#ChatPhysics

Summary

Fabio Di Salvo joins us to talk about Chat Physics, Physics chat on Twitter. Robin asks for advice about the photoelectric effect.

Content

Covid-19 dominates the news and the podcast is no exception. We got in to and then had cancelled the NSTA talk in the same week. Thomas cheered himself up by redoing the web site with a new archive and a new World map of all the listener locations. Before we talk to Fabio, Robin also

Fabio started Chat Physics for the same reasons as we started the Physics Teaching podcast. A lone physics teacher, he wanted to share ideas with other Physics Teachers. Chat Physics was born, four questions asked and teachers all over the World answering.

Links

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.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus. Occasionally we also use Cantina Rag by Jackson F. Smith.

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CPD at SPEED

Our first foray in to the wild as we took our shiny new audio recorder (aka Albert Einstein) to the SPEED Physics teaching conference in Cambridge. SPEED is organised by the legend who is Ally Davies and is a well-established and popular CPD event for teachers in East Anglia. If you would like to pop along to your local CPD day, see the “Forthcoming events” link to Talkphysics, below.

S02E07 Timestamps

  • Physics in the news – Nobel Prize 2019 @ 2:06
  • Robin has had a fun time teaching electricity @ 04:16
  • Thomas has been doing revision in the round @ 06:25
  • Charlie the non-specialist @ 08:11
  • SPEED @ 13:40

Summary

Charlie’s odyssey continues, and we hope you are enjoying hearing his enthusiasm as much as we are. If you have any tips for Charlie, drop us a line. The main focus this week, though was the SPEED event in Cambridge. This is a gathering of many physics teachers and teachers of physics with all sorts of stimulating talks. Here are links to a couple of the things we talked about:

The podcast is trying to provide a link for physics teachers who don’t have anyone they can talk physics with, and the IOP regional days are trying to do the same so if you love the podcast, chances are you’ll enjoy an IOP regionakl day!

Ways to teach… Ionising Radiation

Please share your ideas about teaching Ionising Radiation. Tweet us @physicstp with the hash tag #tptpir , use the contact form below, our Instagram account @physics_teaching_podcast or email us contact at thephysicsteachingpodcast dot com!

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.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus. Occasionally we also use Cantina Rag by Jackson F. Smith.

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Sparking a Debate: Physics CPD for Teachers

I have been like a kid with a new Lego set this month, unpacking IOP Spark and building all sorts of imaginative lesson plans with the finely engineered building blocks on offer.  When I was in the classroom, this sort of link to the physics teaching nexus was invaluable, and from what you tell me, lack of everyday contact with fellow physics teachers is the professional equivalent of solitary confinement.  

As we understand more about what makes good professional development for teachers, the problem of isolation becomes more pressing.  The quality of teachers’ CPD has improved dramatically over the last few years, and thank goodness!  We can all recall the bad old days, crammed onto tables with colleagues from every department; a fug of jaded resignation in the air; an overpaid consultant telling us that children are all unique (I mean, I had no idea).  Not so much profound as profoundly unhelpful.  “Think of all the stuff I could be doing…” our brains would scream in unison.  

Expectations have changed.  Increasingly discerning, teachers are less resigned to poor quality CPD. Unsurprisingly, they want their precious time investment to pay real dividends.  Teachers are looking for more subject-specific CPD.  It makes sense: as a physics teacher, which course would appeal more, “behaviour management in the classroom” or “behaviour management in the physics lab”?  

If a teacher is going to invest in CPD, they want tangible improvements for their students, and this is a challenge for any CPD: does it transform practice to raise attainment?  Subject-specific CPD is more likely to hit the mark here: the more precise and targeted the intervention, the more likely you will be able to measure a result.  Generic pedagogy will struggle to provide that level of specificity.  

CPD becomes punitive when driven by high stakes accountability.  It is best when it is collaborative, and participants feel able to take and give feedback in a supportive atmosphere.  This collaborative model is powerful (Lesson Study has beneficial outcomes), but physics teachers need the chance to share practice with fellow physicists.  A room full of teachers produces good discussions, but the richness goes up an order of magnitude when the teachers share a common specialism.  

Teachers are increasingly wresting control of CPD from the tyranny of “one-size fits all”, setting their own agenda, collaborating and looking hard for subject-specific development.  A rosy picture, then?  It would be, but for physics teachers, there are some dark clouds in need of a silver lining.  

The scandalous and sustained lack of specialist physics teachers means that on average, they have access to far fewer collaborative networks.  Generally, they also have to support the development of those drafted in to fill the shortage of trained physicists. Rarely is this recognised with extra time allocation or an increased CPD budget to allow them out of school to access their professional network.  

Higher than average early-career attrition combines with the overall shortage to leave an even smaller pool of experience to draw on when we look for the seasoned subject custodians so valued by young teachers.  These figures in turn are under pressure to counter a shortage in their schools and beyond, and so the cycle continues.  

I write this as we swelter in another record-breaking summer, politicians doubling-down on frippery and nonsense with elephants in the room increasingly becoming mammoth in scale.  Without a scientific plan for a solution to climate change and the associated environmental degradation, humanity faces a bleak period.  We must speak truth to power: physics will be at the heart of any technical solution and we must promote the subject if we expect it to save us.  

As we head, full of optimism, towards a new school year, my plea to you as a physics teacher is to make some noise in support (defence?) of your subject.  Politely insist that the unique challenges of your job are acknowledged, and ask how they are going to be addressed.  Point out the importance of physics in dealing with the biggest issues facing humanity.  Point to the pay premium attracted by physicists, not just as a factor that ‘pulls’ physics teachers away from teaching, but also as a great career choice for your students.  Schools are all about prioritisation, so make sure physics climbs the ladder.  

If you need help, engage with IOP for support.  Add to your credibility: become a member, get your CPhys, apply for Fellowship.  Make sure your school is affiliated and keep in touch with the latest via spark.iop.org.  To make a case for physics teaching look at Jenni French’s excellent summary from 2015 on the Gatsby website.