Watch us learn, Sir

16th November 2007 at 00:00

Put pupils behind the camera and take technology and education to another level, says Mark Richardson. Technological progress and accessibility means we are able to put the pupil in the position of storyteller, disseminator, provider or teacher. Sometimes, pupils are better at communicating than adults. At The Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, Dorset, we have taken this a step further by getting A-level pupils to make educational films.

Years 12 and 13 in physics produced films on the Doppler effect called "Doppler for dummies". One pupil rolls down a hill screaming, and the science of how pitch is altered by distance is explained with graphics.

Last summer, two of my design and technology A2 pupils, Ray and Will, researched composite materials and turned up a story from the Second World War about a Mr Pyke who froze water and sawdust and discovered that it was very strong, thereby creating "Pykrete".

He proposed building (freezing) a floating "Pykrete Island" in the middle of the Atlantic from which to fly planes to protect the Atlantic convoys. The story goes that Field Marshal Montgomery demonstrated its resilience to his chiefs of staff by shooting at it. The bullets all ricocheted off.

Ray and Will come from farming communities and recreated and filmed this experiment with their own 12 bore shotgun. They edited it into a short film with voiceovers, still photographs and an atmospheric sound track.

Digital film makes technology more active. It takes pupils away from computers, develops collaborative skills and supports personalised learning. You set targets and constantly self-assess.

The increase of pupil-made educational films led to the creation of Films For Learning, a website hosting pupil and teacher-made films.

All subjects, not just science, are welcome. View ours or submit your own at

Mark Richardson is a design and technology teacher at The Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester, Dorset.


Book: A2 in a Week: Computing (Letts, pound;7.99). A factual presentation to cover the syllabus with exam and project advice and questions.

Software: A2 ICT Revision Software by Alison Day. This is written by an examiner and consists of a series of quizzes organised by topic. Questions are supplied randomly from a bank and an explanation of answers is provided. www.teachict.comasa2home.htm

Website: ICT Web. Resources for AS and A2 level can be found in this site, particularly for unit 1 of the AS level and also strong on unit 4 of A2 level.

Jim Merrett.

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