Project Cookalong helped whet teachers' appetite for more interactive learning

2nd March 2012 at 00:00
First sitting at hands-on professional development left some hungry for a little more

Glow, those who know of such things will tell you, is not just one entity. It is a series of tools. People who use some of those tools may use the word "clunky" now and again to describe their operation. For some considerable time, staff at SSERC could neither agree nor disagree with any statements about the digital network as nobody seemed willing to let us on to it. This changed when we found ourselves being urged to do "some sort of e-cpd".

Passive "sit and watch" CPD is the antithesis of the experiential model favoured by pretty well everyone who does professional development in science. As I mentioned a few months ago, we therefore came up with Project Cookalong, where kit was sent out to primary schools for them to keep. The catch, if you can call it a catch, was that they had to take part in an interactive Glow Meet, during which the teachers would be expected to carry out practical activities along with the presenter.

A few weeks ago, it was my turn to be that presenter. Sitting wearing heavy headphones, aware that I looked like a Cyberman awaiting a lick of silver paint, I was fairly confident that the technology was now slick enough to beam me out to schools from Orkney to the Borders, from Fife to Islay. Some time before it was all due to kick off, the Glow Chat pod sprang to life as teachers logged in. My colleague, a veteran of several Cookalongs, proved to have developed an easy text-based banter with participants, settling them in and helping them iron out the few technical difficulties that cropped up.

It was an odd experience at first. I was not used to talking to a webcam rather than a person. Worse, I had to sit still, something I never do at conventional CPD. I think it comes from long years in the classroom, where I must subconsciously have assumed that a moving target is harder to hit. Watching a recording, I see that I am initially hesitant. I sound like my father's uncles, engineers who periodically paused when talking, as if measuring a particular word with a Vernier caliper before judging it suitable to say.

It was around the time of the clockwork dinosaur experiment when I loosened up a bit. Chat pod feedback suggested we were doing all right. Written feedback, received a few days later, concurred, though one school experienced problems with video streaming. Best of all were the "can't wait to use this with the children" comments. As Cookalong inspiration Gordon Ramsay probably wouldn't say, at least not without a few swearies: "There's no point in cooking if nobody eats the meal."

Gregor Steele, Scottish Schools Education Research Centre, liked showing the balloon hovercraft experiment too.

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