Zoom in on Dunny's world

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Award-winning teacher Paul Dunn believes ICT brings life to science in class. Jack Kenny sees him in action

The first thing you notice about science teacher Paul Dunn is that as well as being humorous he is also very serious. He can switch a class from joking to working in seconds.

One of the winners in this year's ICT in Practice Awards run by the Government's ICT agency Becta, Dunny (as he prefers to be called) believes ICT brings science to life: "It shows what you could not see before. You can reach all the different kinds of learners." His teaching shows the truth of that.

He has worked at Royds Hall High School, Huddersfield, for 16 years and has responsibility for physics and ICT developments in science. The school, a specialist science college, is a mixed comprehensive community school.

Round the side of the laboratory are Bunsen burners with tripods, gauze and 250ml beakers half-full with water, each with a thermometer.

The Year 7 class quickly settles. Dunny focuses a camera on the tap on his desk and the image appears on the interactive whiteboard. He turns the tap and a drop of water emerges. The children look at the magnified image of the water on the whiteboard. How big is a water molecule in that drop? The students look blank. Then one girl says: "Tiny."

"Right. If we scale the whole thing up so that a water molecule is the size of a ping pong ball, how big then is the water drop? "No idea," admits one child. "It's big," volunteers another.

Dunny changes the picture on the board back to the globe. It is Google Earth, the free global imaging software from Google. "Just watch this. I am going to put the address and post code of the school into Google Earth. HD3 4HA." He does and the globe rotates, and the screen moves across the Atlantic and zooms in on Huddersfield. Gradually Dunny adjusts the angles until you can see the school and the trees that surround it. He zooms in further until he is over the classroom where they are sitting.

"That's our classroom. Remember the ping pong ball, the molecule? It would be just a dot on that in the classroom." He zooms out until the map covers Huddersfield. "What do you reckon to that? How many ping pong balls in there, in Huddersfield?" "Millions," is the response. He zooms out until the screen covers West Yorkshire. He zooms back all the way until all we can see is the Earth in space. "If a molecule was the size of a ping pong ball, the water drop that came out of the tap would be about the size of the planet."

While the astonishment registers, he moves to the focus of the lesson. The Hodder Starters are now on the computer - Hodder Science A is a CD containing a full key stage 3 course with starters and plenaries. The starter comes up on the whiteboard; it is a solid, liquid and gas simulation.

There are three pictures: the first has circles which are the particles in regular lines and they vibrate - the solid; next, in the middle, are the same dots, the same number of particles, but more jumbled up, and vibrating and moving - the liquid; on the right are the same number of particles but they are spread out and flying everywhere - the gas.

Dunny asks the students to say which is solid, which liquid and which gas.

Because they have done some ground work they have no difficulty.

"What we are going to look at now is what happens when water boils," says Dunny. He explains that they have to take the temperature at minute intervals for 15 minutes. On the interactive board there is a timer. The count begins.

The children move to the Bunsen burners and thermometers around the room.

There is 100ml of water in each beaker. Each group plots the results on graph paper; temperature against time. The water straight from the tap measures 15C. It takes between 5 and 10 minutes to boil.

Dunny says: "It is wonderful to watch the kids. With some their graph goes up 90 to 100, 105, 110, 115. They think it should get hotter and hotter so they misread the thermometer. Basically, some of them make up the results."

As they work, Dunny sets up his own experiment at the front.

Instead of a thermometer he has put in a temperature probe from a data-logger which is connected to a computer. The experiment is videoed by the webcam and Dunny uses Visilog software. He explains: "You can set it up for a particular time and it will record at say one frame per second and the film will capture all the essentials in detail but the video will only last about a minute. What it will show vividly is the water level going down. The kids obviously know that things do boil dry. They need to understand that it is evaporating rather than getting hotter."

After the 15 minutes the children move to the centre of the room to watch the interactive whiteboard. Dunny asks them what happened in their experiment. Three groups explain their work. Then Dunny shows them what happened in his experiment. After questions, he gets the groups to trace out in the air the shape of their graph.

"Now," Dunny says, "the question is 'So why does the water get hotter?'

Answer: 'Because we're adding the energy from the Bunsen burner.' Next question: 'Why does it stop getting hotter?'"

One child says, "Because it's boiling". Another says, "Because it does".

"You hope someone will say," Dunny says later, "because it's becoming a gas." " I tell them, The energy is not just making it get hotter but it is enabling the molecules to break free and disappear into the air. Look over at the beaker that you used. How much water did you start with, and how much water have you got now?"

He shows them the time-lapse film, the speeded up version of the water evaporating. We go back, on the whiteboard, to the starter diagram. "The gas particles are flying all over the place and the liquid ones are tied together. The energy is breaking the particles free rather than making them move faster."

Dunny now turns the physics lesson into a drama lesson. They act it out.

Dunny moves the children into two groups. Each group is acting out the water being heated up and then evaporating.

Dunny videos them. One person is the narrator, the rest of the group are either water molecules or the Bunsen burner. The water molecules cluster together and then the burner switches on and the molecules move around faster and faster until they break away and evaporate. The narrator is giving a commentary. When every one has had a chance, they can give feedback saying what is good about what they did and what could be improved.


Acer Aspire 2012WLMi laptop computer. pound;918 from www.laptopsdirect.co.uk

Promethean whiteboard with ActiveStudio software www.prometheanworld.comuk

Quizdom response system can be used for feedback, presentations, quizzes, games and surveys.


Camcorder Canon MV750i. pound;207 from www.amazon.co.uk

Webcam Logitech Quickcam Pro 4000. pound;34 from Amazon.

Hodder Starters Full science course from www.hodderscience.co.uk

ScienceScope, and Visilog software Tel: 0870 225 6175 www.sciencescope.co.uk


General resources www.topmarks.co.uk?Subject=26 www.8886.co.uk

Sophisticated site with up-to-date resources www.upd8.org.uk

Mr Gallinagh's physics GCSE website www.geocities.comphysics2

Science PowerPoints www.educationusing powerpoint.org.uk Brainteasers and puzzles from Cambridge University puzzling.caret.cam.ac.ukindex.php?section=homestyle=4 Animations - a site from Taiwan full of java applets www.phy.ntnu.edu.twntnujavaindex.php

Andy Darvill's site - a teacher sharinghis excellentresources www.darvill.clara.netindex.htm

Fear of Physics - basic concepts explained well www.fearofphysics.comindex.html

Teachnet. Teachers creating classroom materials for other teachers www.teachnet-uk.org.ukindex.htm

Google Earth, free software from earth.google.com

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today