## 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 – 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.

## National Support Programme (NSP) – Phases Activity

Posted: October 29, 2013 in Free Resources, Literacy and Numeracy, Mind Mapping
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I am preparing for the 2nd Cluster Meetings in my role of NSP Partner and I am going through part 2 of the Guide for Schools and since I understand things better when I mind map them, here is a mind map of the Phases Activity diagram on page 38 of the document. I hope you will find it useful.

You can download the iMindMap version of the image below from this Biggerplate page, or navigate the Mind Map in this web view.

## Self Organised Learning Environment on Minecraft

Posted: October 3, 2013 in new technologies, Thoughts and ideas
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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.

Italy

Japan

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!

## Mapping the Science Curriculum – Working Scientifically

Posted: April 4, 2013 in Mind Mapping
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I have been looking at the draft Science Curriculum in England and I will post a series of Mind Maps to show the curriculum visually. I hope this will help people to incorporate the new curriculum (when it becomes live) in their existing schemes of work in a more coherent way. I believe this exercise will also show how coherent the draft curriculum itself is. In fact, a coherent document will be very easy to mind map and for associations to be made, whereas an incoherent document will be something of a nightmare to process in a mind map, as it will be inconsistent and with topics and ideas that have little relations with each other and don’t lead to a consistent understanding of scientific ideas and processes that build on each other. What is your guess? Coherent or incoherent?

You can use the Mind Map below, or download the iMindMap version and edit it from this Biggerplate page.

## The Hidden Particles of Fishy Tank

Posted: May 17, 2012 in Institute of Physics, new technologies, Thoughts and ideas, Workshops
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In a previous post I wrote about the Fish Tank Cloud Chamber workshop funded by IoP and organized by Cerian Angharad in Cardiff and I promised I would run one in Gloucester. Well, this evening I did and all delegates had great fun taking part in the filming of the iMovie trailer you can see below. I made using an iPad third generation and it was very easy to do, because these trailers come with the storyboard already set up for you. In fact, all the clips, places for captions and duration of the trailer are fixed, which means that you really need to focus on the message you want to convey and do it in the simplest way possible. But it also prevents you from adding too much to your video. Also, I like the fact that there is no dialogue and the message is communicated entirely through the clips and captions you create!

These are important skills for any learner and I would encourage any educator with an iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch to let their pupils create these short trailers for their learning. I got the inspiration for this one and other trailers I made by the inspiring work Gavin Smart does with his learners at Priory Community School.

## #tesSciGCSE your revision challenge hash-tag!

Posted: May 4, 2012 in new technologies, TES Resources
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TES Science is going to help learners doing their GCSE exams by setting one challenge a day until the day of the last Science exam on the 24th May. These challenges will be sent through Twitter using the hash-tag #tesSciGCSE and we are hoping you and your learners will engage with this exciting daily challenge.

Taking part is easy:

2) Search for #tesSciGCSE and save that search

3) Read the #tesSciGCSE challenge that will be posted each day

What’s in it for me?

If you are a learner, this is a great opportunity to do some revision wherever you are and any time during the day and you could win a £25 book voucher, if you answer most challenges correctly!

If you are an Educator, you can get involved by letting your learners know about this challenge and offer to moderate one of the days of tweets!

How does it work?

It is pretty simple. The people who are moderating the challenge will check your tweets and favourite the best answers, as well as sending probing questions back to help you learn your topic better. The person that gets favourited most wins the book voucher!

So, who’s in it? The first challenge will be issued on Tuesday 8th May 2012 and we will focus on Yr10 GCSE Science. Spread the word!