Posts Tagged ‘Innovative’

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!

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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 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).

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!

I recently came across Leap Motion and I am getting one!

Technology has moved on in great strides in the last few years and user interface devices are more and more amazing and immersive. This morning, for example, I was playing Star Wars Kinect on the X-box with my boys and you really feel like you are a Jedi fighting real villains, and I have always dreamed of being a Jedi since I was a little boy. Now my children can really play at being Jedi knights in very realistic ways! When they kick, their Jedi avatar kicks their opponent and it all feels and looks so cool.

But as cool and innovative as the Kinect is, I think Leap Motion promises to give an interesting extra dimension to user interfaces. Just check the video and see what I mean. I can see technologies like this leading to stuff like miniature robotic tools inserted in patients and a surgeon controlling the operation by waving their hands and fingers over a Leap Motion kit, or if you need to learn sign language there will be software that gives you feedback when you get things right, or even better that could decode people who use sign language to communicate and write/say what they are signing. Enjoy the video and please leave feedback and share.

It is undeniable that Apple brought the whole world into the third millenium with a series of innovations that not even visionary film directors like Ridley Scott could have even imagined in a not so distant past when he made Blade Runner. A really creative story that places genetic engineering at the heart of amazing developments that allows to create “replicants” with superhuman powers. I watched the film recently and two things that caught my attention were the time in which it was set, 2019, and the fact that when Harrison Ford is waiting for his noodles he is reading a newspaper. What? A newspaper? In 2019? Yes, we still have newspapers and we might still have them in 2019, but try taking a trip in the London Tube and see how many people read their books, newspapers, or look at their photos on paper! Most likely you will see an array of electronic devices ranging from smartphones, Kindles, iPads and other tablets. So in 2013 we have well surpassed the technology imagined by Scott for 2019, apart for being able to create “replicants” of course 😉

All this was brought to us by Apple and all other attempts to copy Apple’s astounding technology owe the Cupertino team an enormous amount of respect and gratitude, no doubt.

Today, in 2013, only two platforms are seriously competing for the biggest cut of the market “cake”. Apart from Apple and Android, mainly thanks to the beauty and functionality of Apple devices and the ever growing app market for both, no other competitor can seriously pose a threat for these two giants. But is the balance beginning to shift towards one of these two wrestlers? MBA thinks so and they have created this awesome infographics to illustrate the current state of affairs between Android and Apple. There are some interesting figures there and they will surprise some of you, as they surprised me. Enjoy!

ANDROID-MBA

Last night we had our first TeachMeet entirely dedicated to the teaching of Physics in Gloucestershire and despite the inclement weather and illnesses a few teachers from the region managed to come and give some great presentations! A particular thank you goes to Helen Rogerson (@hrogerson) who took the time to record two videos for us to watch. And that’s what we did! In fact, the TeachMeet began with Helen’s 7 minutes video which showed some great stuff she does wit their learners and parents with revision. Of particular interest to the participants was the part on Electromagnetic Induction, which sparked a series of interesting discussions and caused us to go back and watch the lovely demonstrations several times. This was indeed a lovely part of our TeachMeet that I believe stood out from others I have attended and organised in the past. In fact, it is quite easy to rush through all the presentations trying to fit everyone in and forget about allowing the participants time for discussion and to network. But last night ideas on alternative ways to use the equipment and extensions to the demos were freely flowing and created a very relaxed atmosphere from the very beginning.

Next, IoP award winner Kevin Betts showed a great demo of “Dancing Waves” on custard on the cone of a speaker. You can see his Magic in the video below.

Steve Rice was up next showing us how he uses  a sparkler attached to a drill to simulate the gravitational attraction between the earth and the moon. As the sparkler spins around the drill, the sparks fly along the tangent to the circle drawn by the sparkling tip, which helps the learners visualise what would happen if the gravitational pull between the two heavenly bodies suddenly disappeared. I liked this demonstration because it allows the learners to think outside the box and stretch their understanding in the realm of the abstract.

Below is a video of these two lovely demonstrations.

After that it was my turn to talk about how I used one of the best iPhone/iPad apps I have ever come across, the Vernier Video Physics, with my learners. You can find this resources on the TES website here. It was also the first time I publicly announced my new role as Science Lead at TES commencing in January and I explained that, although I occasionally use it already, I will actively interact with the Twitter sphere using @TESScience from then.

We closed the TeachMeet with our sponsors’ raffle, which included a very generous box full of Nelson Thornes books, ranging from GCSE revision guides to a Muncaster tome 4th edition. ThinkBuzan also offered a free copy of their Mind Mapping software iMindMap 5 Ultimate (the last two links are affiliate links, so Google iMindMap 5 instead, if you are bothered by this sort of thing).

Two other teachers emailed me apologising they couldn’t attend due to illness, but they sent links to interesting stuff that they would have shared in person, if they had been there. The first is the YouTube video below about mixing colours with glow sticks shared by Bernadette Willey.

The other tool is Poll Everywhere shared by Lewis Matheson, which seems a really neat tool to use with mobile devices!

I thoroughly enjoyed myself last night and I learnt a lot (as usual) from innovative colleagues in the Gloucestershire Network. I hope to see many more at our next events in the new year.

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 am finally finding literally 5 minutes to catch up with a few things I have been doing since the beginning of the term and I wanted to share with you how I am using kidblog.org to create collaborative feedback between different schools and cross-phase. Our Yr12 Blog is here.

I believe allowing our learners to Blog is a powerful learning strategies for a number of reasons. Firstly, our students get a real audience and are more likely to take their assignments seriously and be enthused by the thought of communicating their work to the world. That is why it is so important for them to see comments appearing on their posts, as they get the feeling that their efforts are appreciated by others! Also, comments are a powerful and simple means to peer assess each other’s work, as well as, obviously, for the teacher to leave some feedback too.

So, I introduced my Yr12 to our CroesyPhysics Blog and set a couple of assignments for them. The first is something I have been doing for the last couple of years and it is about the learners writing poems to describe the Photoelectric Effect, more about it on this previous Blog post. But the second was a collaboration between our Yr12 learners and a Yr6 class  at Highlawn Primary School. In these Blog posts our learners had to explain energy levels and photon absorption and emission to an audience of 10 year old pupils. You can read the Blog post to set the assignment here. Our Yr12 students could present this Physics topic in whatever form they wanted, but it was very clear to the majority of the Bloggers that they needed to find a way to get their message across in a simple and coherent way, and that they could not assume anything, not even that the Yr6 learners would know what an electron, or an atom is!

So, I gave them a link to the PowerPoint I would have normally shown them on the topic and told them to use that and their text books to gather the information they needed to support their creations. I was pretty confident they would not copy and paste, because if they had, they would have failed to be understood by the Yr6 learners, who are reading our Blog posts and leaving comments to feedback on our students’ presentation, clarity and accuracy. It must be said that the comments we have had so far are really thorough and very well written for learners of that age! Learners at Highlawn Primary certainly know what it means to reflect on learning.

I think we’ve had some really good Blog post so far and this excercise has been useful for our learners, but I would love to hear your opinions and if you can spare a couple of minutes, please read through some of our learners’ work and leave a comment for them here! They will be thrilled to see others value their work.