Erupting volcanoes – resources for teaching

The CESI forum has been wonderful this week, providing a series of links for up to the minute news on the Eyjafjallajokull volcano which erupted this earlier in the week.

I hope they don’t mind if I borrow their links.

NASA Photo

Helicopter footage of the erupting volcano

Beautiful Photos of the eruption

Watch flights over Europe – live!
This site seems to be down at the moment – I’m not surprised.

Visit here, select [24] frames, and press [Play] … you can see the color radar starting yesterday and then the actual effects of the eruption.

Two videos from Sky News
1: Background to the eruption
2: Pilot tells his story of flying into an ash cloud

And finally a wonderful blog post (with a National Geographic video embedded) from a fantastic school blog – thank you to msleydonsclassblog – and thanks to the Teachnet gang for pointing to it in their most recent post.

But most of all thanks to the good folk at CESI who continue to demonstrate the power of collaborative learning. Chances are, most of you reading this are signed up anyway, but if not why not do so now? Just go to their homepage and down at the bottom you will see the option to subscribe – you won’t regret it (but if you do you can always unsubscribe at any stage).

And never forget children: Nature – it always bites you in the ass.


CESI conference 2009: Prepare to be inspired


I’m definitely getting grumpier. As the years go by I get more and more annoyed with the isolation in which we teachers carry out our job. Not only is it possible for us to spend our entire career – from the day we graduate to the day we retire – without once being observed by a collegue or inspector, but similarly there is no onus on us as professionals to show that we are aware of best practice elsewhere, even if elsewhere happens to be the class next door.

Okay, so it’s a slight exaggeration; we do now have department ‘inspections’, but let’s face it – these are highly contrived occasions and are seen almost exclusively as stressful occasions to ‘get over’ rather than opportunities to become reflective of our own teaching.

Last time I checked this was 2009 – the 21st century – and there is still no forum for teachers to share resources, ideas or even ask advice of our colleagues on a country-wide forum. At National School level the INTO have a number of discussion forums for their members, at Secondary level the ASTI have yet to initiate such a concept.
Hopefully the recently formed Teaching Council of Ireland will set something up, or maybe even the Teachers Professional Network, which has given considerable funding to CESI to help run the event.

That’s why CESI is so important for individuals like me. It is primarily for teachers involved in ICT, but it does allow us to acknowledge that there is a wider world out there, composed of professionals who are all trying to improve their teaching. The CESI forum (see the homepage) has grown to over 300 members, and one of its great strengths is that it incorporates all levels of education.

Next Friday and Saturday sees the CESI annual conference in Tallaght. It is one of the very few conferences which I really look forward to. There is a tremendous sense of goodwill and energy pervading the two days and it is impossible not to leave inspired.  And of course what differentiates it from so many other well-intentioned conferences is that the forum allows for immediate follow-up and feedback, ensuring that wonderful ideas don’t slide down the ‘to-do’ list.

I have encouraged colleagues in my own school to attend, but when they ask what’s the big deal about using ICT I struggle to give an articulate answer on the spot. So when Anne-Marie posted this on the forum recently I zoned in on it immediately. She writes better than I ever could about the potential of ICT in teaching. It’s not a case of  ‘what use is ICT’?’, it’s more a case of no matter what you teach, ICT has to potential to improve your teaching, if only you allow yourself to be open to it:

I am a muinteoir Gaeilge and a budding ICT enthusiast. I am very enthusiastic but a real novice with ICT. I began using ICT in the rang Gaeilge last year with three first year  groups.Each student had the option of doing a project in the traditional way or by using the free Photostory software. The majority chose to do a photostory project . It appealed to all levels of ability. I couldn’t believe the students enthusiasm in putting their projects together and how proud they were of the finished product. They were all very keen that everyone would see their films as Gaeilge. This project developed all 4 language skills in a way that few other projects could. It appealed to all students and they enjoyed working on it.There was no struggle getting students to complete work.
This year, I have been working on radio programs and editing with a fourth year group as part of the Gael Linn comortas chlar raidio. I am planning to start a module on blogs and Podcasting after mid term. I am not sure whether I am brave or stupid, but the students are enthusiastic and social networking is their world , so the plan is to use this to our advantage in the seomra Gaeilge.
I would really love to attend the conference but unfortunately it is not possible. I would very much appreciate any help or suggestions anyone could give me and would love feedback on the conference.

Thanks to Anne-Marie for allowing me to use the quote.

I know the conference falls over mid-term, but I promise you that you will not regret the decision to turn up. Given the recent withdrawal of funding and support from the department, it seems that our greatest resource is each other. Prepare to be inspired.


CESI  (the Computer Education Society of Ireland) have just set up a forum for teachers at all levels (primary, secondary and tertiary) to promote the use of ICT and also to facilitate those who have ICT related questions.
They may end up having a blog for the more philosophical issues, and keep the forum for queries. Either way, it’s well worth subscribing.

Obviously you can unsubscribe at any stage.

Sign up here

It was set up using Googlegroups, and seems to be working very well.

Which got me to thinking:
Why is this facilty not available for teachers of Junior Cert Science. Particulary for clutz like me who have to teach a biology dissection, or for that matter for a Biology teacher who has to teach Electricity for the first time.
If nothing has been done by next September I may have a go at setting it up myself.

Afterall, if John Hegarty can do it for CESI, it can’t be that hard! 🙂

And then why not have one for a school science department themselves? What an excellent means of having an ongoing discussion between teachers who just don’t have the time to sit down with each other during the day.

One step at a time perhaps.

Good day Bad day

Good day
John Henderson has suggested setting up an email network on gmail for anybody interested in ‘ICT in Education’ issues. This may finally get us teachers talking to each other. I am just a little bit excited.Good man yourself John.

Bad day
Had to forego the lunch which followed because I had a mountain of ‘Mock’ papers to correct.

Good day
Came across this answer to the question ‘What is self-induction?’

Self-Induction is when you have been rejected so many times by clubs and have gotten so pathetic that you’ve actually inducted yourself into a non-existent club that its only member is you and you alone . . . . Oh I wish someone else would join.

Sean, you’ve a bright future ahead of you – I’m just not sure it’s going to be in Physics.And this in response to the question ‘What are the four fundamental forces in Nature?’

Science: Gravity Electromagnetic, Strong, Weak

Religion: God, The Holy Spirit, Jesus, Their own ego

(At this stage I would like to emphasise that these are not my own views :)).

Bad day
Remembered I offered the editor of the Irish Science Teachers’ Journal that I would write an aticle on ICT issues related to Science Teaching. Bad timing. Deadline looming. Need to work on it tonight.

Good Day
Took a break in the name of ‘research’ and googled “physics teacher blog” and found Dean Baird’s The Blog of Phyz.Lots of good reading, but I like this post the best so far. There are so many experiment books for ideas on demonstrations out there, but their day has surely passed due to the advent of video-sites like youtube.

I had heard of the Leidenfrost Effect before, but there can’t be too mant easier or more impressive demonstrations of it than this one.

He includes a couple of more clips, including one which goes wrong, which is nice to see because as every physics teacher knows whether we are comfortable admitting it or not, things go wrong A LOT in Physics.
Thanks Doug

CESI conference 2008

I attended the CESI conference over the weekend.
It was a wonderful occasion. I hope to blog about the various presentations over the next week or so. I have been to plenty of conferences in the past but can never one where
there was such an amount of energy coming from the floor. I think it was helped greatly by the fact that there were so many presentations, and because nearly all of these were ‘regular’ teachers themselves they tended to  stay for both days so there was plenty of opportunity to ask questions during coffee breaks.

The other eye-opener was the number of Primary school teachers. They probably out-numbered us two or three to one. This was partly explained by the fact that at primary level you have more time and opportunity to engage with ICT projects, and the class doesn’t move on after 40 minutes, but still . . .???

The most memorable presentation was from Tommy Maher about what his school got up to over the last year or two.
Unbelievable stuff.

For another day.

St Columba’s College: Nanotechnology project

I was browsing the award-winning St. Colomba’s College English Department blog (see blogroll on the right) and came across the school’s excellent Science Site.

This in turn led to a link to their Transition Year Nanotechnology competition project, which consisted of a fictional website of a hospital set in 2027, detailing the role of nanotechnology in their treatment centres.

Wonderful stuff, deserved more publicity (or did that pass me by?).

SCC appear to be setting the standard in relation to incorporation of ICT in schools, and are giving a presentation at the CESI conference this Friday. Looking forward to it.

Students’ blogs

I was talking recently about setting up a group blog for students doing Scifest 2008.

John Hegarty suggested Google Groups might be a good way to go, and also mentioned that Tom Kendall gives talks on blogging in schools and he suggests the following site as a platform to work on http://www.21classes.com/

Tom has set up two of these in his own school: http://msmccarthy.21classes.com/ and http://crazy.21classes.com/.

Mags Amond however has suggested another alternative, which she mentioned on the DICTAT forum

“Also, nearer home, TeachNet / Digital Hub people are piloting a space for Irish Second Level students called Project Blogger (building with WordPress). The TY science students in 15 schools are being introduced to it over these few weeks, so Blogs being what they are there hopefully should be something to see very soon.”

All of these are involved with CESI, which is holding its conference on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th February, so maybe I’ll delay things a little and hopefully talk to them there.

I need a Blog Go-To guy (or gal)

I try to engage with new technology, but I know I’m no computer whizz-kid. For instance I would like assistance in some of the following. I may well figure these out myself over time, but it would be a lot more painless if there was a go-to person.

  1. Knock off the ‘Moderate Comments’ option. I wouldn’t comment on a blog if I thought that the comment wouldn’t appear for 24 hours.
  2. Put up a ‘Subscribe by email’ option, or with a feedburner.
  3. Improve overall presentation

Hopefully this will be raised at the CESI conference next month.