Tag Archives: Physics

IoP Stirling Conference⤴


With a little nervousness, the Institute of Physics (IoP) returned to Stirling for the 47th Stirling Physics Teachers Meeting, centre piece to the year’s CPD events offered or organised by the IoP including the 3-day residential school for teachers of which the conference forms an integral part. I joined delegates at the Stirling Court Hotel as much to re-connect with the physics teaching community after COVID as for the programme of events. This reflection is based on notes taken on the day; any errors or omissions are my responsibility. The sketches are for fun.



The conference theme was “Energy and Sustainability” and it was opened by Dr. Laura Thomas, Chair of IOP Scotland after the first generous opportunity for networking around the exhibition space and coffee. Exhibits were relevant and interesting including a “help yourself” table of vintage physics books from djb, showing off the sustainability spirit before we even got started. Laura reviewed the work of the IoP in Scotland over the past couple of years, including the committee work and that of the IoP coaches in running CPD events and supporting teachers in schools and colleges. She also highlighted the “girls into physics” events which are starting up again, and the national Limit Less campaign to “support young people to change the world and fulfil their potential by doing physics”.

The conference was smooth and coherent, and nobody noticed the change in the running order from the advertised programme. As well as energy, there was a strong thread of making visible career pathways for children in the physics classroom. Three presentations from industry were connected by a real sense of optimism and opportunity for our children and their futures, right here in Scotland.

Fusion: power for the future

The University of Glasgow’s DeclanProf. Declan Diver taught us that we don’t say “nuclear power” any more when talking about energy choices, because for most people this is synonymous with “nuclear waste” and the connotations of that are negative. Nuclear fission (“splitting the atom”) is not a sustainable source of energy (and never has been), whereas nuclear fusion is, especially now that some of the challenges have been overcome: we now speak to the public (and in classrooms) of “fission” or “fusion”: they are not the same and there is no waste with fusion, quite the reverse. Recent breakthroughs in the exhaust system have enabled fusion processes to be demonstrably self-fuelling as the tritium required is a product of the process of taking very low gas density hydrogen at a very high temperature and producing neutrons from it. The energy is captured from these neutrons in a lithium blanket to ultimately heat steam and drive turbines to generate electricity. This process is the other way of doing fusion: the physics teachers in the room were familiar with stellar fusion in which particles are brought together under extremely high pressure. The fusion in a tokamak is achieved by accelerating particles to high energy states using an electromagnetic field – as particles are driven around a circular path in the torus they increase the probability of a collision and thereby fusion reaction.

The hydrogen gas is required to be in the form of a plasma, a gas of free charged particles, and this is achieved in a toroidal1 magnetic chamber (“tokamak” from the Russian). Production devices are more spherical and the first STEP2 is expected to be online before the target date of 2040. Site selection for the first UK station is under way and one of five contenders is at Ardeer in North Ayrshire, also famous for its nudist beach. If selected, construction begins there in 2023 on a brownfield site once an ICI works. 3,500 people will be involved in the 8-year build and 1,000 will operate it. The STEP sites are highly compact, occupying only 100 hectares (one square kilometre) to generate between 100 and 200 MW of energy.

Declan opened his talk with some motivators: between 4.2 and 8.7 million people are killed every year by burning fossil fuels; we have just over 10,000 days until net zero carbon emissions in 2050 and it is impossible to meet energy demand within those targets using other renewable energy sources. Ardeer is the only Scottish site under consideration for the UK STEP project and although those other renewables sources are still required, the selection of Ardeer would be a significant factor in growing and sustaining Scotland’s already credible expertise in new energy production and distribution.

Careers in the Physics Classroom

CarolCarol Davenport, director of Northumbria University’s nustem project gave delegates a call to action and seminar on how teachers, in particular physics teachers, might approach promoting STEM careers in their classrooms and why they should be doing so. She described how the number one career influence on young people is their family, and number two, ahead of careers advisors, friends, people in the field, employers or careers fairs, is teachers. For young people over 16 in physics and mathematics, their motivation is informed by key adults, how well they understand the subject and how well they have been taught. Teachers clearly have a role to play that ought not to be underestimated.

Carol urged us to avoid the “one-shot” special sessions on careers, rather, to use a drip-feed approach, seeking opportunities in schemes of work to connect, perhaps through starter activities, the course content to a real-world application. I am not sure that this is the right place for this because of the constraints on time to discuss and ask questions which children who are genuinely interested in following up need to satisfy. Rather, a fracture point within a lesson sequence might provide a realistic space, with examples or even an external visitor (in person or digital) input. Carol suggested LinkedIn as a resource to find those people you know, or who might be in your school area, willing to speak to young people about what it’s like to be a {insert STEM profession here}. Her idea of creating an alumni group to enable and sustain contact with former pupils is a cracking idea but this needs to be owned and managed by the school to avoid it disappearing when a teacher moves on.

Nustem have a collection of activities around STEM careers and what people in these jobs do for a living, including career cards linked to the English curriculum. Carol seemed to respond positively to my suggestion that they follow the Imperial College’s ReachOut CPD example of connecting the resources to CfE E&Os, specifically for Primary teachers who will also make great use of such a resource if that is done. Primary teachers in Scotland have a particular workflow that is understood by Imperial, hence their tagging of their CPD units by experiences and outcomes of the Scottish curriculum. The nustem activities and resources will, in my view, be similarly accessed if these keys are available to teachers, and more to the point, are not likely to be used if they are not. These teachers just don’t have the time to translate Key Stages and curricular references from the English culture that dominates nustem at the moment.

A nice touch with the nustem Primary Careers Tool is the hidden keywords in the image search links on each card, designed to compensate unconscious bias being exacerbated by Google’s image search bias. For example, on the card for mechanical engineer, the image search phrase is mechanical engineer AND female. Clumsy, but effective in presenting counter-stereotypical images to your children of what mechanical engineers look like.

One final powerful tool amongst the many great ideas Carol shared with us was the phrasing of career-oriented questions for young people: less, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” or “do you want to be a pilot?”, and more, “could you be a marine engineer?”. Follow the link to that card and read the attributes: young people might like the idea of a job that asks them to be “passionate, imaginative, open-minded” in an environment that features working in and around water. Triggering the imagination seems to be key, and I remember seeing myself in various roles as influencing my own choices.

Building the energy system of the future – one innovation at a time

Neil For me, by far the most inspirational talk of the day was given by Neil Kermode3, MD of the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC Ltd.) in Orkney. His engaging and entertaining yet punchy style told a story of innovation, creativity and resilience in design against the challenge to harvest the natural resources of the UK in terms of tide and waves. His Orcadian perspective placed his business firmly on our maps in a way that is immediately useful in our classrooms to connect the physics curriculum with exciting innovation and opportunity. EMEC are essentially a research and testing facility for tidal and wave energy capture that is supporting the development of our own secure energy supply for the future. Neil estimated that 20% of the UK energy demand might be met from the seas.

This is no trivial task, however, because there are design and infrastructure barriers to overcome which require the attention and commitment of government, which seems to be starting to manifest itself in Scotland, if still underdeveloped in Westminster. Neil said:

“If you build the infrastructure, stuff happens.”

This is consistent with my own view on the role of government on behalf of society. No roads, no commerce, no growth. No brainer. Extend that idea to the national grid, to terminals, to communication, and there the doors open to innovation and an energy-rich future for us all. It’s not rocket science, though, as Neil suggested: it’s much, much harder than rocket science in terms of the environment and scale of the devices under test. For example, the Orbital O2 tidal turbine is 74 m long, has 10 m blades turning on legs under water containing “salt and biology”, generating up to 3 MW of power. Think of the mechanical forces acting on those bearings and structures.

The bigger challenge is how to make use of the energy captured, when Orkney isn’t on the 20th century national grid? Here’s where the innovation really sparkles, in my mind, because using electrolysis to generate hydrogen and ammonia for storage from air and water is one thing: going beyond that to generate synthetic hydrocarbon fuels that will allow us to continue to aviate is something else. These are not pipe dreams or science fiction: flow batteries are working at EMEC; Hydrogen-electric aircraft are flying; good examples of what Neil called, “learning by doing”. He left us with another quote, this time from John F. Kennedy’s address before the Irish Parliament on June 28th 1963:

“The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

Lunch and the afternoon

Networking is a hugely important part of an event like this, not least for connecting with new people and re-connecting with old friends and colleagues, but because it’s the most effective way that I know of improving teaching and learning in our classrooms. Dialogue, challenge, swapping ideas and making promises to follow up are crucial to stimulating reflection and improvements in practice. Lunch allowed this, of course, and so did the raggedy end of the day after the afternoon presentations.

I got less from the presentations in the afternoon than those in the morning for a couple of reasons. The first, was given by Jonathan Prescott, sales manager for Mitsubishi Electric (Living Environmental Systems Division) who make heat pumps for the domestic and commercial markets. He explained a bit about what these are and how they work, which was interesting, and offered anyone who wanted it a visit for pupils to the factory in Livingston. I have spent too long in sales to enjoy a sales pitch, even one in this context. More info if you want it from ecodan.co.uk. For me, Jonathan’s talk didn’t speak to the expectations that the morning had raised.

The final session seemed to be something of a compromise, based on a much longer workshop on the Physics of Climate Change, given by IoP coaches Allan Reid and Andrew Bailey. I am not sure it worked much for me, mostly because I had trouble following what was happening, focused as it was on the intimacy of the front row of the audience. The workshop was based on the Perimeter Institute’s Evidence for Climate Change enquiry-based lesson compilation which includes a range of activities for children to engage with, alongside video resources. They are certainly worth following up for any teacher.

For anyone interested in breathing, the Keeling Curve used by Allan and Andrew in their talk is worth spending a few minutes studying with a cup or glass of something reassuring. It will underscore the motivation for the theme of today’s conference and perhaps focus us all on why the innovation and efforts we heard about today are important and worth paying attention to.

Conclusion and next steps

Writing up these notes has been helpful in making sense of what I learned at the conference. I have promised to arrange a meeting for my technician and I with Norman at SSERC to pick his brains on the zeitgeist of Scottish Physics practical work, so we can better prepare our students for it as they go on their placements and begin their careers.

For those readers who might seek further resources, let me recommend the Institute of Physics IoP Spark, in particular the Stories from Physics downloadable pamphlets. These are full of accessible, fascinating tales of invention and discovery around the major themes of classroom physics. Good pedagogy, as I tell my students, is like telling a story. I heard some great stories today.


  1. Think donut-shaped 

  2. STEP = spherical tokamak for energy production 

  3. who, I hope, can forgive my artistic impression in the margin. 

Climate Change Mitigating Technologies⤴


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.


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.


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.


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 @ Mr Bailey 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:


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.


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:



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'.


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'.


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,