It’s taken a while (actually all Summer) but thephysicsteacher.ie now contains student notes on all topics on the Junior Cert Science syllabus.
Each chapter contains a copy of the relevant points from the syllabus at the beginning. This gives the student an overview of what the chapter is about and also acts as a check for both student and teacher to ensure we have everything covered before we finish.
There is then the main body which contains the notes in a relatively condensed form.
Next come the questions; here we have included every relevant question which has appeared on an exam paper at higher or ordinary level. These have been arranged to follow the order of the concepts in the notes themselves.
Each question has a reference to the year when the question appeared. Some questions come up repeatedly and this is readily apparent by noting the numbering of years at the top.
Next come the solutions. These are not just the answers but where necessary fully worked out solutions.
Finally there is a bank of miscellaneous questions which rounds of the chapter.
So what next?
Because it’s my first year using this approach it will take at least the year to road-test it and fine tune as I go along. This time next year it should be closer to a polished product.
I teach second- and third-years and so far we have never needed to look at a text-book. The hope is that next year we can spare parents the expense of purchasing science text-books for Junior Science.
Of course the notes still need to be photocopied and distributed, but at least we cut down considerably on paper by using narrow margins, reducing size by printing two pages onto one A4 and photocopying back to back, with the result that most chapters are on one double-sided page. Students seem to have little trouble with this approach although they do have to invest in a plastic folder to contain the notes.
It would be nice to think that we could work in a paperless classroom, but this would require all students to have their own laptop in class so I’m not holding my breath.
The wonderful people at CESI have been helping with the presentation and I can’t see any reason why the notes can’t be published as an online book after we have road-tested it.
It can be updated every year both to improve the quality and add extra exam questions as they appear. In particular I would like to develop the questions to include a lot more ‘higher order’ thinking rather than just simple recall.
It needs to be in ‘editable’ format to allow other teachers to adapt it to their own needs.
I also need to add interactive links to the Junior Chemistry and Junior Biology pages of the website; currently I have over one hundred waiting patiently in the wings; they range from average to priceless.
It’s all freely available to download. In fact to save teachers and/or students the trouble of downloading 45 different chapters I can’t see any reason why I can’t copy them to cd and post them – at least initially.
The website already contains a guide to teaching Junior Cert Physics by topic; it would be nice if this could be expanded to include Chemistry and Biology, but this would involve a contribution from a more knowledgeable source than I.
And what I really want to do is to have evolution permeate the entire Biology section – after all could there be anything more ridiculous than teaching Biology without reference to the underlying template upon which all life is built?
That, and the fact that it’s only the greatest story ever told.
That’ll do for now.