Yesterday I did the Keynote presentation at the Annual SSERC Conference and AGM.
With support from Learning and Teaching Scotland SSERC have done a good job of developing resources and a new interactive website to support the development of the emerging 3-18 Curriculum in Scotland for Science.
It was a real pleasure to be able to speak to the assembled audience. Although I have to admit as non-science specialist I was a little worried about how I might be recived. My brief was to talk about on-line tools and their role in science education.
If you were at the presentation I would welcome your feedback either by leaving a comment below or by sending me an email (contact details top right).
I promised that I would post the slides from the talk, so here they are:
Here are also my thoughts, notes and links that I referred to during my presentation:
1. Technology always wins
Everyone questions changes to technology adoption – but wide scale technology adoption nearly always wins. The question is more around the speed of adoption and how this relates to the speed of engagement with learners.
2. Its now easy to generate ‘rich’ content – but you need to think about using it in creative ways
It is now easier than ever for teachers to create on-line content that can be used as tools to enhance learning.
Wordle is an example of a generator that provides an interesting way for teachers to work with students to analyze and look at text. Sinclair Mackenzie who writes the excellent blog 'Never Mind the Optics' has recently used a combination of Wordle and blockposters.com to create some key word revision sheets for his classes. He has written about his experience of doing this here.
3. ChangeNo one likes change. But thing are changing…
The key message (hopefully) from my presentation was that we need to understand how children are changing, technology is changing and how the curriculum is changing before we understand how we should change or pedagogy to support all three of these things.
4. Changing children and young people
I think that children are changing. One of the reasons for this is that I think that now children and young people have increased access to knowledge. This knowledge is normally found via the Internet.
In the past parents, teachers and responsible adults used to the gatekeepers of knowledge. In short we would normally decide when a young person was old enough to know about sex and drugs and rock & roll. This was one of the reasons why we had a curriculum that tried to link essential knowledge with age-and-stage.
In the majority of cases knowledge was often only introduced when it was believed by the professional that a young person was emotionally ready to receive it. There were of course, as with anything, exceptions to this rule.
The Internet and increased use of mobile technology has changed all of this. Now children have access to unlimited knowledge. Unfortunately sometimes children come into contact with knowledge that is unreliable and also content they are emotionally unprepared for. I’m convinced that there is a link between this and behavior in schools – but I have no evidence to back this up.
A recent survey commissioned by Channel 4 looked at the online behaviors of young people between the ages of 12 – 24. In uncovered some interesting statistics that included:
- They personally own 8 devices (including MP3 player, PC, TV, DVD player, mobile phone, stereo, games console, and digital camera)
- They frequently conduct over 5 activities whilst watching TV
- 25% of them agree that “I’d rather stay at home than go on a holiday with no internet or phone access”
- A quarter of young people interviewed text or IM (instant message) friends they are physically with at the time
- They have on average 123 friends on their social network spaces
- And the first thing the majority of them do when they get home is turn on their computer
The questions is what does this mean for schools?
I think that Schools should:
ii) Teachers should have an understanding of the websites that their classes use for school work and for non-school work. They haven’t got to use the sites just have an understanding of what they can do. This knowledge will also contribute to the relationship building between the teacher and the class.
iii) Collect data on student ICT skills. Schools and teachers should know what ICT skills young people have. This is particularly important at the transition between primary and secondary stages. Again data needs to be collected on animation skills, digital video skills, web skills search skills etc…iv) Make sure that all school staff are adequately trained in Internet Safety and Responsible Use. I find it worrying that young children have so many ‘friends’ on social networking spaces. Schools need to re-define what we mean by that word ‘friend’.
Unless schools do this how will we ever stretch children and set appropriate assessment tasks.
5. Changing Technology
Technology is changing faster than we ever imagined it to. In reality schools will never be able to stay up-to-date and keep up with technological change. But we need to try.
Microsoft recently wrote a report called ‘Europe Logs On’. Where it predicts 5 technological changes that will occur by 2012. In reality these changes are already occurring but there is just not wide scale adoption yet. Schools need to change and adapt resources in parallel to technological change if we want to try to keep up.
Change One: The Three Screens
The distinction between your computer, television and telephone will become more blurred. You will be able to do core functions of all devices on any of the devices. I big step forward in this paradigm was the recent development of TV catch up for the iPhone. I still can’t quite believe I can watch the news on my iphone over my normal phone network.
What should education do in response: Any education content that is developed need to be optimized for use on mobile.
Commercial publishers – please take note.
Change Two: The rise of connected entertainment
You will be able to interact with your media. The BBC red button was just the first step in this direction. BBC iPlayer that allows you to re-watch television programmes that you have missed is another important development.
What should education do in response: We need connected education.
The Climate Mystery by Cogin, Microsoft and the Discovery Channel is the most advance form of connected education that I have seen to date. An education soap opera with a social networking backend to allow real time global collaboration between users. This combined with well thought out mini games to allow a non-threatening but competitive environment for children to learn.
Change Three: The whole web will become social.
The web will become more personalized and as much about people as about information. Other people will be used increasing more to filter the information from the web.
What should education do in response: Teachers need to learn the value of the social web
I don’t know very much about science or what resources are good for science teachers. But I have a whole personal learning network that know more about science teaching than I do.
When I was asked to speak at the SSERC Conference I asked on Twitter for some people to recommend resources to me. I was able to make the assumption that because they were coming from people that I trusted that they would be of value in the classroom.
One of the links came from Nick Hood (PT Physics at Glenwood High School in Fife) Nick sent me a link to his delicious links. Delicious is a social bookmarking service that allows you to save websites that you find as a list on to another website. Anyone can see your list and it will also tell you if other delicious users have also saved the same link. It’s a powerful way to share peer-reviewed resources amongst teachers. I’ve been using delicious for years and find it incredibly valuable. More info on delicious here.
Here are some of the links I was recommended by my professional learning network before yesterdays conference. I would have never of found them without using the Internet socially:
- BrainPop UK – Great little animations that explain things in a simple way for children. Some BrainPop movies are always free (others you pay for)
- 60 second science podcast – from Scientific America
- Interactive Science Simulations – from the university of Colorado
- Visible Body – a 3D immersive anatomony and physiology model (30 day free trial)
- 10 Science Apps for the iPod / iPod Touch – Many of these Apps are free
- Science Songs – Different songs about Science topics
- Topic Box Science – Links to other recommended science websites
- 3D mouth – everything you need to know about teeth in 3D form
Change Four - The 3D Internet
Increasingly you will be able to interact with information and people on the internet in a 3D way.
Many young children (eg: 5 – 8 year olds) are already interacting with the 3D internet. They occupy sites like Club Penguin and Lego Universe. I think it’s unlikely that these children will ever grow into social networking sites like Bebo – that are mainly text based. 3D immersive environments are incredibly engaging for children is if they are used in the right way
What should education do in response: Embrace and prepare for the 3D internet and make sure that staff are trained on the responsibilities of using it and the safety messages that they need to give to young people.
In the Consolarium we are already working a number of 3D Internet projects. CANVAS is currently our flagship project but we have other ideas and projects in development.
WonderVille 3D is a good Canadian example that combines a 3D simulation and static content. You have to navigate around a world to find information and the answers to problems.
There are other good examples of science education in the 3D world that are already available in Scilands in Second Life. The challenge for us is to now make these environments safe for young people.
Change 5 – The rise of the Smartphone
Internet enabled mobile phones with robust web-browsers will be the norm by 2012. The iPhone and Google’s Android Platform and good examples of current models. I recently read somewhere that my iPhone has more computing power in it that the first Apollo Space mission.
What should education do in response: We need to rapidly consider how we integrate technology like mobile phones into the classroom.
Mobile phones are no longer phones any more. They are mini computers that you can make phone calls on. They can be used to take pictures, record video, record audio, surf the web, download lesson content and there are a variety of powerful Apps that also have strong education value.
Schools teaching Advanced Higher should think about how they can make more use of iTunesU (The ‘U’ is for University). Many university departments (such as Oxford) now give the content of their lectures away for free over iTunesU. School need to make more use of these high quality and free resources.
In my opinion in terms of Science and the use of mobile technology Saltash.net Community School in Cornwall have got a good approach to the use of mobile technology for learning.
6. Changing Curriculum
The Science curriculum is changing. I get a little fed up when we talk about A Curriculum for Excellence and people tell me that they are doing it already. If we are doing it already, why have we wasted all this time and money developing a new curriculum? For me Curriculum for Excellence is about thinking differently and then doing things differently.
It would be unprofessional of me to comment on the content of a science curriculum as I have no expertise in this area. But I do worry that across the Scottish teaching profession that teachers are still thinking in subject boxes. In my opinion schools need to start working in clusters and thinking about how a young person progresses through the 3-18 curriculum. Then we need to think about Curriculum architecture and only then should we start thinking about content. Which takes us back to thinking about 3-18 in a planning clycle.
7. Changing Pedagogy
I think that for good learning to take place there needs to be a combination of good pedagogy and either interest or engagement. I think there is a difference between interest and engagement. If a child is interested in something then combined with the right support from the classroom teacher learning is likely to flourish.
Unfortunately, children are sometime required to learn things that they don’t find interesting and that is when we have to teach things in an engaging way.
Technology is engaging and teachers should think about capitalizing on this as they develop learning activities.
All registered Scottish teachers should already be able to using technology in innovative ways:
‘Registered teachers skillfully adopt and deploy a wide variety of innovative resources, including ICT and, where appropriate, the outdoor environment'
Some possible ways to use technology to engage our students
i) Use their tools (eg: social networking spaces)
ii) Offer choice of output (written, typed, poster, presentation, video, podcast etc…) the input (planning, drafting, re-drafting, collaboration etc…) remains the same and the most important bit.
iii) Provide a real audience for students work (Wikipedia, blogs with comments, school radio podcast, science television station on YouTube etc…)
iv) Be creative with on-line technology tools. The ones I specifically mentioned were:
Comic Life / Comic Brush (www.comicbrush.com) - I showed an example of a cartoon where a girl is having a conversation with red blood cells.
Pixton (www.pixton.com) - I showed an example of a comic that has been made about Newtons Laws.
WorldWide Telescope (www.worldwidetelescope.org)
A powerful tool to explore the universe and to teach about space.
As well as providing a great way to learn facts about the universe. Science teachers should also think about how this could be used in different way. For example wouldn’t Worldwide telescope be a great stimulus for creative writing. Where children imagine want it was like to explore planets and far off lands?
Google Earth (www.earth.google.com)
The days and night feature of Google Earth combined with other layers such as the Earthquake layer have obvious links to science education. Its also worth exploring Google Sky, Google Moon and Google Mars.
GPS and other data can be collected from data loggers can easily be imported into Google Earth to provide a special dimension to any real data collected.
Computer Games again combined with good pedagogy can provide a great contextual hub for learning to teach science. Good games for science education include:
- Endless Ocean – where you can explore the ocean as a diver. There are obvious links to marine biology but also to buoyancy, sea water, pressure, Oxygen, physiology etc…
- Spore – This is a game about evolution and you evolve from a micro-organism to intergalactic planet habitation. Obvious links to biology, diversification, evolution and adaptation.
- World of Goo – a crazy game for the Wii where you have to build things out of…goo. Good for introducing concepts such as texture and viscosity. Also the principles of different forces on structures and you have to build complicated bridges (out of goo) to move between levels.
8. Changing Professional Development
We need new models of CPD to engage with a Curriculum for Excellence. If your interested in this have a look at my Drip Feed Vs Sheep Dip CPD post here.
The future of professional development is on-line, have a look at:
- CPD Find
- Curriculum for Excellence
- Consolarium: Games Based and Innovation in Education
- LTScotland on iTunesU (the ‘U’ is for University)
Also consider reading about the daily practice of other Scottish Science Teachers such as:
I would welcome any feedback or comments on the above. Please feel free to get in touch (details top right) or leave a comment below.