Posts Tagged ‘Science’

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.

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.

Working Scientifically

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:

1) Follow @tesScience

2) Search for #tesSciGCSE and save that search

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

4) Reply to the challenge by tweeting your answer including the text #tesSciGCSE in your tweet

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!

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.

Google Sky Map

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

I have already blogged about this app, but I have added it to this resource because it gives good opportunities to develop Numeracy Skills in your learners by comparing magnitudes, orbital period, etc…

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.

Have a look at the resource I uploaded on the TES website and leave a comment with your thoughts about it, please.

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


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.

BP resources?

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Free Resources
Tags: , , , , , ,

When EdComs asked me to host a guest Blog post for them I was quite glad to lend them a page. Why? Well because they have developed some great resources and because these are FREE!

Free online Science resource: How Science Works – Clip Bank


How Science Works – Clip Bank is a free interactive Science resource from the BP Educational Service. It provides students aged 11-16 with great examples of real-life science in action.


Short, engaging stimuli show students the real-life application of science within the context of BP’s business. Linked to the UK curricula for Science and Chemistry, How Science Works – Clip Bank features a range of multi-media, including:

  • Video clips
  • Animations
  • Interactive activities
  • Photo slideshows
  • Teacher guidance
  • Curriculum links for Key Stage 3 (KS3) and Curriculum for Excellence Sciences
  • Links to all major exam boards at Key Stage 4 (KS4) and Standard Grade


Topics covered in this resource include:

  • Hydrocarbons from crude oil;
  • Properties of hydrocarbons;
  • Polymerisation;
  • Combustion of fuels;
  • Energetic reactions.







Find out more at

“The video will be an excellent way of introducing this abstract topic to pupils and helping them to put a face to the concept. The animation will reinforce their understanding after the calculations.” Secondary school teacher

For other free resources from BPES please go to

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 first saw the demonstration in the video below done by Clare Thomson at the “Best of PhysEd” lecture at the ASE Conference in 2010. Ever since I tried to make various versions of it, from using two very tall gas columns, filming it with high frame rate cameras, etc. But today I think I have made a really interesting variation of this really nice demo. The video below was made this morning in my kitchen.

Recreating this demo is very simple and I strongly recommend you do it with your classes, because the colours in the video don’t really reflect what you can see with your naked eye. I used water beads that I previously immersed in water containing blue food colouring for the cold water beads and red food colouring for the hot water beads. You will need to leave them in dyed water for about 8 hours. Then, I put cold water in the glass with blue beads and boiling water in the glass with red beads. When you mix cold and hot water with the cold water at the top, the red bead (much hotter) will rush upwards and the blue beads (much colder) will fall downwards. As the two types of beads swap places you have a nice simulation of what happens to the particles from hot and cold water, i.e. with more or less kinetic energy, when they mix. You have a very visual representation of a convection current forming in the two glasses. There is a limitation though, in fact, you can see that after a while the red beads begin to fall and collect at the bottom on top of the blue beads, but this is still quite effective at making the point that they have swapped places.

This blog post has two aims. One is to continue the series of posts on my experience of the ASUS Transformer, which is becoming a really inseparable “friend” in my work, and the other aim is to give you an update of the Science on Stage Europe Conference held in Copenhagen last month. The reason I am marrying the two is because I used my Transformer to keep a sort of journal of the event…
So, my adventure in Copenhagen began by using my Tablet on the plane to read the Conference programme I had conveniently and easily downloaded beforehand as a pdf. Two stuarts on the plane asked me if I had broken my laptop in two pieces when they saw me holding the tablet detached from the docking station 🙂 and on this note I have to correct my earlier concerns about the locking system. I have to say that now that I got used to it, and that I have read the symbol on the lock properly ;-), attaching and detaching the keyboard is very easy and quick!
To take my notes I tried different tools, starting from evernote. It is a shame that iMindMap has not developed a version of their amazing software for Android platforms, or I would have certainly used that. However, Evernote didn’t seem to be the best option for the venue I was in. In fact, for problems with the filters in the network (I believe) Evernote would not allow me to sync my previous notes properly, so I had to abandon the app for Polaris Office, the built in Office equivalent for Android. I was very pleased with the choice and I cannot see any difference, and certainly nothing inferior, to the iPad versions. One of the best things was to be able to capture a photo directly inside the document I was writing from a workshop, or a talk. The integration between the front and back camera and the Polaris Office package is really neat and handy.
So, here is a short account of my favourite parts of the Science on Stage Conference in Copenhagen.
1) Meeting up with the Italian Contingency was a real treat, especially looking at the clever free fall experiments from Giovanni Pezzi (Palestra della Scienza del Comune di Faenza) who attached a wireless webcam inside a box which would contain some experiments (e.g. a mass on a scale) that would go crazy when he dropped the box from a 5 m staircase.
2) The gravitational lenses in teh calssroom workshop where Rosa Ros demonstrated how she uses the base of wine glasses to simulate the effects of gravitational lenses in her classes. Other really fascinating resources can be found on the EAAE’s website.
3) The amazing Mithosis Mamba that Richard Spencer got us all to dance in the “wake up session”. This was an hilarious and very clever way to memorize processes and I can’t wait to make my own dances to teach about physical processes to my classes 🙂
4) The awards ceremony where a number of inspiring projects were given the recognition they deserved:
– High Speed/slow motion –> Micheal Vollmer, Klaus-Perter Mollmann Germany
– Colourful Science –> Catherine Tattersall Ireland
– Thermoelectric Solar Energy –> Inma Abad, Pere Compte Spain
– Cosmi Wants to Know –> Ida Regl Austria
– Studying Chemistry with Pliny the Elder –> Gianluca Farusi Italy
– From Rainbows to the Chemistry of Colours –> Elias Kalogirou Greece
– See the sound, hear the light –> Jan Pavelka, Ondrej Pribyla Czech Republic

With this Blog post I will start a series of posts on the ASUS Transformer Tablet and I am actually writing from one of these right now. This post is about First Impressions… in fact, my brand new Tablet arrived just yesterday and I already love it.
I am in a hotel room in Copenhagen representing Britain, together with other Science Educators (mainly from IoP), at the Science on Stage Europe Conference and, while I would normally have taken my laptop and iphone out and used them extensively by now, I have mainly used my Transformer so far and my laptop has not come out of its case yet.
I will post on more specific issues in this series, e.g. how I used the ASUS Transformer for work and leisure and how my three boys are responding to it, but for now here are my first impressions.
Great features:
1) The full QWERTY keyboard and touchpad are just out of this world! I probably would not be bothered writing this post with a Tablet, if I hadn’t this feature. Docking the tablet just makes life a million times easier and it is so quick to navigate apps and the internet with a mixture of typing from the keyboard and swiping of your fingers on the screen, a perfect match! Quite amazing is also the extra battery the keyboard gives you, as well as extra ports, etc…
2) Flash!!! At last I own a fully portable device that actually allows you to browse the internet freely. I was showing the Tablet to my friend and colleague Neal at lunch time and we started to talk about NGfL Cymru resources (the company I work for) and eChalk (one of our Partners). As both have resources based on Flash I could still show Neal all our stuff without the frustration of pointless blocks… He was well impressed and I gained a convert 😉
3) Front and back camera! Really handy and quite impressive quality. This is a photo of my stand at the conference taken with the Transformer.

This is the first time I upload a photo in my blog directly from a mobile device and I have to say that ASUS has made it surprisingly easy 🙂

Not so great:
1) The docking station isn’t that easy to fit and it seems to get disconnected quite easily, but that could be just me having to get use to it.
2) The interface, though very sleak and pleasing in design, isn’t as intuitive as I was hoping. It took me a while to get round a few things, but that will get better when I will have had more time to play 😉

Overall, I am absolutely delighted to have such a lovely device to use and I am very pleased with how much easier it is making my life already, e.g. one thing I haven’t mentioned was the ease of downloading documents, like rich pfds, directly on the Tablet and how useful it was to be able to read the programme of the event on the plane before getting there!
Look out for my next blog post on this new breed of high-tech Transformers 😉