Tagged: science



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This week I was fortunate to attend the Science Teacher’s Association of Victoria annual conference, held at La Trobe University, Bundoora. I presented two well-attended sessions of “A Digital Toolbox for Teaching and Learning Science“, for which I received some excellent feedback.

The Keynote address on Day 1 was Professor David Jamieson, from Melbourne University, who spoke about “Physics, Power and Climate Change”. It was a very sobering analysis of climate data over millenia, the relationship between climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and our currrent insatiable appetitie for power. He highlighted the imbalance between the consumers of power in the developed countries and the effects of climate change that will impact more severely on people in developing nations.
On Day 2, the keynote speaker was Dr Tanya Hill from the Melbourne Planetarium, who had a very inspiring plenary titled “Where to Find Aliens”. She had some awesome space images and great information about how new exoplanets are being discovered virtually every week and how some of them may be quite earth-like and capable of supporting life. She challenged us to think which was more incredible, that we are the only planet in the vast universe that harbours living beings or that there are other places where life goes on. One of the web sites that Dr Hill recommended was “Zooniverse“, which has eleven “missions” which are “citizen science projects” – that the general public can participate in. Zooniverse includes eight space missions, one about nature, one about humanity and one about climate.

Aquatic Macroinvertebrates


After all the rain in August and September, our creeks are flowing and the water tanks are full. There are sun-dews popping up all over the embankments near the dam and the water is teeming with life. We found an excellent site for assisting to identify these creatures at “Identification and Ecology of Australian Freshwater Invertebrates”. As well as plenty of tadpoles of all different sizes, we have found lots of different aquatic macro-invertebrates, including:

  • leeches
  • damselflies
  • tiny freshwater molluscs
  • mosquito larvae
  • red mites
  • shield shrimp (like the one shown above)

Shield shrimp grow to 35mm and have between 35 and 71 pairs of legs. This minor group occur in ephemeral lentic waters. They are benthic and burrow into soft substrata. Notostracans are omnivores feeding on algae, bacteria, protozoans, rotifers and plant matter.  Eggs can withstand long periods of desiccation and are activated by the presence of water. Eggs hatch to microscopic larval forms with only three appendages, antennules, antennae and mandibles. Larvae undergo several moults before attaining adult form.

K12 On-Line Conference “Week in the Classroom”


Screenshot from K12 Online Conference

This week I have been excited to be informed that my proposal to present at the K12 Online Conference was accepted. The conference is in it’s fifth year and again promises a diverse range of international presenters, distinguished key-note speakers and excellent opportunities for collaborative professional development. The pre-conference week starts on 11th October with Dean Shareski, whose very name is the embodiment of what the conference is all about – sharing. This free conference, with the theme “Cultivate the Future!”, includes some truly inspirational and innovative users of technology in education, such as:

I am truly honored and humbled to be included in a line-up with such outstanding leaders in education. If you are planning on participating in any part of the conference, please leave a comment and if you are interested in my “Week in a Classroom” let me know what your specific interests are, so I can tailor my presentation accordingly.

Why is it important to teach and learn Science?


Unfortunately, I missed the most recent #scichat on Twitter about “Assessment in Science”, which included discussion about rubrics, portfolios, “open journal quizzes”, “performance labs.”, oral tests, addressing misconceptions and content vs process. Two of the comments that resonated with me were “shifting away from thinking of students as future scientists to students as future citizens” and “providing an authentic audience”.  This was a timely discussion, as we are finalising a curriculum document at our school at present, and I have been thinking carefully about why it is important to teach science in schools. This is what I have come up with:

As a science teacher I aim to:

1. Improve students levels of scientific literacy to enable:

  • informed debate about scientific and technological issues that appear in the popular media
  • active participation in decision-making policy on a range of scientific issues, including environmental matters (for example: stem-cell research, genetically modified organisms, climate change, immunization)
  • consumer confidence based on rational, scientific thinking

2.  Encourage students to become enthusiastic about learning and about science (increase motivation)

3. Develop student’s confidence in their ability to achieve their goals (in science and more generally)

4. Foster an appreciation for the natural environment and the develop the knowledge and skills to contribute to a sustainable society

5. Develop students knowledge, skills and attitudes that are necessary to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Why do you think it is important to teach and learn about science? Please leave me a comment if you have any more ideas.

iPods in middle years science education

ipod with lego men

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Since attending the Slide2Learn conference, and being the holidays with plenty of time to play around, I have been exploring the possibilites of using our class set of iPods in the science laboratory. Even without the applications mentioned in previous posts ( Technoscience at Slide2Learn conference, Our Solar System and Free iPod Touch applications for maths and science learners), there are several very useful tools that are pre- installed.

note_taking The note taking application allows the user to tap in quick notes, saved for later use. the advantage of using an ipod over a netbook, laptop or desktop is, of course, it’s portability and it is very quick to open. This is ideal for taking  notes on excursions:

– recording data from water testing, results of quadrat or transect studies;

– adaptations of plants at the Botanical gardens, animal behaviour at the zoo;

– names, (you could also use the Contacts for this) times and dates (likewise, with the Calender) for later reference  – an external memory-jogger!

voice_recorder The voice recorder, an uber-modern “dictaphone”, allows very good quality voice recording  with the supplied earphones and tiny microphone. More sophisticated options for recording are available as acessories, but would only be necessary for podcasting and more serious recordings. I hope to use this tool with students who are very reluctant writers and those with poor literacy skills. As well as all the above uses, a voice recorder will be useful for recording observations of laboratory and outdoor experiments. Instead of writing up a proper experimental report, students can create a digital story using the microphone and drawings or photographs. So, the student will record the materials and equipment, method or process, results, observations and conclusions. The recording can then be sent, quickly and easily, by email to the student’s own email address, the teachers address and/or to a class “Posterous” account. Posterous is an online blogging platform which allows posting by email to a unique web address.

ipod_clockAs well as a world clock, which allows you to add the time in different cities around the world, this tool has an alarm, stopwatch and timer – three useful devices in the science laboratory. And don’t forget the calculator! So, if your students have these devices in their pockets, encourage them to use them for educational purposes as well!

A UK study by Becta Schools concluded that “The iPod can be a flexible tool for students to create their own resources and have access to these resources anytime, anywhere. They can make audio notes, PowerPoint presentations and multiple choice quizzes, thereby having a variety of tools to reinforce their learning.”

Technoscience at Slide2Learn conference


This week I was fortunate to participate in the inaugural “Slide2Learn” conference, held over two days in Shepparton, Victoria. It was a fantastic event, organised by a committed and enthusiastic group of innovative teachers, to share their specialised knowledge with other teachers from Australia and beyond. The conference was held at the school of Louise Duncan, winner of the 2009 Lindsay Thompson Fellowship, for her Personalised Learning program. I was thrilled to meet Jenny Ashby, a leading teacher,  seasoned presenter and iPod Touch  expert educator. I also attended inspiring sessions by Jonathon Nalder (Key note speaker) Megan Iemma, Stacey Kelly, Kate Maccoll (fellow science freak) and Deon Scanlon. One of the highlights was the Ustream presentation by Tony Vincent, who gave practical, hands-on advice about how to implement mobile devices in schools.

Some of the applications we found out about that are relevant specifically to science teaching are:

  • 8Planets – animations, information and quiz about our solar system
  • CO2 footprint – a greenhouse gas calculator
  • Human calculator – add your birth date and time and find out how many breaths, heart beats, how much food eaten, urine produced and much more…….
  • Periodic table – beautiful images and information about of all the chemical elements
  • Biology core – glossary with biological definitions

In addition, there were many, many more applications with more generalised use that would be useful in my science classes:

  • Simple Mind Express and Idea Sketch for concept mapping
  • SWOT for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
  • Studystack for flash cards
  • iTalk and Voice memos for voice recording (with a microphone)
  • Posterous to send podcasts to a blog
  • Animoto and Sonic pics for slideshows
  • Etchasketch with colours, shapes, text and free-form writing and drawing
  • Cropsuey to crop, rotate and flip images
  • Colour magic and Glow for special effects on images

I’ll be writing more posts about using iPods in education soon – what an exciting time to be a teacher!

There is a more extensive list at  the ICTeD Services blog and on the ning.

Revision for Science Tests

bunsen burner

Students in years 6/7 and 8 will be completing a science test before the end of term, to assess their learning in this first part of the year. In Year 6/7 you will need to know the following:

  • Safety rules for science experiments
  • Laboratory equipment – Identify, label and draw
  • States of matter (Solids, Liquids and gases) and the Particle Theory
  • Water Cycle (label evaporation, condensation, precipitation etc)
  • Heat Moves (convection, conduction and radiation)

You can use your netbooks to do some revision by going to the FUSE site and typing the Resource Package code: Y4B8TT into the search box. Can you explain, in terms of the particle theory, what happens to the aluminium can in this video? After the test we will be going on to do a unit of work on “Separating Mixtures”. You can see a Voicethread about the different ways to separate mixtures here and another one here.

Year 8 Students can use the Resource Package code: 9WTEHH to do some revision on atoms, molecules, elements and compounds. You will need to know the names and symbols of the first twenty elements, the properties of metals and non-metals and some examples of common molecules, compounds and mixtures (for example, table salt is NaCl, carbon dioxide is CO2 and water is H2O). After the test, in Year 8 we will be going on to do a unit on “Chemical Reactions” (comparing changes of state, or physical reactions, to chemical reactions). Check out ourVoicethread about Physical and Chemical reactions.

Some of you may be interested in collaborating with a class in the U.S.A. who are doing a project about the Science of the Olympics. You will work with students from Mrs Laguna’s class on a wiki. Let me know if you would like to extend your learning in this way.

Maths and Science in our 6/7 class

Bitesize maths

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So far this year in Year 6/7 we have been studying positive and negative whole numbers – including factors, multiples and prime numbers. Next we are starting to look at numbers between zero and one or how we express the numbers in between whole numbers. We will be doing a short diagnostic test from the University of Melbourne “Teaching and Learning about Decimals” that compares the size of two different decimal numbers. The site above has many different activities using fractions, decimals and percentages.

In Science we have started with the Safety Rules and Equipment in the laboratory. We have performed some simple experiments, including measuring the rate of heating and cooling water. Now we are studying the states of matter – solids, liquids and gases – and the particle model. We have created our own mini-water cycle and created posters to show evaporation, condensation, precipitation, erosion, transpiration and aquifers.

Year 7 and 8 Science and Maths – Week 2


This week in Maths we will continue to investigate probability, looking at both theoretical and experimental results and using technology to generate long term random results. We will be doing the Maths 300 activities “Dice Differences” and “Problem Dice”.

In Science, we will finish our Paper Aeroplane experiment and start individual projects. Go to the Science Buddies  site and complete the survey which will help you to identify areas of interest and suggest some projects that may be suitable. We will use the On-Line Science Fair wiki to post our research and share our results. Make sure you sign up as a member (using  your school email address and password) and create a page where you can keep relevant information and links.

In Year 8 Science we have started the Human Body unit with a look at the digestive system. This week we will be doing food testing, so make sure you bring in a small sample of food to test. These are the tests we will be doing:

  1. Brown paper or Emulsion test for fats and oils (lipids).
  2. Iodine test for Starch
  3. Benedict’s solution and heat for glucose (sugar).
  4. Copper sulphate (10 drops) and sodium hydroxide (5 drops) for protein.

Today’s task – Year 7 Maths and Science

releasing leaf hoppers

Firstly, congratulations for participating in the biological control of bridal creeper using leaf-hoppers, the DPI project we completed last term. The leaf hoppers we bred in class were successfully released at Hawkesdale Apex Park during the last week of term 3. We hope many of them survived the cold and wet weather we had over the September school holidays!

Today we will be looking at two tasks on the computers – (1) continuing our Beetle Game (Maths 300) to learn more about probability and long-range frequencies and (2) entering our paper aeroplane data onto the Google docs. spreadsheet to compare our results with other students.

(1) Go to Maths 300 on the intranet and choose “Beetle Game”. Click on “Make a Beetle” and then play ten games by clickoing on “Auto” and then clicking on the space bar. What do your results suggest? If this was a carnival game, how would you organise the cost and prizes so that you can make some money? Then go to “Make many beetles” and choose how many people you think will play the game at a school fete or carnival. How do you think you should organise the prizes now?

(2) Go to the Google spreadsheet “Paper Aeroplane Flight Distance data” and enter your results from five trials. Calculate the mean, using a calculator and then check using the formula option in the spreadsheet. Compare your results with other students’ – how did your plane go? How can you improve your design to increase your flight distance?

(3) If you have completed the above tasks, write a blog post about one of the three activities – releasing leaf hoppers to control bridal creeper, the “Make a beetle” game or Paper Aeroplane project.

aeroplane prac1