Science CPD (continuing professional development) Using online communities

The best kind of CPD I’ve experienced comes from other practitioners.   Online communities provide an opportunity to interact with other teachers at a home and place convenient to you.  Ideas, resources and video can all be shared online.  I’ve list below the two most useful ways I’ve found of interacting with other teachers online.

TES online

The Science forum on the TES (Times Educational Supplement) has plenty of enthusiastic teachers who are willing to answer queries, share good practice and act as a sounding board for your ideas.  The board is organised as a series of topics, and you can either start a new topic or respond to an existing topic.  The board can be used anonymously so you don’t have to reveal your identity if you are afraid to show your ignorance.



Twitter is a website that lets you post short messages (140 characters or less).  People follow you and you follow other people – you can direct questions to individuals by putting @theirtwitterID at the start of a message.  To make twitter easier to use, you can use a third party program like Tweetdeck (which can also post Facebook and other updates for you too!).

Follow me on twitter and say hello – I’m cleverfiend (because fiendishlyclever was too long to be my user ID)

To speed things up I’ve created lists of the science teachers I follow on Twitter (note that the teachers may talk/twitter about other topics as well as science).  You can simply follow my lists and therefore follow the same professionals that I do.

Science teachers in the UK

Science teachers outside the UK

A word of warning about Twitter.  You hear some teachers raving about twitter saying its the best thing since sliced bread and how their PLN (personal learning network) helps them develop as a teacher.  I find it’s like shouting in the wind.  The signal to noise ratio is extremely low, and many of the teachers on twitter (including many of the ones I follow) are only there because they like to hear the sound of their own voice rather than to engage in meaningful dialogue.  I do stick with it though because it has proved to be useful on several occasions.

There are many other educators on Twitter as well as science teachers.  Once you find someone you like have a look at the people they follow and follow some of them yourself.   You can search Twitter for the #ASEchat tag – these are all posts (Tweets) by science educators using the Association of Science Education hashtag (#ASEChat).



There are fan pages on Facebook but I’ve yet to find anything of value for CPD.  You can also engage in discussion with individuals through their blogs by leaving comments.  I know online communities have been set up in the past using the Ning platform but the people who run these tend to be ‘tech hippies’ jumping on every bandwagon that comes along rather than an overworked science teacher!

Let me know if you find a good online community that I haven’t mentioned – I would love to hear about it.

Science CPD (continuing professional development) – taking responsibility for this yourself

Back to school for the little stormies

CPD is essential for every teacher.  There are always new ideas to be tried, new approaches to test, new experiments and demonstrations to learn.  No one teacher can know everything (although I’ve met one or two misguided souls who seemed to think they did!).

Unfortunately CPD often costs money.  Courses can be very expensive, then there is the cost of supply cover, travel and accommodation costs.  There are also other hidden costs like missing a lesson with a key group and having to catch up important examination work.  I work across a lot of schools and I’m seeing how hard it is for teachers to get out of school.

Internal CPD seems to be the first choice of schools – but the quality of provision varies from school to school.  With in-service training days being limited to 5 per academic year, opportunities for staff to work together are few and also dependant on the school being able to source a suitable provider.  Departmental meetings get filled with talk of targets and data, and the coaching strategy never really took off because of difficulties getting teachers off timetable.

So what can science teachers do to hone their skills?  Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting a series of blog posts showing science teachers where they can get ideas, keep their science knowledge up to date, and communicate with other teachers.

Watch this space!


CPD using online communities here

CPD using science websites here

CPD using podcasts here

Natural carbon dioxide


Whilst eating out I saw this on the side of a drinks can.  I took a photo because I thought it could be used to prompt discussion work with students.

  • What is natural carbon dioxide?
  • Why do you think the manufacturer used this term?
  • Could you have artificial or man-made carbon dioxide?
  • What might be the difference between natural and man-made carbon dioxide?
  • What difference might using the different types of carbon dioxide make to the product?