For a few years now I have been told countless times that AI will transform education. However, despite a few interesting applications I saw little evidence of how this could be the case. This all changed suddenly with the launch of ChatGPT in November 2022 which tangibly demonstrates, in a matter of seconds, the power and potential of AI.
It is really fun demonstrating ChatGPT to people. You explain it first of course but the shock on some faces when they see it, right before their very eyes, churn out a thoughtful and well-argued response to your spontaneous prompt, is wonderful. They are genuinely stunned, you can see their brain instantly trying to process the many implications of it, but at the same time querying its limitations.
It is without doubt the most disruptive technology we have seen since Google launched its search engine in 1998. ChatGPT gained 1 million users in just 5 days. By contrast it took Facebook 10 months and Instagram 2.5 months. It has limitations, but you quickly overlook these when you see just how good it is at creating new content based on your instructions.
The following video gives you an introduction to ChatGPT looking at who developed the tool, how it could be used by you as a teacher and what might happen next as AI expands into all our lives.
As the students returned to school this term, mostly oblivious to this technical revolution that occurred over the festive period, their algorithms readjusted as one after the other started to interact with content showing ChatGPT. It is now out there! Initially this brings with it a sense of fear, ‘how can I trust any piece of work submitted by my students again?’ And yes, there is no doubt that this tool currently makes cheating easier than before. But does that mean all our students are going to suddenly turn into cheats when they weren’t before? Of course not, and we should have more faith in them then that. Ultimately they want to learn and they see the value in that. Some students who took shortcuts before, will enjoy this tool to make their shortcuts even more efficient and untraceable, but these are a minority.
So where does ChatGPT fit in? Well, we need to front up to it, perhaps even embrace it, with our learners. Look at this tool to help aid learning and not supersede it. When the calculator was invented, I’m sure teachers felt it would be the end of maths, after all an advanced graphics calculator can pretty much do it all for you, but maths has adapted over time and now teaches students how to use calculators effectively. The challenge for educators is the sheer speed with which ChatGPT is being used and developed. Awareness and engagement has never been so important in the education sector. We must all make an effort to keep up and not just carry on as we are, the world has moved on, and the way our learners learn has moved on.
So, whether you believe this new era is a nightmare or a new dawn, it is not going away. Technology will not replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will replace those that don’t.
I have finally got around to making some more A level resources. You can now download the full Topic 8 PowerPoint and the YouTube videos for these topics will be posted soon. Topic 7 will also be completed in the next month.
A Level Biology - Topic 8: Origins of Genetic Variation
This is a fully editable PowerPoint presentation designed specifically for the new Edexcel A Level Biology B Specification for first teaching in 2015. It covers the whole of Topic 8. Each specification objective is covered in just the right amount of detail with clear diagrams and clever slide animations.
This presentation is over 80 slides long!
Although it is designed for the Edexcel specification much of its content is relevant for other A Level courses.
My popular quick fire tests have been updated for the new 9-1 syllabus. I have made two sets of tests depending on if you are taking double award science or separate Biology. Tests are designed to be short and snappy and test the major factual components only. Answer sheets are included.
IGCSE Biology 9-1 - Quick Fire Revision Tests with answers
This is the complete set of 14 quick revision tests for the double award 9-1 biology syllabus. The tests are aligned with the popular CGP revision guide so that you can revise a few pages and then take the test. I use these with my students every week to test and improve their factual recall.
Anything on paper 2 is highlighted in green.
These are in word documents so fully editable.
All the answers are included.
There is another set of tests if you are taking Double Award that are broken down into smaller topics and without the paper 2 content.
IGCSE Biology 9-1 Double Award - Quick Fire Revision Tests with answers
This is the complete set of 18 quick revision tests for the double award 9-1 biology syllabus. The tests are aligned with the popular CGP revision guide so that you can revise a few pages and then take the test. I use these with my students every week to test and improve their factual recall.
The complete set of tests for the separate Biology syllabus will be released soon as well.
These are in word documents so fully editable.
All the answers are included.
I have produced some quick easy syllabus checklists for both double award and separate Biology specifications - Edexcel IGCSE 9-1
I have finished making my revision quizzes for the IGCSE exams this year. These are for the 4Bi0 syllabus and I will update them next year as we move to the 4Bi1 syllabus.
They can all be downloaded individually or select the bundle to get all 12 at a reduced price.
When I talk at people about the latest advances in the use of technology in education, or EdTech as its known, (which, to the annoyance of my wife, happens more often than maybe it should), the response I often get is a half-joking “They’ll be no need for teachers soon at this rate!” However, the more time I have spent implementing technology into my classroom and teaching the current generation of teenagers who have grown up with technology at their fingertips, the more I realise that this statement couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact the art of teaching and pedagogy is now more important than ever.
Implementing new digital technologies into a school is fraught with potential pitfalls. The most common example is schools who blindly invest in hundreds of devices, throw them at staff and students and expect to suddenly become a cutting edge leading digital school. Before long, in many of these cases the devices are gathering dust in store cupboards and have very quickly lost their value both literally and metaphorically. A school or teacher should not implement new technology just for the sake of it. The key is to look at your teaching and learning objectives and see if there is a technology tool that can be used to improve the outcome. For example, quality and quantity of feedback given to students has been shown to be one of the biggest determining factors in a student making measurable progress in a subject. However, teachers struggle to have the time in lessons to feed back to each and every individual student and even when marking work it can be hard to get a necessary message across in enough detail. However, if you could make a thirty second audio recording and attach it to the essay when you digitally return it to each student, they could listen to that on their smartphone before the next lesson and would make more progress. You don't need to take up valuable lesson time, and it should not be an onerous task.
For pupils, it used to be the case that the teacher was your direct portal to knowledge. For teachers, being a real expert in your subject was the most important attribute required. Pupils’ only access to information was through their teacher or reading books in the library. Now pupils are always ‘connected’ to knowledge. They can just ask Siri or Alexa any question they like and they don’t have to spend hours reading and digesting a dense textbook, but can get instant accessible summaries from educators on YouTube. Whether this is a good or bad thing is irrelevant. It is the way life is now and it’s only going to develop more down the same path. There is no doubt that teachers still need to know their subjects well and of course be deeply passionate about them, but classrooms are becoming more about the individual student and less about the teacher. This does not mean that teachers are no longer required. On the contrary it means that teachers are now more important than ever. In the modern era of social media, 24-hour news, fake news and Wikipedia, students need a guide and a chaperone to help them navigate this overload of information and become objective independent learners.
It's certainly not too early to start thinking about revision for your classes.
It's unlikely that you have finished teaching the syllabus already but if you wait for that it will be too late.
I'm starting a weekly revision schedule with my IGCSE classes from this week onwards. Each week they will have a quick fire quiz testing the main factual content of the topics required.
To make it easy I have given them the revision guide references from the CGP revision guide.
Here is the schedule that I'm using:
Here is the first test that I'm using which you can download for free:
I will aim to post the 'Quick Fire Quizzes' as I make them each week
Gamification in education has been growing rapidly over the last few years. Gamification is the use of game design elements in non-game contexts. If you look at how people play games you find that their engagement is very high, they are more likely to take risks, learn faster from mistakes, collaborate and feel good about completing tasks. So by turning educational tasks into games the hope is that students will get all these benefits but within the context of a topic or subject that they need to know for school.
Playing games in the classroom to help learn a concept is nothing new, but with advancements in technology this is now more then just a role play or paper loop game. Microsoft have seen the potential and have launched a special education edition of its popular Minecraft game which allows teachers or students to create whole worlds, recreate times in history or to test out theories.
A nice example of gamification that I have just discovered for Biology is called BioBlox. BioBlox is a collaboration between Imperial and Goldsmith's Universities in London. The idea is to get students to visualise the complex 3D structures of proteins and how they dock with other molecules. There is a 3D version online and a fun 2D app that you can download for your smartphone. You can learn all about the various biological molecules as you collect them for completing levels.
Leading Chartered Psychologist and Member of the British Psychological Society, Dr Simon Moore and his team have written a whitepaper detailing the significant number of advantages of game-based learning.
They tested 30 students who were using a language based game and found that they were more engaged, enthusiastic and excited to be learning compared to the students who were learning Spanish with basic online exercises. The students also spent much more time voluntarily playing the game and improved their language skills twice as much as the control group.
In summary educational games are going to become more mainstream over the next few years and in my opinion this is a good thing. We have to adapt the way we teach and make it more relevant. If we don't use the gaming technology to our advantage then it's a missed opportunity.
For the first 6 years of my teaching I followed a rather traditional method of teaching. I delivered content in class using a PowerPoint, students took notes and then we may spend a lesson doing a practical or an activity, then I would set homework which we may or may not have time to go through in a future lesson. Every year in faculty meetings we would lament the lack of time for activities, quality individual feedback, development of scientific skills and longer-term projects. To try and combat this we would argue for extra contact time with senior management and get angry with exam boards for never reducing the size of the syllabus that needed to be delivered. Every year you would feel the pressure to ‘get through the content’ and many topics needed to be rushed through only once to meet the deadline of exams. If students were ill, or absent for matches or music lessons then it meant meeting with them at other times to repeat the lesson. When the exams approached you were asked to repeat many lessons by students who couldn’t remember, had poor notes, didn’t listen or just wanted to sit and feel like they were learning it again. Then I found Flipped Learning . . .
“Flipped Learning is a pedagogical approach in which first contact with new concepts moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space in the form of structured activity, and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter.” (flippedlearning.org)
The important point to make here is that flipped learning is not just getting students to do homework in class and then teach themselves in their own time. It’s about making the most of the time spent in the classroom when the teacher is present (group space). Through the use of technology it has now become possible to deliver the content to a high standard out of the classroom (individual space). When looking at Bloom’s taxonomy one can see that remembering and understanding are at the base of the pyramid. These are lower order skills that the students can work on in their own time. The advantages of this are that they can learn at their own pace at a time that suits them. I make detailed animated tutorial videos for each Biology Topic; these are hosted on YouTube and internally on planet eStream. The students watch these and answer the questions that come up on screen to make sure they engage with the content and provide me with feedback about how and when they watched the video. They use the video along with a detailed PowerPoint to make notes on that particular topic. They can pause, rewind, and replay the lesson as many times as they like. They can watch it and make notes at a time that suits them. They will never miss another lesson again!
When they come into class they have done the groundwork on the topic and we can use the notes to take part in the practical activities that I have planned for them. Looking back at Bloom’s taxonomy they will now build on the higher order skills such as applying, analysing, evaluating and creating. These are quite often covered at homework time when the teacher isn’t there to help, but now I can go around and see individual students much more often, give them instant feedback, help them with problems and develop their learning. It solves many of the problems listed in the first paragraph and also creates better independent lifelong learners. The classroom becomes a fun engaging place to be rather than a lecture theatre. Better student teacher relationships are developed and teacher becomes a ‘guide on the side’ rather than a ‘sage on the stage’.
Just like any teaching method, Flipped teaching requires good planning and preparation for it to be effective. I have now completed the Flipped Certification course Level 1 run by the FLGI and plan to take the Flipped Level 1 Trainer Certification course this month as well.
Hi, I'm Mr Exham
This is where I'll talk about teaching and learning, practical lessons, flipped learning and the use of technology in lessons. I will also discuss current trends in EdTech.