Wednesday, July 30, 2014

TER Podcast

Thanks to an impromptu Google Alert I learnt that the recording of my presentation at TM Edutech (as described in this blog post) actually appeared in the TER Podcast this week. Many thanks to Cameron Malcher for recording and running the excellent TER Podcast (this episode is particularly interesting :-)

The original recording can be found here and also below. My section kicks in at 34:25 and runs for 11 minutes (kind of broke the TeachMeet limit of 7 minutes...oops...). All credits to TER Podcast and thanks for allowing it to be embedded.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

iPeed on the iPad: Physics for Pre-schoolers

The other week I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Institute of Physics NSW Physics in the Pub bash in Sydney, hosted by +Phil Dooley. It was an excellent night of presentations (8 minutes each, TeachMeet-style), all of which were very informative and some also very entertaining, musical and humorous (check out Physics Hacks by Chris Stewart - very funny (bad language warning)). The networking was also top notch.

My contribution was 'iPeed on the iPad: Physics for Pre-schoolers'. Essentially, I demonstrated how a pre-schooler could have fun (learning physics at the same time) on the iPad using such apps as Planets and Universe Splitter. A recording of my presentation can be viewed below. Many thanks to Phil for organising, hosting and entertaining, Boris and AIP NSW for supporting, Chris for also entertaining and cutting the videos and to Shane Hengst from UNSW - Physics Outreach Unit for the photos.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Radio National Broadcast of ABC Splash Live

Below is the recent ABC Radio National broadcast of last year's ABC Splash Live event (previously described in this post). My presentation 'What does it mean to teach in a technology-rich world?' kicks in at about the 29 minute mark after some great work by Bron Stuckey and Dean Groom, and before Alice Leung's top draw presentation. The original recording and description can be found here on the Radio National site. Many thanks to Kulja at @ABCSplash

TM Edutech

Earlier this month I had the fortune to attend the Edutech conference in Brisbane. It was a great event with some excellent speakers, Sugata Mitra being the best (what a way to start a conference!). However, the best thing for me was the networking, getting to know some of my up-and-coming colleagues in our delegation, and of course the Edutech TeachMeet

Thanks to some typically hard and selfless work by +Matt Esterman, working with the event organisers not least Jon Chivers, a great space was arranged in the main Expo for four mini-TeachMeet sessions. The first session was kicked off by the ever youthful grandfather of TeachMeets +Ewan McIntosh, with 16 presenters all up over the two days. My presentation 'Giggle - the Lighter Side of Ed(u)Tech' was a major expansion on 'Giggle the funny side of Edtech' from TM ACU with references to 'Giggle (and Hoot) - the funny pre-school side of Edtech' from TM Google (essentially third time lucky). The slides can be found below. Most of them are self-explanatory. A podcast of my presentation also appears here on the TER podcast (thanks @capitan_typo). 

A big thank you once again to Matt, Jon and the other organisers. Great to finally meet the likes of @wholeboxndice; always good to catch up and chew the fat with Matt, @largerama and @danhaesler; and one can never forget those crazy guys from the inner west (ping @jamiewahab, @chad_ferris, @steve_borthwick, @MelSmiles5, @ZeinaChalich and the gang). 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pre-school Kids and Technology

A few weeks back I presented at TeachMeet Google held at Google's very funky Sydney headquarters. Three days before the event my wife informed me that she had parent-teacher night that evening i.e. I had the kids! This posed a minor problem, how was was I going to deliver my incredibly witty presentation 'Giggle - the funny side of Edtech' with Mr4 and Mr2 in tow? As a testament to the character of @leannecameron (or her sense of anarchy) she agreed to let me bring both boys along. Due to the tight security at Google's headquarters I needed to provide all of their details. In so doing each of them had their own Google TeachMeet name tag which was quite cute. Given that I had two pre-schoolers with me, in a moment of idealism (or stupidity) I decided to change my presentation to include them, plumbing for 'Giggle (and Hoot) - the funny pre-school side of Edtech' (in reference to the Aussie kids show Giggle and Hoot).

All I had to do was keep them occupied and quiet for 50 minutes until our slot. At first this seemed too easy with Mr2 asleep and Mr4 preoccupied with the charms of a very helpful and selfless +annajones. However, Mr2 awoke almost immediately... 

As his sonic furore started to gear up I panicked. Instead of grabbing an emergency chuppa chups I grabbed the iPad and played Peppa Pig on YouTube, moving us to just outside the door. The good thing was he quietened down and before my very eyes taught himself how to find and launch YouTube (previous he would only press on apps, then the home button, then another app, and so on). On the bad side he became addicted to the iPad.

It was about this time that our turn came. I grabbed the iPad from the grasp of Mr2 and marched him and Mr4 to the stage. Cue massive tantrums to get the iPad back with screams of "PEPPA! PEPPA!". Just after I set up my iPad on the lectern and had begun introducing ourselves Mr 2, still screaming "PEPPA!", tried to to jump up to the lectern, grabbing whatever wires he could almost wrecking Google's AV equipment!!! And so began our very quick presentation of 6 slides (see below). 

#1 - Title (including Hoot the Owl) 

#2 - In describing Mr4's experience of technology I asked him how he spoke to Granny and Grandad every weekend on the other side of the world. His very cute answer was "On the 'puter"

#3 - I then asked him what his favourite game was ("Zombies"); what the sun were for and why he had to collect them. His sequence of answers was a great example of GBL problem solving.

#4 - Getting a bit more conventional in the educational use of technology I asked Mr4 to explain the Planets app and how we can see it is daytime in England when it is nighttime in Australia.

#5 - Rounding off Mr4's experience of technology I showed a talking animals video from the BBC (one of his favourites). The funny thing was the audio didn't work at first so Mr4 literally impersonated the marmots saying "Alan! Alan! Alan! No, Steve! Steve! Steve". Then the audio kicked in, much to his  appreciation. In time, I want to use films like this to get him to improvise. As it was, he essentially did just that on the night.

#6 - All the while I'd been indulging in Mr4, Mr2 was roaming around looking for Peppa. It was only fair therefore to include him. Until the overindulgence earlier with Peppa Pig his main experience of technology had been listening and dancing to songs such as Rockabye Bear by The Wiggles. Consequently I played this and he was over the moon, particularly being able to view it on the big screen. He treated everyone to a little dance and the whole audience joined in with the clapping and and actions.

By sheer luck it worked out well in the end and was quite funny to boot. Many, many thanks go out to Leanne for her organisation and understanding, Anna for her caring charm and +Sally-Ann Williams and +Marie Efstathiou for allowing us to use such an excellent venue

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Science Selfies

In this social media/mobile learning age, what better way to get students to share their enjoyment of Science than allowing them to take Science Selfies during their experiments. These can be shared with their parents, teachers and each other.

And a challenge for all adult readers - we are forever trying to raise the profile of Science - lets get actual scientists posting Science Selfies on Twitter and Instagram #scienceselfies! (I thought this was an original idea but there are loads out there already. At least this is good for Science :)

iPads in Science Experiments

There are thousands of iPad apps being flogged for Science education but what are the best ways to use  iPads to compliment Science pedagogy. To me, the best and most obvious way is to use iPads or other mobile devices in Science experiments and inquiry. Here are some suggestions:

1. Get the students to record the teacher demonstrating an experiment before they attempt it themselves. That way they can listen back and make sure they haven't missed anything whilst not wasting time writing. Revisiting the video for homework or in later classes the students can use it to help them to formally write up the experimental method and for various literacy exercises.

2. Get students to take photos of the teacher's experimental apparatus plus any diagrams on the board. Again, why waste precious class time copying them down.

3. Most importantly, students can video themselves performing experiments, orating their procedure and capturing their results as they happen. This is particularly empowering to students with poor writing skills. And seriously, does every experiment have to written up formally? Why not a video blog instead?

4. Use the stopwatch facility for the plethora of experiments that require measuring time. (Quick anecdote - years ago I would forever be forgetting to order the stopwatches for experiments and was too afraid to go to the lab technician late. Instead I would ask the students to use the stopwatches on their old clunky mobile phones I knew they had hidden on their person. It was breaking school rules, but to benefit learning. This was the beginning of mobile learning).

Make Science Selfies!!!

Read Authentic Learning in Primary Science to see this in practice.

Authentic Learning in Primary Science

This week I was again fortunate enough to run some Science lessons for some Primary students from  St Felix Primary School using the Science labs at La Salle College next door. Rather than simply blasting them with mad Science experiments (check out last year's fun: Bunsen Burners, Flame Tests and iPads with Years 4 & 5), the Principal Lisa Harbrow and myself were determined that any experiments would compliment the students' units of study. Accordingly, I decided to do some electrolysis with Year 5 who were studying 'Gold' and thermodynamics with Year 6 who were studying 'Antarctica'.

Y11/12 Chemistry with Y5

Year 5 had been learning about the gold rushes of California and Australia, alluvial gold and how to pan for it. Now the chemistry of gold is not particularly exciting, but the extraction of other metals is! Consequently, I decided to get the students to perform an electrolysis experiment to electroplate 5¢ coins with copper extracted from copper sulphate solution. Now this is Year 11/12 Chemistry, certainly requiring secondary schools equipment. However, we were fortunate enough to have access to a lab at La Salle College next door thanks to Principal Mick Egan plus the most amazing lab technician in the form of Margaret Croucher (who is also Chairperson of ASETNSW - Association of Science Education Technicians, and treasurer of SETA - Science Education Technicians Australia). With this quality of support we were able to sort out the appropriate WHS for Y5 students to perform such an experiment.

No paper instructions or worksheets were issued. Instead, students recorded myself performing the procedure using their school's iPads, photographed the equipment and also diagrams on the board to assist them in carrying out the experiment themselves. More importantly they filmed themselves performing the experiment. (In follow up lessons back at Primary school the students would be using the video footage to help write up their experiment as a literacy activity). I also demonstrated the electrolysis of water using a Hofmann Voltameter, igniting the hydrogen produced for a nice squeaky pop! And, with a bit of time spare at the end of a great Science lesson, what more motivating activity could we do than take Science Selfies!

Y9/10 Physics with Y6

In studying Antartica, Year 6 learnt in particular about the features of animals that lived there plus the issues of global warming with regard to sea level rises. These two aspects leant themselves perfectly to some experiments more appropriate to the Year 9 and 10 syllabus. To build on what the students had learnt about the use of blubber and layers of feathers in various Antarctic fauna (plus fur in Arctic fauna) we performed the classic insulation experiment using warm water (not hot water due to being Year 6), soft drink cans as calorimeters, thermometers and various materials for insulation to compare between the materials. This was a wonderful scientific exercise in understanding controlled, independent and dependent variables. Again the iPads were used in a similar way to before (including selfies!) plus this time as stopwatches too.

Whilst this experiment was taking place the students had another experiment running. Now this is an experiment I made up. Taking 2 beakers we filled one with 100ml of water and placed an ice cube on a gauze across the top of the beaker. The other we also filled with 100ml water but this time added an ice cube and poured out a small amount of water to bring it back to 100ml. The point of this experiment was to highlight the important difference between glaciers (ice cube on the gauze) melting and icebergs (ice cube in the water) melting. Many people think that both cause sea levels to rise. However of course, when an iceberg (or floating ice cube) melts the water level stays the same due to Archimedes Principle. When a glacier on land (ice cube on a gauze) melts then water levels do rise due to the input of additional water - obvious when you think about it.

Most importantly with these thermodynamics experiments, any Primary school could perform them, they need only purchase thermometers, plastic beakers/measuring cylinders/jugs and basic materials such as wool, cotton wool, aluminium foil, bubble wrap etc.

Authentic Learning in Science

IMHO this is authentic learning in Science. The students cross-curricular units of study determined the experiments. The learning was in real world contexts. Just because the students are in Primary school there is no reason why they shouldn't engage in higher-order scientific inquiry and experimentation. In fact they loved the fact that they were performing senior Science experiments. Many thanks go out to Lisa, Mick and Margaret plus the Primary teachers including Maree Elchaar and Margaret Stelmach, and of course the wonderful Year 5 and 6 students! Further images and audio explaining this adventure can be viewed here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

eLearning Advice for Beginning Teachers

Recently I ran a twilight workshop for beginning teachers. The main purpose was to educate the new teachers on their rights and responsibilities when using technology in school (and home). Referring to our acceptable use and social media policies I highlighted that as long as they know that 'Big Brother' is watching then they should behave accordingly. With regard to social media we discussed the challenges facing teachers, young teachers in particular, but also the opportunities.  

Below are the slides that I used. They are self-explanatory (although I must point out that I didn't realise the pun I gave slide 12 until later :)

Friday, March 14, 2014

ACU TeachMeet

I was due to attend and present at the ACU TeachMeet but was unfortunately unable to make it yet again :( However, below is a short video I made in lieu of me presenting. Well done to Leanne Cameron and Miriam Tanti for hosting yet another great TeachMeet at ACU! The back-channel can be found at #TMACU.