Posts Tagged ‘Pupils’

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 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.

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 ( 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 (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 found the iSeismo App for iPhone a few months ago thanks to an email on the PTNC (the Institute of Physics mailing list). It is a free App and also a brilliant one. I am developing resources for the WJEC Separate Science Specification (Physics 3) here at NGfL Cymru (National Grid for Learning Wales) and one of the topics is Seismic Waves, so I couldn’t resist the temptation to create an activity that would take advantage of such a great App!

iSeismo displays a seismograph for movements along the x, y and z axes using the inbuilt accelerometer in the iPhone and it is very realistic and quite accurate too. The needles look just like a real Seismographer writing on paper rolls, but with this electronic seismographer you can freeze the screen and pause it at a particular moment, as well as other interesting things.

I am giving you another sneak peek of what’s coming soon on the NGfL Cymru website. Below is the video that I created this morning to go with this activity in Wallwisher. The cool thing is that when the iPhone was at rest I received an email and the phone vibrated. The needles on iSeismo showed a vibration along the x and z axis, but not on the y-axis. So, the vibrator must be fixed onto a plane which is perpendicular to the y-axis. I bet you didn’t know that about the iPhone, did you? At least about the iPhone 3GS.

I created the Wallwisher wall as an example for teachers, but to use it with your classes you would need to register with Wallwisher and create your own wall by linking the video to the YouTube video in this blog.

As always I really value your feedback, so please leave a comment!

Reading this excellent blog post from @Chickensaltash and the more complete article from TES rekindled my passion for Tablet PCs in the classroom. Though I believe IWBs are a great tool to enhance Teaching and Learning and I agree with Dan Roberts when he tweets that we have to do with what we have got, I find it difficult to understand why very few schools went down the road of installing Tablet PCs instead of IWBs (I am talking about schools that installed IWBs after the first boom and when Tablets were already well known). Here are my thought on why I believe Tablets are a much cheaper and more versatile option.

1. I bought my first Tablet (a Toshiba Portege’) 2nd hand for £400, my second one (Toshiba Tecra M7) new for £800 and my current Toshiba Portege’ M400 for £890. This is to say that they are quite cheap. In fact, most schools would have at least a projector per department (if not per room) these days, so a tablet PC is all you need to go with it to have a fully interactive kit to share with your pupils. Buy a normal PC/laptop and you still have to buy a multi-k £ whiteboard. Moreover, the newest Tablets are multitouch, giving a more interactive experience than some IWBs.

2. Tablets are fully portable. Ever had to fight to book the only room with IWB in the department? And having to put up with the dirty looks of the teacher (often the least likely to actually bother using an IWB and that uses it as a post-it holder) being kicked out from his class? It is understandable that departments start with what they can afford, but this unpleasant situations would be avoided if the department had bought two Tablet PCs for the price of one IWB (and you still have to buy a PC/laptop with the IWB, so you might be able to fit three Tablets for the same price). This way it is the Tablet that moves rooms, not the teachers. This is a lot better for everyone (teachers and students) and the lesson can start on time.

3. You can’t pass an IWB around, but you can send the Tablet around the classroom for the pupils to use and contribute actively to the lesson (well, you either need a very long projector cable, or a wireless projector).

4. You can place your Tablet PC wherever you want, so you can stand away from the line of view of the children and you don’t project your shadow on the screen. The latter is really annoying for both the audience and the person using the IWB, because it makes it really hard to write, as you don’t actually see what you are writing (I know there are some projectors that project right from the top of the board and get rid of this problem, but I have seen hardly any in the schools I have visited).

5. You can actually work on your interactive resources even when you are away from your classroom, as a Tablet PC allows you to write on the screen just like you would do on an IWB. It’s just not as big and as heavy! I have used it to annotate and mark pupils’ electronic work, draw mind maps (one example on my previous blog), etc, and obviously get my pupils engaged with the same rich experiences.

6. You can download free software for IWB on your Tablet PC. KindleLab is an example, but you can also try the free trials from Promethean and SmartBoard to compare and then decide to buy the software if you want, so your Tablet PC is just as good as an IWB on the Software front.

I really think Tablet PCs are a fantastic tool in Education and I wish more schools used them. I thought they deserved at least a mention in the TES article, but they didn’t, so I felt the need to write about them and share what a great asset they have been in my practice.

I attended my very first TeachMeet in Cheltenham at the Parabola Arts Centre (Cheltenham Ladies’ College) and it was a worthwhile experience. There were not as many teachers as I would have expected/hoped, but it was still a great opportunity to network with like minded educators and to see some great stuff in action.

The meeting kicked off with some lovely demos on 2D and 3D animation from Liz Pratten, Glenfall. What I liked about her presentation was the large amount of kids’ work she showed us. Nice, funny and engaging pieces of work from her pupils… can’t get any better!

Then, @mrjstacey took us through a nice Hystory lesson he made in Prezi. I liked the video hidden inside the photo and the showing off of the depth of zooming in that can be achieved in Prezi. I tried to get my pupils to use Prezi in class, but they found it very heavy and frustrating that they had to wait so long for things to upload, etc. This seemed to be @mrjstacey experience too I think. He showed this lovely Prezi on Chemical Scales too!

Next, was @isaachsenalex showing some fantastic work he did as a cross curricular  project with the Geography department using Macs and photographs taken by the children on school trips. There was a lot of good teaching and learning thinking and practice in the way photos were used by the kids.

To balance out the Apple presence @innovativeteach gave a very quick and snappy 2 min presentation on the many examples of free software available from Microsoft and the Partners in Learning Network. From Deep Zoom Composer to Autocollage, Songsmith, etc… I think most of the audience was literally blown away by these great examples of free educational software. And again the focus was on the pupils, not on the technology.

Then, @atomicjam showed us how Google Reader can be used to keep track of all the blogs and websites you are following. I had used it before, but I got a couple of tips I didn’t know about!

@mrjstacey was up again talking about a really nice blog he uses with his Politics class in WordPress. A great example of how blogging with your class can be a very useful and enriching experience for you students. I liked the was he builds up trust with his classes, e.g. starting from allowing only comments first and slowly handing the writing of the post to the students. I also learnt you can email your posts to your WordPress blog directly!

After the break I was up showing what I did with what I baptised “The Ultimate PowerPoint Macro”. My good friend Mike Ebbsworth (WJEC) gave me this PPT template and he got it from here. So, I showed a version of the Caterpillar learning journey I made using it for some of the resources I am working on at NGfL Cymru. This macro is phenomenal and it does a great deal of stuff, e.g. rotate objects, edit text in slideshow mode, resize objects… You can download it directly from the link below. I also quickly introduces the Stimulating Phyiscs Network and


And the @mrjstacey was up again to close the meeting with and with the thanks, etc. Unfortunately there was no more time for more presentations, but the experience was certainly worth living.

I am looking forward for the TeachMeet in Bristol on the 10th November were I will do a 7 min pitch on “Why is broadcasting your students’ work a confidence booster?” Hope to see you there!

I recently come across a really nice, simple and quick Web 2.0 Tool called vozMe. It is a fun application that turns whatever text you write in the text box provided into an electronic voice message. I used it a lot to freak out my classes as they came in and to build some rapport by having a laugh at the beginning of the lesson. It is also quite useful to share the lesson objectives in a fun way with your pupils and it works magic when you use it to rebuke a misbehaving child (only the first two or three times though), because they actually listen to the voice, more than they would listen to you, and do what it says!

You can choose a male or female voice and also the language you want to write on. This will change the sounds the computerized voice will make for given letters and syllables. I can see how this could be used in MFL lessons to get your pupils to check their pronunciation of foreign words, etc. But I believe it could be used in English Literature as well to show the importance of intonation and emphasis of words! Try writing one of Shakespeare poems in the text box and play it back to the children to see their responses! And if you have big school Drama Productions you might just need a robotic voice in some of your plays.

vozMe is very simple and many could think quite pointless, but sometimes the simplest ideas are great and can work wonders. Have a go with your classes and let me know how useful, or not, this tool has been to you!

You must have guessed I have a soft spot for comics and Superheroes by now. So, when @russeltarr (look at his excellent website here) twitted a link to a video made by his 14-years old Historians (as he calls them) I got immediately interested in this new video creator with animated characters; Believe me, it is really good fun and very easy and quick to use. The below video took me about 15 min to make and it was a simple attempt to create an example for my Yr 10 pupils, so that they could also use this tool to create fun videos about an area of Physics we have studied (if you can’t see the video from this blog click here). Because we have been amused by the Physics of Superheroes in a number of lessons, I though they would like the video I created to understand and remember the difference between Speed and Velocity!

The intent, however, was never to use this video creator as a teaching tool, but rather as a lovely way to get my pupils engaged with Physics and to get them talking about processes by explaining them through unusual situations (a bit like the Marvel Comic on Momentum).

Unfortunately there were two problems I had not anticipated:

1. To publish your videos you must buy credits

2. Our network let us down for the 1000th time and even this really useful tool was blocked

I might be able to get the IT Technician to unblock it, so the kids can at least use the story board and the effects. But I think I will use this great website to create one of those stories where each group writes a line and the next group continues it, so by the end of the lesson we will have a story about Physics that is created by the whole class. It would be even nicer if this  became a quick revision movie about all the topics covered made with the contribution of the whole class! I will let you know how it goes, but if you have some good stories with Xtranormal, please let us know by adding a comment to this blog post.