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Ideas for physics

A pack of CD-Roms is designed to provide inspiration for non-specialist teachers. Andrew Mourant reports

Supporting Physics TeachingForces; Energy; Light and Sound; Electricity and Magnetism; Earth in Space

pound;10 for all five CD-Roms A demo and free download are also available http:teachingphysics.iop.orgteacher_supportsptindex.html

The Institute of Physics has produced 40 classroom ideas covering key stages 3-5 - new ones and re-workings of "old gems". The resource has been put together as part of the IOPinitiative, Supporting Physics Teaching 11-14, a programme delivered in inservice training sessions through a national network of support co-ordinators. Five CD-Roms has been produced to back up the training.

The sessions comprise lectures and workshops. Fresh approaches are used to look at common teaching problems. Co-ordinators bring along cheap gadgets, including toys, to help bring inspiration to the teaching of more difficult concepts.

Newly qualified teachers and PGCE students may spend two or three hours during the session conducting experiments, and participants are given further details about the ideas and where to get the apparatus.

The IOP has also developed innovative practical work "more representative of research and physics-based industries", and devised 50 new practicals which are linked to new GCSE specifications. The new resource includes video clips linking these practicals to industrial techniques.

The set of five CDs is available at pound;10 from the IOP. The software has been developed by groups of science teachers guided by a university lecturer in physics education. A physics narrative brings together key aspects in a coherent way; teaching and learning challenges for pupils emphasise aspects they might find easy or difficult; and suggestions are made for teaching approaches that will present topics "in an engaging manner".

If your school is hard up, there is the free version of the software - for Skint Schools - containing 21 of the ideas. This is given to participants at the end of the inset. A half-hour PowerPoint presentation includes demonstrations of some of the software.

The IOP says an inset programme is essential if teachers are to get the maximum benefit from the software. Several regional science learning centres run courses using the materials. Details can be found on the IOP website - click on the SPT Inset calendar.

There has been enthusiastic feedback from the sessions that use gadgets and toys. David Grace, regional co-ordinator for Wales and a physics teacher for 35 years, goes equipped with "thinking putty", which can be moulded into a bouncing ball, drip like a liquid or splinter like ice when struck with a hammer. He takes a device for launching paper planes when considering forces and motion. "We try to identify cheap and readily available apparatus - some things are available in kids' catalogues," he says.

Lucas Hayhurst, head of physics at StFrancis Xavier College, has been regional co-ordinator in Merseyside for two-and-a-half years. "We look at how we can enliven ideas, develop communications and share best practice,"

he says.


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