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ASETeachMeet … Back to the Future … and meeting a hero! November 23, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Teaching Idea.
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Having taught Physics for 20 years, the majority in the days pre-Internet, the Association for Science Education (ASE) was one of the main ways in which I was able to draw inspiration and ideas from enthusiastic and knowledgeable colleagues. When the local regional group posted about a TeachMeet they were to hold in Sheffield, how could I turn down the opportunity to revisit my past, even if only for an evening?

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/6391455401/

A TeachMeet with a very different focus from previous ones I have enjoyed then; one where the theme was firmly in a curriculum area, rather than around ICT and its affordances … well apart from my contribution obviously! What would it be like? Well, neither micro- nor nano-presentations were the order of the day; the presentation length was set at 5 minutes (if memory serves, there isn’t a prefix between μ and n!). More PowerPoints than at other TeachMeets and no camel! But then the latter wasn’t needed since, being scientists, these folks aren’t given to flights of fancy and know all about time (and relative dimensions in space!).

What did I learn? As always – LOADS! Including, but not exclusively:

  • Having not seen it (yet!), that there’s a whole terms work around the science to be found in the film “Avatar.”
  • About the wealth of resources available through STEM, to turn our students on to science.
  • About Darton College‘s mission into space … on a budget!
  • The Science Without Walls professional development opportunities for science teachers, linking with research scientists at the cutting edge.
  • A real demo. illustrating the usually difficult to envisage concept of earthing.

    Demo. of the principle of earthing

So in some ways, very different to a ‘conventional TeachMeet, if indeed there is such a thing. And that’s a good thing – evolution. But what it had in common with all the others was the warmth of welcome, the supportive and encouraging atmosphere and above all else, committed, passionate and enthusiastic practitioners.

I also go a bonus, finding out right at the end that I’d been sitting next to a hero I had for most of my teaching career. Someone I’d never met, but who’s work I’d read avidly in each copy of the School Science Review and from whom I drew much inspiration for my teaching – Geoff Auty, now editor of the SSR. Thanks Geoff for all the great ideas you gave me and doubtless many others.

And finally, in case anyone who was found anything of use in my humble offering, here is the presentation with links to the resources (bottom left of certain slides).

Data … in absentia December 4, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Teaching Idea, Tools, Web 2.0.
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snow depth

How deep was your snow?

School has been closed for three days this week; quite an unusual situation for us.  I’m looking forward to exploring how much the technology we provide has ameliorated the potential loss of learning.  Initial figures from our VLE are encouraging, then there’s the Learning Platform and email traffic to consider … but that’s for a later post perhaps.  Inspired by a post from Tom Barrett, as I often am, and given the uniqueness of the situation, I wondered whether there would be any value in trying to capture a similar snapshot for our little community.

My first concern was that our students don’t necessarily have Google accounts as part of our provision, though they may of course have set up one independently of school.  In order to post on the map in the way Tom describes, I’d first need to guide them through creating an account – not impossible, but perhaps putting in place a barrier to a successful outcome.  So instead, I elected to make the data capture as simple as possible and use a Google form to collect the data.  Only two questions: depth of snow and postcode. I later wished I’d added a third field to capture some aspect of where within our school community the respondent was located – maybe year group or form perhaps. It might have provided a little information about who is likely to act on information presented in the following way.  I considered sending an email to all students, including a link to the form and explaining what we trying to do.  But then I thought it might be more interesting to embed the form in our learning platform home page and see how many students (and staff?) would take the trouble to undertake the task without prompting – another reason for keeping things as simple as possible.  It also meant I could provide the developing Google map together with the form.

You’ll by now have realised that my not so ‘cunning plan’ has a flaw. How does the data get from the spreadsheet behind the Google form into the map?  Well given the nature of the interlinking of Google Apps, I guess it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that data fom the two fields could be fed directly into a Google Map. Not beyond possibility maybe, but certainly beyond my meagre capabilities!  So the transfer was done manually, but this also meant I could ‘shift’ the locations slightly from those provided by entering the postcode into the map search box and thereby offer an extra layer of ‘privacy’ for respondents by providing a more general location for their data.  Locating the form within our learning platform also meant that incoming data could be restricted to our community; perhaps not quite in the spirit of global learning, but for our first tentative steps in crowd-sourcing data, a little more control is perhaps more reassuring.

Was it successful?  Well during the two days since the form was deployed, 75 students and/or staff posted data. I’m quite pleased with that, especially since there was neither fanfare nor publicity.  Is that it?  Although it was an interesting exercise in it’s own right, perhaps we can wring a little more learning from the data?

  • Maths: Plenty of opportunities to refer to the Data Handling elements within various specifications. In addition to manipulating the data, its veracity might be interrogated – to what extent is it likely to be reliable?
  • Geography: Are there any relationships between snow depth and location, terrain etc?
  • English: super idea posted as a comment on Tom’s post from Candace Shively
  • ICT: Data, information and databases – investigate this as a data collection method; strengths, weaknesses, errors etc.
  • Languages: for number practice, display the map large screen, click on a flake and pupils have to respond to “Quelle est la profondeur de la neige” for example.

It’ll be interesting to see where our little snow depth map turns up in lessons … and whether this type of exercise offers potential for future explorations.  Thanks again to Tom for lighting the spark.

#tmsheff10 . . . musings November 12, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration, Resources.
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TeachMeet Sheffield

Another excellent TeachMeet, made all the more special by it being on ‘home turf’ and another step forward in my Teachmeet experiences. Once again it’s energising to enjoy the passion of innovative educators who care deeply about the learning of their pupils; deeply enough to give up a few precious hours during a busy week to share their excitement with others. It’s sorely tempting at this point to celebrate the wealth of ideas the presenters provided us with by listing them individually; after all they deserve much credit for taking the time to prepare their presos and overcoming any stage fright (although the latter wasn’t the case for all … you know who I’m talking about Dr H.!). But there’s no point when you can watch and enjoy it all on the UStream archive. Or you can check out the summary @catherinelliott is producing.

I could tell you about all the resources our presenters guided us towards, but they’ll surface through the CLC blog shortly. (Or if you’re in a hurry to get stuck into some stuff, a million and one links from @Ideas_Factory should keep you busy for a while!

I could write about one of the most important aspects of the event being how you reinforce the ‘virtual’ connections forged in the Twittersphere with the opportunity to talk with and shake the hands of those you respect and from whom you learn.

I’m tempted to describe how I feel following a TeachMeet, but hey I’ve been there already! And here is some brief feedback from colleagues new to the profession and to TeachMeets.

Perhaps instead I can reflect on how this event was so different from those I’ve experienced before . . . though to be fair, they in turn were all quite, quite different from each other. For me this one was about new faces. New faces ‘on the stage’ and new faces in the audience. Some were faces new to the teaching profession, either undertaking their PGCE or in their NQT year, whilst others, though new to TeachMeets, were further on in their careers. It didn’t matter where on that continuum each person is located, they all shared a common enthusiasm. I’ve mused before on more than one occasion about how we spread that enthusiasm more widely and seek to enthuse an even broader church. #tmsheff10 went some way towards that. Perhaps it was the NQT focus? Perhaps we’re just so far off the beaten track … geographically speaking! I guess it doesn’t really matter how, only that the community becomes richer with each new connection made. So welcome to all who attended their first of what will hopefully be many returns to TeachMeets . . . perhaps as presenters next time?

Friday night’s alright for . . . burglin’? March 27, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration, Teaching Idea.
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@mister_jim dressed as Burglar Bill

@mister_jim dressed as Burglar Bill (from Twitpic)

At my rather advanced years, if I’m out on a Friday evening, it usually has to be preceded by a nap . . . a goodly nap!  Otherwise by about 8.00, I’m starting to flag – at best, stifling an occasional yawn, or at worst waking up with my face semi-submerged in a plate of linguini.  So to go straight from work to TeachMeet Yorkshire & Humberside 2010 and for me to be still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as the proceedings were brought to a close around 10.00, says an awful lot about the quality of the presenters and their messages.  How often can you claim that your eyelids are managing to defy gravity at the end of a four hour professional development session . . . after a full day’s work?!  The reason?  Simple – the passion, commitment, enthusiasm and downright zeal and zest (always wanted to use those two words) of the participants, whether presenting, lurking or attending virtually.

ePortfolios . . . by stealth

ePortfolios . . . by stealth (using VCASMO)

I gave my first presentation proper last night; only a 2 minute nano –  ePortfolios … by stealth.  It was OK I think.  I don’t count my attempt to lead a discussion at the TM East Midlands last year – I bombed!  I hadn’t prepared adequately, not realising that I’d be centre stage leading the whole hall; I had expected us to be in smaller break-out groups.  As a consequence, I didn’t really get an answer to the problem I’d posed which was how we get the message to the masses.  Folks interpreted this as what we do to enthuse people about how powerful a tool ICT can be to support learning.  What I’d actually meant (and failed to get across) was, how do we get more people involved with TeachMeets?  Well I’ve thought long and hard since then, and attended a couple more TeachMeets . . . and the conclusion I’ve reached?  It doesn’t matter!  Sure it’s fantastic when people who wouldn’t normally attend this kind of event come along and are blown away, returning to work inspired to try something new.  But no, for me it doesn’t have to be about that.  It’s an event with people who inspire me . . . and each other I guess.  And maybe that’s enough.  Can’t speak for anyone else, but enthusing people about ICT is a tough battle – it’s just one more thing in their jam-packed working days.  The normal environment is not one of universal, all-reaching, never-ending love for edtech.  So for me a TeachMeet (and certainly last night’s) is about being with like-minded people who have a shared enthusiasm for how powerful ICT can be and how it can make a difference.  It’s simply refreshing to spend some time bathing in a sea of positivity.   As a presenter, it’s wonderful to be in front of an audience who are willing you to succeed and keen to hear your message (if you’ve been lurking, do please give presenting a try – rest assured everyone’s behind you).

D’you know what?  At no point last night did I hear the words “And when am I possibly going to have the time to do this?”  It was worth being there for that alone!

[Public and heartfelt thanks are due to Dughall McCormick and Damien Ward for organising last night’s event and additionally to Dughall for being such a passionate Master of Ceremonies, and Damien and colleagues at Doncaster South CLC for extending such warm hospitality.]