLE (Self Organised Learning Environment) that Sugata Mitra talks about and that the nature of the game, the intuitiveness of iPads and the ability to collaborate in real time from different devices facilitated this process many folds.


The power of technology

I’ve always been fascinated by the way very young learners interact with new technologies, and it was observing my nephew searching the internet when he was ten that prompted me to start this Blog, but I have never seen anything as powerful as an iPad in allowing children to create their own learning journeys. I watch my two year old who can get in and out of the apps he wants, build helicopters in the Lego app and fly them, call my mum with FaceTime (it’s true! It happened several times), etc… Then, I see my four year old who since he was three could create amazing buildings and objects in Minecraft at a speed that makes me feel dizzy, or my six and eight year old boys who use iPads to search for information they are interested in, find video tutorials on YouTube that show them how to create portals in Minecraft that take them to other worlds, etc… and I see so much that I am proud of. But I also see a fantastic tool that empowers them to learn through play. If they can learn things by themselves using these amazing technologies, think about how much more could be done in the classroom with them!

I recently came across this awesome tool – DropTask – that allows you to manage and organise your projects in a very visual and intuitive way and I have to say that I am already falling in love with it. You can create new events in your project, drag them around the project space and even gather them in groups. All this is done using colours to help you visualise and organise your tasks better.

But this is not the end of the story! DropTask is also the ultimate collaborative project management tool and, although it is still in beta and I can see more features coming, it lets you invite your collaborators to join your projects and see at what stage of the project they are. It becomes really easy then to keep track of your team’s performance and manage everyone’s tasks and feedback.

I know people who even take notes in Excel and I find that really strange. This tool is probably not for them, or maybe it is and they don’t realise it, but if you are a visual thinker, this is the best tool for organising your work I have seen in years. Just take a look at the video below and judge for yourself!

After a long period of hybernation the Croesy Physics online channel is about to become active again with a very exciting project that will see Croesyceiliog Yr13 Physics Students collaborating with learners at John Cabot Academy in Bristol to create and broadcast live online revision clubs!

Helen Rogerson (@hrogerson) is John Cabot’s Head of Physics and she will support her students once a forenight in creating and broadcasting their sessions from Bristol, and I (@asober) will do the same with my students from Cwmbran. We will take it in turn to broadcast on our Croesy Physics Livestream channel and we would love to see many of you watching live and engaging with our students. In fact, there will be a 10 minutes Q&A session at the end of each event for the people who are watching from other schools, or from home. People can ask questions using the Livestream chat on the online channel, or by using the twitter hash tag #croesybot.

Our live revision clubs will be broadcast live every Tuesday between 15.15 and 15.45 and our first event will be on the 15th November with the topic “The Motor Effect”

Each session will also be available on demand after the event and we hope that our service will become a really useful revision tool for our learners as well as for students in other schools across the world!

Please support our efforts by watching, chatting, sharing, tweeting, etc…

For help on setting up a similar activity see these resources I have uploaded on the TES website.

Last week I finally got round doing something I had wanted to do with my Yr11 classes for a long time. We acted a Displacement – Time graph. This might not sound amazing to you and I have done a similar activity in the past, but this time the difference was that my learners could actually check their outcomes very quickly and without having to guess if their movements reflected the D-T graph faithfully, as they could use what I think is one of the best iPhone/iPad App for Physics, the Vernier Video Physics app!

Indeed, we could have used cameras to record the videos and upload the videos on our laptops to use with Tracker, but the versatility of an iPad and the simplicity of the Vernier Video Physics app made things very easy and intuitive.

So, what’s this activity about? Well, the learners split into groups of 3-4 and analyse the graph below.

Then, they organise themselves to act the graph. So, one person will walk along a straight line to mimic the graph, whilst the others in the group could help signposting important parts of the graph, as well as keeping the time.

You can see how the Vernier Video Physics app renders the video after tracking the object in each photogram. The images at the end are the displacement and velocity analysis after the tracking has been completed!

What do you think? Is this group representing the graph well?

I have the great pleasure of introducing my first Guest Blogger, Zvi Schreiber, who is a really interesting Author. He looks at the teaching and learning of Physics from a very different angle with his brand new book Fizz: Nothing as it seems.

Thanks Alessio for inviting me to Alessio’s Blog, to talk about why I chose to present the history and principles of physics in a non-traditional way: through a fictional novel, named “Fizz”.

Years ago I learned physics in the traditional way – text books, equations, lots of exercises. I loved it. But coming back to physics after years in the world of business, I found that my high school and college education had completely neglected other aspects of physics – and that those other aspects are fascinating to a wider audience who perhaps don’t like equations.

Firstly the physicists. Revisiting physics I learned more about Galileo’s mortal struggle with the Pope who had previously been a personal friend, and his battle against the entrenched two-thousand-year-old ideas of Aristotle. As the first physicist, Galileo showed incredible flare for presenting his ideas to a hostile public and willingness to risk his life.

I learned that Isaac Newton spent more time on alchemy than physics, and that his unpleasant personality may have been amplified by mercury poisoning. Michael Faraday, inventor of the electric motor and generator, was an apprentice bookbinder, the uneducated son of a blacksmith. William Herschel’s sister, overcame dwarfism and family prejudice to become an important astronomer in her own right.

These are just a few of the inspiring stories I had missed in school. The great physicists were real people and I wanted to present them as such.

Secondly many concepts in physics evoke an emotional as well as rational response. The vastness of the universe. The strange idea of action at a distance – introduced by Newton, eliminated by Einstein, reintroduced in quantum mechanics. The idea of an orderly deterministic universe attacked with the successive discoveries of entropy, chaos, and eventually random quantum fluctuations. Some hints at a possible multiverse. A novel allows me to explore Fizz’s response, as a young woman, to these weird revelations about the universe we call home.

There was an important precedent for an edu-novel – Sophie’s World – which helped me and millions of others to learn about philosophy in the 90s. I hope that now Fizz will take her turn alongside Sophie, and help a few people to learn more about our universe and about the bizarre series of people who explored it.

Zvi Schreiber is author of Fizz: Nothing is as it seems a new edu-novel about physics – see


Back to me now, Alessio :-), because I would like to give you my impressions about the book. I read it during the summer holidays and it was a really enjoyable and easy read. The book reads very well and it always leaves you with the need to read and learn more at the end of every chapter. I am sure it is partly thanks to Physics, but the way Fizz explores and discovers the laws of Physics is truly fascinating and a great way to learn something about the History of Physics, as well as getting a coherent overview of the laws of Physics which are all connected to each other and not a “modular exam” 🙂

I also like the fact that there are virtually no formulae, not because I don’t like equations, but because it helps the learners to focus on the processes and it reinforces Physics concepts without distracting too much from the narration. Moreover, the situations Zvi built in the novel are memorable and give you that sense of awe and amazement the Scientists mentioned in the novel must have felt in those great moments of discovery!

Another really nice aspect of the book is that the main character is a school age girl who has a genuine passion for how the universe works and she is ready to risk everything to satisfy her thirst for knowledge. This will hopefully encourage and inspire girls to pursue a Physics career!

Nothing happens randomly in Zvi’s book and even the many truly unexpected twists that occur are used as analogies to explain Physics concepts and, believe me, one of these twists you will never guess until you get to those pages 😉

Our Yr12 and 13 will be part of a pilot project this year to test the effectiveness of Fizz’s great adventure in motivating students to learn about Physics and in raising standards. So, watch this space as I will post our learners progress and their impressions on the book.

If you have read, or are reading the book, please leave your impressions as comments to this post!

In my previous post I showed the first part of my boys’
story mind map, i.e. the mind map we designed together to tell the story they
were creating. We used iMindMap 5 because we wanted eventually to narrate their
story by recording audio comments on branches. That turned out to be a really
effective and creative process. Having the mind map as their main structure for
the story allowed the boys (4 and 6) to not only see the whole picture, but
also to break down the story in little chunks that they could narrate very
easily. In fact, on each branch they could record their voices narrating what
the branches represented. This was telling the story itself and by playing back
each branch’s audio comment they could listen to their story and show Mamma
(Italian for Mum) their creation and impress her!

We couldn’t upload the new version of their mind map (with
audio comments) on Biggerplate, because it is too big, but you can watch a video of their narrated story below.

I believe that this process could be extremely useful in
story writing, as it helps learners to design a coherent story and see how the
whole story unfolds in their mind map, as well as splitting the story into
branches that the learners can narrate. It will then become very easy to
transfer their story from their iMindMap 5 audio maps into paper, or a blog!

Please, leave a comment to my boys mind map, as they will be
very pleased to see others appreciate their work!


Today I had great fun with my four and six year old boys (my two year old was also helping) in creating a story using a mind map. The whole idea came from an inspiration I had earlier from the ThinkBuzan newsletter, which encouraged parents to do fun activities with iMindMap 5, one of them being creating a story. When I read their Blog post I though it was a lovely idea, but with none of my boys being a confident writer I though it wouldn’t really apply to us. Then, I started thinking straight and realised that in mind mapping little words and many images mean greated imaginative and associative power, especially with iMindMap 5, where all you need to do to add your images is Google for what you are looking for, copy and paste into your branch. And that’s exactly what we did!

We started off by thinking of a title for our story and that was a bit of a challenge in itself, because I realised Matteo (6) didn’t really know the meaning of “Title”, but once we got through the idea that it tell what the story is about he came up with a very suitable title for their Star Wars based story (and what else could it be about?). Then, we split our mind map into four main branches; Characters, Places, Weapons and Battles. I was very pleased to find out that Matteo (a very, very reluctant writer) was quite willing to write the words on the branches and that he was quite good too! It brought back to me the power of engagement and active learning… he was excited about writing his own story, about what really interests him, so writing all of a sudden became a pleasure and not a burden 🙂

The rest was easy, because all we had to do was to Google the images the boys were choosing to make their story and paste them in the relevant branches, as you can see from the mind map we created below.

A Mind Map Story by very young learners

With the battles I asked the boys to decide who was fighting who and in what places. Basically they were beginning to storyboard their story using the power of associations that this mind map gave them. We came up with some conventions. The double arrows show who is fighting in our story, but if the arrows are red, it means the villain wins, and if the arrows are blue, the heroes are prevailing 🙂 simple but effective. The battles will take place in the places linked to each battle by the dotted arrows!

As my first attempt to mind map with my little boys I was extremely pleased to see such interest and creativity going on. Mind mapping truly is the “Swiss Knife of the brain” as Tony Buzan often refers to, and I will try to transfer my passion for mind mapping to my children more actively in the future. iMindMap 5 is a really powerful tool for mind mapping, because it allows anyone, even bad Artists like me to create very visual and effective mind maps in very little time.

A feature that we will add in the next few days to our Mind Map Story is a narration of the story following branches and by adding audio comments, another great feature in iMindMap 5. If you want to download my boys’ mind map you can find it on my Biggerplate account.