Tag Archives: Physics

Climate Change Mitigating Technologies⤴

from

I had the chance to sit in on the cross-party group on science, in which there were two presentations on the topic, the first from Rebecca Bell, Scottish CCS1 on Carbon Capture and Storage. The second was given by Richard Gow, Drax2 on Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage. The latter presentation called for policy help in rewarding negative carbon emissions, which are an odd omission from the accounting model used in climate change impact measurement.

Both provided a really useful understanding and overview of what carbon emission and capture is about and how it is working, with an emphasis on what is happening in Scotland within a very clear European context. I found the presentations, both neither slick nor sales-focused, extremely engaging and helpful in thinking about CO\(_2\) emissions.

There was a lively and wide-ranging Q & A session chaired by Craig Denham of the RSE. Questions were both technical and social: there was good representation of young people through, for example, asking about the skills required to find careers in CCS. My own question:

For teachers, are there any behaviours they can model for young people that will enable them to take a specific personal responsibility for action in tackling CO\(_2\) accrual in the atmosphere?

I suspect this was a question outside of the scope of the presentations (focusing on individual action) but it was picked up by Craig, which I am thankful for. Richard picked this up first and acknowleged the criticism of BECCS for being remote from personal action but pushed back against this by linking to personal choices such as taking less flights. Rebecca added to that by pointing to transport choices like taking your bike, or wearing a jumper instead of turning up the heating, which are easily modelled and reinforced by educators. She also pointed to SCCS resources related to CfE, and the LfS Scotland resources. I particularly liked the GeoBus Education Resources site which is designed to provide teachers with an introduction to CCS, providing experiments, activities, lessons and homework ideas as well as links to a number of other useful CCS education resources, which are linked to English Key Stage 3 and Scotland’s CfE: this pdf links the resource to the Experiences and Outcomes.

The resources available in the websites of both organisions are very accessible and immediately useful in schools in, for example, projects within the interdisciplinary topic of sustainable energy production. It is particularly warming to see the interest and promotion of positive problem solving through the cross-party group. I am thankful to them for opening up this session to interested parties and applaud the the work being done by SCCS and Drax.

Footnotes

The header image is part of an infographic available at SCCS.

  1. Scottish CCS is “a partnership of the British Geological Survey, Heriot-Watt University, the University of Aberdeen, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Strathclyde working together with universities across Scotland.” 

  2. This is the group that operates Drax Power Station which is moving from coal-fired to biomass and leads on innovation and development in the technologies of Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). 

IOP CLPL: Smartphone practicals⤴

from @ @cullaloe | Tech, tales and imagery

The IoP in Scotland is putting on a rich catalogue of online CLPL for the community of physics teachers, and presented by colleagues from that same community. I accessed one of these after the event, because it had been recorded and published by Drew Burrett on YouTube.

This session was hosted by Stuart Farmer and Jenny Hargreaves, and presented by Murat Gullen and Martyn Crawshaw, who gave us a practical introduction to using tools for data capture and analysis using the suite of sensors on most modern phones. They presented a brief rationale, acknowledging that although not all children have a smart phone, most have access to one. The scope (pun intended) for teachers to offer practical sessions using their own equipment was also underlined.

The first tool discussed was PhyPhox which not only can access all of the phone’s sensors, it has a number of built-in activities and tools to make use of the data captured. These can be exported in several formats, or posted to Dropbox for later discussion. What I hadn’t realised is that there is a built-in web server accessed through the “triple dots” at the top right of the phone screen which enables display and control of the app from any nearby browser, provided that the computer is on the same network (it uses a 192.168.x.x IP address).

Screenshots of Phyphox on iPhone and Browser (uses the language of the phone)

Martyn started by talking about Vernier video tracking and analysis software, similar to the java Tracker program. He went on to demonstrate Pasco’s SparkVue app, what Martyn called the “twenty-first century version” of Data Studio found in many schools. It allows connection to onboard sensors and also Pasco equipment in the lab.

It was made clear that teachers should take care not to assume that their pupils are tech-savvy enough to know how to use all of the tools and interfaces without support and guidance.

“Don’t lose the learning!” – Martyn Crawshaw

Excellent stuff, as ever, with a lively Q & A at the end. I’m going to share this with my students.

Virtual Physics Staffroom again⤴

from @ @cullaloe | Tech, tales and imagery

On the last two Fridays, I participated in two more of the IoP’s Virtual Physics Staffroom online 40-minute1 Zoom meetings. On the 22nd May, the focus was on practicals and skills development, and the 29th saw a session focused on the pedagogy of blended learning.

Practicals

The session was hosted by Jennie Hargreaves and began with a demonstration of the Marvin & Milo “Balloon in a bottle” activity by Allan Reid, who had been cut short in the last meeting by the Zoom time-out1. In breakout groups, we discussed ideas for doing practical physics, or at least, develop practical skills as far as possible in a blended or remote learning context. We shared ideas for resources to support this, including Colorado’s PhET, Marvin and Milo, and IoP Spark (there’s also ophysics).

It was recognised that parents should be involved if possible, and that pupil choice is given, rather like primary colleagues are doing with learning grids, in which a dozen activies are available to choose from, according to pupil interest and available resources. Risk assessment was also mentioned, and is clearly something that teachers should (as always) be including in their planning.

As always, collaborative development features strongly in physics education in Scotland and mention was made of the usual channels of SPUTNIK, TalkPhysics, and the resources spreadsheet2 which enables teachers to quickly find exisiting resources for each course in the SQA Physics catalogue.

Sustainable blended learning

This session was hosted by Malky Thomson and Martyn Crawshaw, with David Vincent managing the back-channel. This is an effective model for sessions like these, allowing the presenters to do that well, without missing pertinent and useful prompting and feedback from the floor.

Malky introduced the session and its aims, and gave us a definition of “blended learning”. I like this proper teachery approach, which quickly enculturates delegates who perhaps are new, or who have different interpretations of these terms, at the same time as adjusting variations in the herd to the common understanding.

Breakout # 1: engaging pupils

We were split into groups of about 4 or 5 teachers to consider a couple of questions.

  • Should we be using the same pedagogy, or flipped learning?
  • How to engage and motivate pupils?

Now, I think these could have been any questions on the topic, and the groups would have done the same thing, which is to share experiences and current strategies and frustrations with remote teaching experience so far. The post-breakout discussion had every groupd report back, and common features were reflected across the board: that some kind of flipped learning model is being tried with varying degrees of success in engaging young people. What is noted is that there are more pupils doing the tasks than are admitting to it, and this is evident from the synchronous sessions where progression in understanding, for example, is evident, through the quality of the dialogue and feedback.

The range of tools being deployed in the various online solutions includes the usual powerpoints, question and e-text books, video (either created by the teachers or found online), quizzes and so on. Heriot-Watt’s Scholar is clearly also in use, and some are making use of Isaac Physics with certain groups. The IoP’s TalkPhysics community resource is also greatly valued and appreciated by physics teachers across the country.

A huge concern for teachers is also their awareness of how the move to remote teaching is further disadvantaging the poor. This theme returned again in the second breakout and discussion.

Breakout # 2: next actions

Concerns exist in relation to inconsistencies in policies that have had to be drawn up quickly. Across the country, different schools and local authorities are implementing very different rules, for example, some have banned online synchronous teaching entirely. This can only be a super-risk-averse stance on child protection akin to banning playground use.

The calls from this session included:

  • asking for consistent, perhaps central, policy on online teaching and learning;
  • the SQA to make clear their intentions for changing course content or assessment in the coming session, and to do it quickly;
  • access to technology and infrastructure, especially for the poorer families;
  • training in the use of technology for learners;
  • training in the use of technology for teachers;
  • collaborative resources development

The latter of these is something the physics teaching community is very good at, and perhaps needs the IoP to help again in co-ordinating that effort in the same they have before. Malky Thomson dropped an excellent quote in our session:

“curate, not create”

This is a nice mantra to help teachers and educational leaders understand that it is a massive waste for teachers to duplicate effort in making resources, when a distributed effort will boost quality, increase availability of teacher time, and impact attainment across the country.

Notable points

It was clear from the breakout groups and discussion that there are huge differences across Scotland in the experience pupils are having. Unions are voicing concerns that teacher workload is no less than in normal circumstances and that to ask them to operate a full timetable once schools open, and then in addition provide online session is not reasonable. “Contact time” should include online teaching and be limited (for the same reasons) to the 22.5 hours in SNCT agreements.

Broadly, teachers are finding that they have about a third of their pupils engaging online. Whilst all of the issues are not known, some suggest that one significant issue is of pupils knowing how to use the technology. Another, surely, is in having access to it.

Child protection is a concern, and yet again3, nowhere in any of these online platforms do you see links to CEOP or other agencies to support children at risk.

Notes

The Blended Learning session was recorded. You can find it on YouTube.

  1. 40 minutes, because that is the maximum duration of a Zoom session using a free account. They unceremoniously kick everyone out once the meeting is over, and who can blame them?  2

  2. The link to that can be had from the community, on SPUTNIK or TalkPhysics. 

  3. I’ve mentioned this before

How I am using Microsoft Teams for physics⤴

from @ MIE Scotland

Being a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert (MIEE) has allowed me to develop my digital skills over the past five years.  However before this current crisis I had only used Microsoft Teams with a few classes.  One of the first things I did was review some of courses on Teams and Forms on the Microsoft Educator Community to reacquaint myself with some features and to learn new ones.

 

Guided by what makes good teaching and learning and readings such as this one on tips for effective learning at a distance by Paul Kirshner and his comments on the differences between distance teaching and emergency remote teaching.  The Education Endowment Foundation published a paper called distance learning rapid assessment.

My philosophy is that good learning and teaching is good learning and teaching whatever the context and it is about using the digital tools to support our pedagogy choices.

Firstly it is important to have clarity, I mean this both in terms of what you want the students to learn and how and also the clarity of the instructions that you are providing to your students.

Some of my tips for clarity are:

  • Use more than one channel in your Team.  Posts about assignments are made in the general channel.  It can be a good idea to make the general channel so that only owners (teachers) can make posts and have other channels for questions/chat.  This means instructions can be clearly seen.  The latest post is always at the bottom of a team.  If the instructions move up the page you can move them back to the bottom with a short reply to the original post (you can even delete the reply if you want afterwards).
  • Use announcement within Teams, make the tasks explicitly clear and logical for your students.  Try to minimise the number of documents that you want students to access for one task.  Add hyperlinks within your Teams announcements to the resources that you want students to use whether documents or videos rather than instruction pupils to go to the files section and open file X.
  • Avoid making a post to remind about the work that just says complete the work stated in the earlier post.  Instead either move the first post down by replying to it or copy the instructions from the first post and then make amendments for the new post.  Sometimes it can be hard to scroll up the team channel to find where work is.
  • Consider making channels for different weeks of work or topics to help improve the clarity and to put all the questions asked in the same place.
  • Make the learning intentions and success criteria of tasks clear and place these within the wider context to help them scaffold learning to prior knowledge.
  • Give short assignments using teams assignments, these can not only have dates so students can plan their work, but better allow you to see how students are progressing and allow feedback.  My students have indicated to me that they prefer more shorter assignments than one larger one.
  • Be aware of the files that you attach for any student task.  What size are they?  What format are they?  For example a PDF file is difficult to edit and cannot be edited directly in Teams.  Make sure documents attached to assignments are the x version of the Microsoft files, docx, xlsx, pptx etc. rather than doc, xls, ppt.
  • Be aware that a number of learners are using phones as their main device.  Simplifying instructions can help how many clicks they need to follow to read instructions and complete work.
  • Within the Teams assignments I also include all the hyperlinks to the file documents in the same way that I do for the announcement posts in the channel.  These links can be copied from place to place.

Here is an example of one of my Team announcement post with a custom background, hyperlinks to videos and documents and in this case 4 assignment tasks.

The Microsoft Teams structure approach describe in my detail in my blog was informed by Microsoft webinar on remote learning at the University of NSW, Australia.

My approach to planning learning has been to plan student work on a mostly asynchronous basis.

  • Retrieval practice quiz using Forms and sometimes a quiz on prior learning.
  • Introduction video (created using PowerPoint recorder) and shared via unlisted YouTube.
  • Activity task (Quizlet, Quizizz, Animations/Simulations such as PHET, and at home experiments)
  • Diagnostic assessment (Microsoft Form)
  • Consolidation task (Forms, card sorts in Excel, Padlet etc.)

Synchronous activities include:

  • Responses to questions posted on the Teams channel.
  • Weekly catch-up Team meetings with students, answering questions, providing advice and support, modelling tricky problems modelling on paper or using the Whiteboard app or OneNote.
  • Live quizzes on platforms such as Kahoot, Quizlet, Quizizz.

About me

I am a physics and science teacher working in Angus on the beautiful and sunny east coast of Scotland.


In addition to being a teacher, I am a consultant physics teacher coach with the Institute of Physics Scotland and as part of that role have been running webinar training sessions for physics teaching using Microsoft tools.  Details of support being provided for physics teachers by the IOPS can be found in the Scottish Physics teacher group on Talk Physics including shared Microsoft Forms quizzes, videos, introduction videos, simulations and activities.


I have a interest in professional learning, pedagogy, evidence informed teaching and have contributed to Pedagoo and ResearchEd Scotland events.

I tweet on andrewkbailey13

My YouTube channel includes videos for teachers and pupils on Glow. 

My personal digital learning blog can be found at https://blogs.glowscotland.org.uk/an/digitallearningprototype/

This includes posts on:

Microsoft Forms and Feedback

My Microsoft Team

I have been a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert since 2016 and am now a Microsoft MIE Master Trainer.

IoP Scotland CLPL⤴

from @ Digital Learning

The Institute of Physics are running a number of online learning sessions and offer a range of support for physics teacher.

The Scottish curriculum support resources can be found on Talk Physics in the Teaching Physics in Scotland Group.  This includes a spreadsheet of shared resources including videos, questions, quizzes and simulations useful for remote learning and available for both Google and Microsoft platforms.

There are weekly virtual physics staffroom meetings the next one is tomorrow, Friday 22nd May with one arranged for the following week Friday 29th May.

To get the meeting details please go to:

https://www.talkphysics.org/events/iop-scotland-clpl-virtual-physics-staffroom/

Physics teacher Stewart Gray will be talking about how we can use Isaac Physics to support physics teaching and adapt it for the Scottish curriculum.

https://www.talkphysics.org/events/iop-scotland-using-isaac-physics-in-scotland-clpl/

Finally for the next week we are having our second meeting on using Microsoft tools for teaching physics remotely.  This event will focus on the Microsoft Teams platform, with emphasis on:
• Channels & Posts
• Assignments
• Insights & Grades

You can book this meeting using at:

https://www.talkphysics.org/events/iop-scotland-clpl-teaching-physics-using-microsoft-teams/

 

Thoughts on SQA Exams & Certification⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

In response to a discussion about assessment on the IOP Sputnik email forum for Scottish Physics teachers, I posted some thoughts on what the SQA could do differently. Some replies to the post suggested I should share these ideas further.

It's a bit 'sassy' in places, as one of the replies put it, but here's the post, sass and all -

Alasdair replied to an earlier post saying ' If only the SQA had a big bank of questions in single page word format, say 20 for each key area, and some kind of random test generator software. '
At the risk of this opening a can of worms and with apologies to anyone who has ever had this discussion with me in the past...

If the SQA had a bank of questions they could relatively easily use it to automatically generate unique assessments that candidates could complete entirely electronically, that could be marked, totalled and graded automatically, either as individual key areas/units or as a full course assessment. Any such system could probably automatically certificate the candidate at the appropriate level, and award tariff points too. And if such a system were live all year round, candidates could learn at their own pace, within reasonable bounds, and choose the date and time that they took the assessment. Dare I say it, a bit like a driving theory test...

Such a system might also allow candidates a number of attempts at an assessment, until they achieve a pass (perhaps with a period of time between to consolidate and revise), rather than writing them off after two attempts. A bit like a... oh, you're there already...
For those candidates who *need* an exam grade for Uni entry (they could just do their own entry exams), or those so ingrained in the 'exams are the only thing of any importance' culture that pervades all discussions of education, there is no reason why terminal exams could be not be continued - perhaps with those candidates gaining extra tariff points for the additional attainment. A bit like a driving licence awarded after a practical test...
Granted, schools would need to verify the identities of the candidates attempting assessments (so their big cousin isn't doing it), have a dedicated suite of PCs on which these assessments could be done where online access is limited to only the assessment site, and have a reliable internet connection with sufficient bandwidth. A bit like those places where you do your ..., oh, and again...
These arrangements would require a significant investment, but might go some way to allowing all candidates to achieve at a level that is appropriate to their abilities. There's every chance they could contribute to reducing the attainment gap (if not the poverty that causes most of it) and no doubt whatsoever that they would significantly reduce teacher workload.
If only the SQA had such a bank of questions...
And if they do, then why aren't we doing things better by our kids and for ourselves?
Comments, as ever, are very welcome.

Nobel Prize in Physics⤴

from @ Engage for Education

Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Shirley-Anne Somerville, has congratulated David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz – the team awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics – for their work on strange forms of matter.  Two of the winners – David Thouless and Michael Kosterlitz – were born in Scotland.

Ms Somerville said:

“Congratulations to all three winners of the Nobel Prize for Physics for their work on states of matter, and I’m particularly pleased that two of the winners were born here in Scotland. I hope their achievements help to inspire our next generation of scientists.”

You can read more about the award here

Perimeter Institute – EinsteinPlus 2016 – Day 3⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

Day three began (after breakfast) with a session on Quantum Mechanics. The session was based around the 'Investigating the Nature of the Electron' activity from the Perimeter Institute's materials on 'The Challenge of Quantum Reality'.

IMAG1130

The first task, 'Classical Particle Behaviour', uses very simple apparatus - sand and a paper coffee cup, to model the behaviour of particles passing through two narrow slits - Young's slits experiment. The task asks students to make a prediction of what they will see, encouraging them to explain their reasoning before continuing with the procedure of passing a small amount of sand through two narrow slits cut into the base of the cup.

As expected, two small piles of sand are obtained,

Perimeter Institute – EinsteinPlus 2016 – Day 3⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

Day three began (after breakfast) with a session on Quantum Mechanics. The session was based around the 'Investigating the Nature of the Electron' activity from the Perimeter Institute's materials on 'The Challenge of Quantum Reality'.

IMAG1130

The first task, 'Classical Particle Behaviour', uses very simple apparatus - sand and a paper coffee cup, to model the behaviour of particles passing through two narrow slits - Young's slits experiment. The task asks students to make a prediction of what they will see, encouraging them to explain their reasoning before continuing with the procedure of passing a small amount of sand through two narrow slits cut into the base of the cup.

As expected, two small piles of sand are obtained,

Perimeter Institute – EinsteinPlus 2016 – Day 2⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

Day 2 of EinsteinPlus 2016 saw the group formally welcomed to the spectacular Perimeter Institute building after an equally spectacular breakfast. (There are two excellent bistros at PI, which provided the group with a fabulous range of meals over the week long visit. I'd say more, but there'd be a real danger of this becoming a food blog...)

The morning session was split into two -

  • Cosmology - this used an existing PI activity 'The Signature of the Stars' from their educational resource on 'The Expanding Universe' - using diffraction glasses observations were made of line spectra from a variety of gas discharge lamps. These spectra are used to identify the elements present in stars, in the Milky way and in distant galaxies. The spectra of light from distant galaxies shows the same spectral lines as stars in our galaxy, but the lines appear in slightly different positions, with longer wavelengths. This effect, known as Red Shift, occurs because the galaxies are moving away from us, and each other, at high speeds. Measuring the red shift for a galaxy can be used to measure its speed, which relates in turn to its distance from us. This effect was first observed in the early 20th century and used to formulate Hubble's Law - which states that not only is the universe expanding, but the further away from us a galaxy is, the faster it is moving. The activity includes data allowing the red shift of a range of galaxies at different known distances to be used to find their speeds. This data is then plotted it give a graph representing Hubble's Law, which gives an approximation of the Hubble constant and can in turn be used to find the age of the universe.

  • Gravitational waves - this used a newly developed activity based around the recent detection of Gravitational Waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) facilities in the USA. The facilities use extremely large scale (~4km) laser interferometers to measure incredibly small expansions or contractions (~10-19 m - 1000 times smaller than the diameter of a proton) of the devices which occur when gravitational waves pass. There are many areas of physics and engineering involved in the development and operation of the LIGO detectors, from the solutions to Einstein's General Relativity which predicted the existence of Gravitational waves, to the intricate suspension of the mirrors sued to improve the sensitivity of the detectors - developed at the University of Glasgow. The activity centres around the properties of waves, and their behaviour when they undergo reflection - beginning with demonstrations of mechanical waves using a slinky. Observations of phase change upon reflection were developed upon and related to the operation of the interferometers at LIGO. These ideas were utilised in a hands on activity to simulate the paths of the laser light used at LIGO in order to find the nature of the light detected when the device is unstretched (no gravitational wave) and stretched. This task offers an excellent opportunity to link this part of the Advanced Higher physics unit on waves to a context which involves real, cutting edge physics.

LIGO unstretched

LIGO stretchedAfter lunch, followed a two more sessions -

  • Neutrino Detection - another new activity, this is based on the Nobel Prize winning work of Professor Art McDonald and his team at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNOLAB). The session began with an overview of the production of neutrinos in the sun and the difficulty in detecting these particles - the 'Solar Neutrino Problem'. The session continued with a description of the facility at SNOLAB and a hands on task modelling the detector using marbles, cardboard boxes and a baking tray. There was a great deal of discussion about this task, and the nature of the model to describe and explain neutrino detection. Consequently there was a shortage of time for the remaining tasks, dealing with real data from SNOLAB and the theory of 'neutrino oscillation'.

  • Dark Matter - this session used the 'Dark Matter Within a Galaxy' activity from 'The Mystery of Dark Matter' materials. The activity begins with a revision of the basic rules for circular motion and gravitation, using a range of data to find and plot the orbital speed of a star against its radius from the centre of its galaxy. These values, calculated from classical theory, do not compare well with observational data - implying that there must be more mass in these systems that we can not detect - Dark Matter. Whilst the part of the underlying physics of this task, circular motion, is beyond the scope of the Higher physics course in Scotland, it might be fair to use this as a practice data handling task which could be used to exemplify and reinforce the very brief mention of Dark Matter in the 'Our Dynamic Universe' unit.

The final session of the day was a keynote presentation delivered by Professor Avery Broderick from the University of Waterloo on the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). This program uses nine existing telescopes across the globe and applies a technique known as Very Long Baseline Interferometery (VBLI) to improve the resolution at which images of very small objects can be made.

It is hoped that by improving the resolution for existing telescopes and including planned future telescopes in the gathering and processing of data, the EHT will obtain the first direct images of the event horizon for a black hole in our galaxy. Recent observations in the constellation of Sagittarius are thought to indicate the presence of a black hole with a mass around 4 millions time that of our sun. This black hole is of the right size and at the right distance for the EHT to be able to make observations that will allow an image to be obtained in the next few years.

The data gathered and images obtained by the EHT will allow for further testing of Einstein's theory of General Relativity, and provide a greater understanding of phenomena such as black hole accretion and plasma jets.

After this presentation and another excellent meal the group was offered a tour of the Perimeter Institute building, offering an insight into how the facilities have been designed and developed in order to attract and facilitate the work of some of the world's foremost theoretical physics (not to mention a very large number of teachers and students).

A selection of images of the building will be included in a gallery as soon as I figure out how to make it work...