James de Winter is Electric

Season 3 continues to deliver physics royalty as James de Winter joins us. James is the physics tutor on the Cambridge PGCE course and has seen generations of physics teachers through their training. Having met a fair sample I can say that all of them hold James in the sort of reverence that Luke reserved for Obi Wan.

A talk with James is always an education and this episode is no exception. There’s lots to think about in terms of reflection on your lesson: James encourages us to stay as practical as feasibly possible during these strange times. Practical work has a far more tenuous grip in schools than it should, and there are a number of reasons for this, but the Covid crisis is yet another obstacle, so please please safeguard investigation in your classroom.

So you may think that you should always have a practical investigation for every lesson.. well, no. As James points out, we need to think about our rationale, and how to tackle the obstacles and what we want students to walk away with after their experimentation.

Robin rambles on a bit about the PhET simulation, and if that appeals, we’ve posted a link below.

James makes a good case for LEDs instead of bulbs for circuit investigations – they’re more reliable, they’re cheap, they’re directional and they are more consistent than incandescent bulbs. We’re interested in hearing how you get on!

We move on to a discussion of then classic core practical “Investigating how current varies with voltage across a component”. Thomas tells us to have a working version of then circuit for the students to look at, and James urges us to give this practical a firm context. If your students haven’t got a good appreciation of voltage and charge, they won’t squeeze the most out of this investigation. James’s advice: make sure you know the narrative that you want the kids to walk away with.

A discussion of the micro and macro worlds led to a word of caution from James: we need to recognise that our comfort moving between the large and the small scale is almost certainly NOT mirrored by the students and so we should identify that as a skill that we should explicitly teach.

Oh, and James’s practical in memoriam is measuring the resistance of an 8B pencil line.

Links

John Hudson’s Radioactivity GCSE AQA – interactive independent study pdf on the TES web site.

The PhET circuit construction kit.

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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First Thoughts on Covid “Secure” Teaching

Robin and Thomas reflect on a first week back under the new Covid guidelines and find time to talk through a simple required practical – timing a trolley rolling down a ramp.

It’s a strange world at the moment as we eye winter warily and a second wave threatens. It is interesting to reflect that school openings have been one of the rare success stories of the pandemic. As usual, teachers and schools have taken on the impossible mission and delivered. We know it’s a stressful time, but we did want to urge you to take a moment to refelct on how much you have achieved: your students are back in school and learning again.

This week we discuss the early days of the pandemic and how you might think about using demos instead of class practicals, and that practical work can still go ahead with thought and care. We also are making this up on the hoof, so please do contact us using the form below to share your ideas and successes.

We will catch you next week, but meantime, stay healthy and be kind to yourself. It will take us time to get used to this new reality and we are not going to work miracles… well not at first anyway…

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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Let’s Brock and Roll

Thomas and Robin look forward to a new – albeit different – school year with some reflections on “the new normal” and an interview with physics-teaching Royalty.

Season 3 is here! And Thomas and Robin start by thanking you for all your feedback after last year. We got some good ideas for this year and we’re looking forward to more Ways to Teach, more on the Core Practicals and more of the guests you have told us you love!

This week we have a couple of zingers to kick off the season.

First up, Thomas’s ‘boss’ joins us (the inverted commas indicate that Thomas is a free spirit who answers to NO-ONE). Matt talks us through his departmental COVID response and pays tribute once more to the wonderfu folk at CLEAPSS who have our back once again (link below). We wish you well with this, and our first Ways to Teach will refelct on some of the early lessons learned. Drop us a line with any good ideas you have had or heard for how to work practical work around the restrictions – there’s a contact form below, or Tweet at us @physicstp

If you want to start Season 3 with a real bang, you need something a wee bit special, and we are delighted that Richard Brock (Yes, THE Richard Brock!!) agreed to come on and talk to us about physics stories. Richard in case you don’t know, has been educating physics teachers and looking at the power of narratives in hooking students (and others!) into physics. Richard has written a series of brilliantly entertaining stories about physics, and the good news is that they are all freely available from the fabulous IOP Spark site (see link below).

Having Richard on was a great way to start season 3, and with physics teachers around the world getting back to the classroom and seeing their students again, the world seems a little brighter. Have agreat year and we will see you next week.

Links

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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A Couple More Nuggets

Thomas doesn’t know which week it is; thinking there is one more week of term he drags Robin to his garage to test some vacuum cannon upgrades. Thomas and Robin also look back through the podcast’s second season, and forward to a possible season 3.

A Tight Collar

Thomas has been experimenting with the collars that are used to join vacuum cannon spec pipes. After initial excitement (described in the podcast) Thomas does some further testing (described in an addendum) and finds that they don’t seal perfectly when pushed on dry and that the hole in the middle is slightly smaller than a table tenis ball (which probably doesn’t matter). The collars can be cut in to slices to make round flanges with three benefits:

  1. Greater surface area for the tape to grip
  2. The potential for “reloading” the tape off-line whilst another shot is prepared (one of the issues with the cannon is the pfaff of taping it up in the lesson
  3. Easier reloading when you forget the ball!

The slices can also be used as a mechanical support for the “gold standard” flange – if you have managed to persuade tech. to make you them.

Thank you. It’s Been… Emotional

There are so many people to thank. We would not do this without *you* dear listener. The emails we get cheer us up and keep us going. We have had so many guests; thank you to you for giving up your time and being so flexible. (Special mention here to Miss Neutrino who happily rerecorded the podcast after Thomas didn’t press the right button). Thanks to Patrick Kaplo, who has become a good friend and who we were very disappointed not to meet face to face this Spring. Finally, thanks to our families, who think we are bonkers but wave us off to our respective cupboard and garage each week.

…but most of all, thank YOU for taking time to listen and – far more importantly – for teaching physics. We are privileged to teach the engineers, physicists, geologists … of the future, and it’s a future that is a lot brighter thanks to your hard work. Have a great summer!

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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Spend spend spend!

Jonathan Shaw joins us to talk over your suggestions for essential physics kit.

What will the well-dressed physics lab be wearing this year? Jonathan Shaw secured £53,000 of funding to kit out his physics department and asked Thomas and Robin to throw this over to the physics-teaching hive mind, and you did not disappoint! We had some fantastic suggestions, and some surprises.

Power packs or data loggers? An observatory or a coffee machine? Where would you invest if you had budget for kit. The consensus that money would be best spent on a teacher and / or a technician was established early, but Jonathan’s budget is specifically earmarked for physics equipment and so we went through series of suggestions.

We also ran a Twitter poll in preparation for the episode and this is what you said should be number one on Jonathan’s list.

  • Powerpacks 57%
  • multimeters 16%
  • oscilloscope 16%
  • other 12%

It’s our last podcast of the year next week, but we’ll be back with season 3 in September… and kicking off with a special physics superstar guest!

LINKS

Wolfson Foundation – the source of most of Jonathan’s grant.

Vernier Dynamics system

CASTLE electric circuits

Physics Toolbox Sensor App

PhyPhox sensor app

SciChem PSUs

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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Sharing Is Caring

Dr Peter Edmonds (@edmunds_dr) joins us to talk about sharing resources, ways to spend other peoples’ money (kitting out a department) and Archimedes.

Peter is one of those special people who is a finisher. Dissatisfied with the resources available to him in his trainee year, Peter set about creating his own resources. Not only that, he shared them through his web site, sciencedoctor.school.blog. His one problem with all this #sharingiscaring? The endless requests for the answers. If you use the resources and there are no answers, then please send them to him.

From Peter’s web site: “Each of the topics contains: A booklet that consists of core notes, worksheets and exam questions (all but the waves topic have answers), Many, many freely downloadable worksheets (answers contained within the answered booklet documents) and there are also *lots* of revision resources and some maths in physics resources also.

Peter’s magnum opus is complete

Thomas says he will put a link to Peter’s site on the resources aggregator we host, resources.physicsteachingpodcast.com. Peter also suggests ways of spending Jonathan Shaw’s £50,000 on Physics equipment – his ideal would be to spend £10,000 on one big ticket item. Thomas is sceptical, Robin delighted.

Finally, Peter’s Practical in Memoriam is a beautiful way of making one of the less inspiring practicals (density) more appealing.

Links

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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Become a YouTuber

Rachel Gray (@PhysicsRachel) joins us to talk about her low tech YouTube videos and also to discuss how Friend of the Podcast Jonathan Shaw should spend his large grant from the Wolfson Foundation to kit out his Physics department.

Rachel’s journey is one that will be familiar to a lot of locked-down teachers: toying with video lessons has got you curious about using YouTube as a lesson resource. Rachel tells us what she’s learned about getting yourself online. Empowering stuff and some great advice from Rachel about how to make a resource that will be of lasting value in your classroom.

Spending other people’s money is always fun, so can you give us your recommendation for kit purchases? Jonathan Shaw has asked the hive mind to give him some ideas on what to spend his budget on kitting out his physics labs. Use the form below to let us know what you think is most important…

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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The Doctor Will Teach You Now

Friend of the podcast and 40 year old NQT @Jo_Moore_Sci joins us to talk about her winding path to Physics teaching.

Jo is a career-changer from a medical background who kindly agreed to join us to chat about her experience of teaching physics. Jo is really enjoying teaching the subject despite it being deemed ‘out of specialism’ for her. Jo is an inspirational example for teachers who may be new to physics, and her message: enjoy it! Don’t worry about your mistakes, and take advantage of the support provided by the IOP, Ogden Trust, Physics Partners… oh, and the podcast, of course! There are some links below to helpful sites for non-specialists.

If you stumble across this podcast and you are considering teaching as a career, we’ve included some useful links below.

Links

TalkPhysics – IOP forums with a vast range of discussion topics and helpful specialists on hand to answer questons

Ogden Trust – Supporting physics teaching in schools via partnerships, resources and promoting teaching and learning

Physics Partners – partnerships of schools in England aimed at supporting physics teaching

Get Into Teaching – The government’s site promoting teaching with information about routes into the classroom

The Brilliant Club – The “Researchers in Schools” programme offers a unique route into teaching for those with a PhD

Now Teach – aims to help career changes into teaching.

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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Uncertainties

Dr Dave Farmer joins us to talk about uncertainties.

The tweet that started it all

Friend of the podcast Dave Farmer returns to talk about a subject to strike fear into any physics teacher’s heart: uncertainty! We peel away some layers of complexity to reveal… more layers of complexity! Having worked with a lot of exam boards’ A-level specs over the last few years, Dave recommends reading the mark schemes and looking for examples of what your particular exam board recommends. Whether we are talking scale resolution, combining uncertainties or ascertaining the gradient of a graph with error bars, we couldn’t agree on any of them. But don’t despair, there’s a lot of uncertainty about uncertainty, so just work out what your exam board require and after that, let your students develop their ideas.

We also emphasise that all of these methods are estimations and approximations: rigorous statistical consideration of uncertainty is a scientific career in itself, so inevitably A-level is just going to scratch the surface.

Finally we celebrate a physics teaching hero: take a bow Dr Peter Edmunds the Science Doctor who has shared an immense catalogue of resource for physics at all stages. Stuck for some resources? You’ll find something on Peter’s excellent site – link below. Why not fill your boots and then buy Pete a coffee?

Links

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Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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A Gimmicky Demo Fan

Robin and Thomas meet John Hudson, a self confessed gimmick demo fan who also makes pdf interactives.

Links

Wall-to-wall gimmicky demos on this week’s podcast as we welcome John Hudson. Although we call them gimmicky, nothing could be farther from the truth: John introduces us to some great experiments and demos that are crammed full of physics to inspire and talk about.

Don’t forget, if you are looking for resources, there are loads on the TES website, so why not take a look, or even better: share a resource that you are proud of so that others can benefit.

Join in!

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message or upload an mp3 or ogg). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

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