Tag Archives: sputnik

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.

All Hands to the Pumps⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

On Wed 29th Feb, with our senior school out on exam leave for their prelims, and a clear desk (not sure how that happened, but it did) I dipped into my twitter stream and saw this tweet from Glen Gilchrist -

Glen’s post on PLNs and peer collaboration, details how he and Alexavier Fareheed made the journey from tweets to emails to collaboratively authoring their book, ‘Beyond the Mean‘, using Google Docs in just 10 days.

This post chimed very strongly with an idea I’d discussed in the past with Physics teaching members of my twitter PLN – given dwindling school budgets, and the inherent flaws of static printed texts about fields which are continually developing; why don’t we just write our own ‘virtual’ textbooks?

For about 6 years I’ve been a subscriber to Scotland’s largest and most vibrant subject-based email forum for teachers – The Institute of Physics ‘SPUTNIK’ . The forum has over 600 members from about 900 physics teachers in Scotland, and on a typical day may have 20 or more posts with members sharing links, seeking help, floating ideas and debating the issues of the day. A recurring topic on SPUTNIK has been the new certificate courses coming on stream over the next few years as Curriculum for Excellence progresses, for which details have been released, bit by bit, from our examination board, the SQA.

In conjunction with SPUTNIK, our community is fortunate to have its own dedicated website for storing and sharing resources – SPTR.NET - which was set up and is curated by the mysterious Magic Physics Pixies. The Physics community has made a great deal of use of this, with many benefitting from those generous members making their materials for new CfE units of work and the new Higher Physics course available to everyone.

After reading Glen’s post last week, I posted a short message on SPUTNIK, floating the idea of using a similar approach to producing texts for the new National 4, National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher courses. There were a few positive responses, but nobody seemed to be ‘biting’.

Being a bit busy with prelims and coursework for a few days, I wasn’t able to do anything more with the idea until this week, when I decided to use Google Forms to canvas opinion on the idea a bit further and get a few folk to sign up to contribute.

It’s early days yet, but about 20 people have signed up to contribute in the first few days. Hopefully we can gather enough people to get things organised next term and start writing in the summer holidays.

In an effort to get full coverage and ensure quality, it seemed that the project should break down as follows -

  • minimum 3 contributors per unit
  • one proof-reader/editor per unit, overseeing contributions
  • one proof-reader/editor per course, overseeing all units
As there are 4 courses, each with three units this would need about 60 people to make it work, but that’ll be a big task for all involved. However, given the fully collaborative nature of the Google Docs platform, potentially every contributor could contribute to every one of the documents, allowing proof-reading and editing to be done by everyone. That’s not to say it won’t need to be structured or have lots of contributors to get the coverage, but the flexibility and fluidity afforded by this approach may just be the defining factor in its success. I hope.
Once enough people are on board to make the project viable, it should be possible to make the ‘textbooks’ available in a variety of formats – website, wiki, even a paper volume via a service like lulu.com if there is demand.
Now to drum up some more interest, and think about some ground rules.
Any and all ideas, comments and criticisms on this project are welcome and would be gratefully received.

WiiMotes for Physics Experiments⤴

from @ stuckwithphysics.co.uk

I’ve been trying to get to grips with WiiMote Physics in the last week or so. It is a piece of free software which utilises Bluetooth connectivity on your PC to receive data from a Wii gaming controller.

A WiiMote has three accelerometers and an infra red camera inside. Using these it takes 100 measurements from each detector per second.

This makes it an ideal device for measuring many types of dynamics effects in physics.

I first used this capability of the WiiMote at the Physics Summer School using the accelerometer and IR detection for logging the simple harmonic motion of the WiiMote oscillating as a mass suspended from a spring, and swung on a string as a pendulum.

As my Advanced Higher Physics class have been working on the rotational mechanics part of the course I thought I’d try to do a qualitative measurement of centripetal acceleration against angular velocity using an air bearing turntable.

Placing the WiiMote radially on the disc, it should measure the centripetal acceleration in ‘g’ in the +Y direction. The angular velocity isn’t as straight forward, being calculated from the period of revolution. The period is measured using the IR detector which ‘sees’ a lamp as it passes each revolution. This gives a regular peak on the trace for the IR detector.

At least, that’s the theory. In practice its been somewhat trickier to achieve. There have been a few foibles to overcome -

  • getting the WiiMote to connect to the PC via Bluetooth
  • getting the software to show a reading from the IR detector
  • geting the IR detector to ‘see’ the lamp
Luckily, I have the brilliant support of the  Scottish Physics Teachers Network (SPUTNIK) an email forum, that has been great (as always) at offering help when I’ve detailed the problems I’ve had.
It’s been a steep learning curve, but I think I’ll be able to get some measurements done with my AH class next week. Fingers crossed….