The life and times of a physics teacher (Warning: May contain sarcasm)
I don’t know about you but I’m not a big fan of conferences. I don’t like the sales pitches, the press of people, the expectation that you need to talk to and be friendly with strangers, the desperation of my fellow delegates to get as much free stuff as quickly as possible (Hypothesis; there is a directly proportional relationship between teaching experience and rate of acquisition of free stuff in conferences. I am sure that I saw people with posters and bags that I couldn’t find anywhere). That said, I actually enjoyed the ASE conference this year and came away with a tingly sense of excitement as it reminded me that I teach the best subject in the world. Anyway, without further ado, here are my picks;
10. Lego League
This is essentially a robotics challenge organised by the Institute of Engineering and Technology (see below) but made with Lego. Surely that’s all the information you need to know? Well, actually it costs £150 (+ VAT) to enter the competition and a further eye-watering £230 to buy the ‘Lego Mindstorms’ set from the Lego Education website. Another issue is that all this money would only benefit 10 of your students per year as this is how big the teams are. If you’ve got plenty of funding I’d recommend it, the stand looked amazing!
9. The Institute of Physics
I spent a happy ten minutes at this stand plucking CDs containing teaching resources from shelves as apples from trees. You can stream the animations and videos online here but I like having resources that don’t depend on an internet connection (call me paranoid but I’m still waiting for the zombie apocalypse to hit). My favourites are: teaching medical physics, teaching astronomy and space, physics lives, teaching radioactivity. Obviously there’s plenty of other stuff on there, check it out!
8. The Institute of Engineering and Technology
Most of you will know about this and there are tonnes of resources here but some new stuff that caught my eye include;
7. ‘Flipside for teachers poster magazine’ – literally what it says. I’m rubbish at decorating my classroom and then rotating the displays but this makes it easier. The example in the pack contains teaching ideas on one side and a poster on the other. This poster is about the science behind electric guitars. Very cool.
6. ‘Challenge days in a box’ – seems good for off-timetable days.
5. Free posters – not just to download but also by post.
This is a space-themed competition endorsed by Wallace and Gromit (which is exciting enough) and run by the Intellectual Property Office. The idea is that students have to come up with an invention that is space-related and send it in. So many students have crazy ideas and sometimes I’m worried that they don’t have enough time to air them in the classroom (or may be the classroom isn’t the right place?). So during space topics (which come in to year 7, year 9 and GCSE at my school) I’m going to set this as homework. What have they got to lose? They can post them or upload them on to the website. In the teaching pack from the conference I also got a leaflet called ‘Intellectual Property Explained’ which is pretty good for PSHE (you can request teaching packs on the website.)
Nb. I can’t find the closing date for the competition but it seems to run all year round.
3. The South East Physics Network (SEPnet)
If you happen to be in the South East this organisation has an amazing outreach programme and it’s affiliatied with lots of universities in that area.
2. Using Lego blocks to teach particle physics
If you’re not in the South East fear not! Queen Mary’s College (UoL) has put together some booklets on how to use Lego (yes, more lego, but this is more basic…and affordable). The PDFs of the booklets are here;
They are brilliant and I can’t wait to try them out!
1. SOLO taxonomy and hexagons
Every now and again you come across a brilliant idea that has completely passed you by. This is one of them. Essentially it’s another educational theory that measures the amount of learning that is taking place through the number of connections that the students are making. You can read more about it here. This leads to the way that you get the students to make links; using SOLO hexagons. You use hexagons because you can tessellate more around one thing than you can with a rectangle, allowing more connections to be made. So each hexagon has a key word (or a picture, or sound, anything) and the students make links with them. You can read about their use here. Want to try it out? Helpfully you can download hexagonal templates here. Try it.