The ASE annual conference – what I learned and how to make it stick #asechat #aseconf

Having returned from ASE conference and started to unpack the wealth of resources collected there,  I feel that going was very worth while.  Attending the conference is about CPD, about recharging enthusiasm and networking as well as getting the latest news and ideas from the world of science educations.

With my role as a school leader, my choice of workshops was skewed towards assessment, progress and the new GCSE.  These were interspersed with practical ideas and workshops on literacy and numeracy.

The IoP had a heavy presence at the conference and they certainly had impact.  I went to two of their sessions and wasn’t disappointed.  I didn’t feel able to own up to the shame of being a biologist, but their sessions were as useful to me as to a proper physics teacher.  Medical physics had some excellent ideas on teaching X-rays (modelling a CT scanner using IR rays), teaching total internal reflection and examining the Doppler effect using audacity software.  There was a lot of information and a fair number of participants at both sessions I attended despite both having the 9 o’clock slot.


In a session on assessment I learned how to use mini-whiteboards to demonstrate progress in an interactive session.  Lots of useful ideas and audience participation will help to make the ideas stick.  This was complemented with a “real” science teacher talking through evidencing progress in books.  This was similar in principle (but far more convoluted) than the system we use for marking (progress and literacy) at my school.

I went to several workshops with a GCSE focus – certainly enough to know that my students are probably going to get shafted as they have to recall more information (including equations) and recall the key practicals (which look to me like they are chosen from the most boring practicals featured in GCSE).  As well as curriculum briefings there were excellent ideas for the teaching of literacy and numeracy.  Both Ed Walsh and the IoP were giving the same message about equations – both proposed that students need to understand the mathematical principles behind them rather than learning formulae (or even worse – formula triangles).

There are plenty of practical ideas to be had at the conference, the photos above show some ideas from CLEAPSS and SAPS that are suitable for use with students.  There were plenty of drop-in workshops although the timetablers seem to have put these at opposite ends of the campus which made dropping in and out within a single time slot quite difficult.

Another important aspect of the conference is networking and it was good to meet up with familiar faces from Twitter and the ASE.  Unfortunately the sheer number of workshops and the number of exhibitors in the exhibition hall mean that there isn’t much time for catching up.  To those followers who were there and didn’t get to see me I must apologise and hope to catch you next year instead.

So now I am back what am I doing with all the information I gathered.  I hate paper so I will be scanning all the handouts and materials from the workshops and attaching them to the notes I made in Evernote during the workshops.  These are tagged and searchable by keywords so I should be able to find them easily in future.  Because I am very organised and keep my planning and resources in tightly organised folders I can drop resources (for example SAPS practical guides) into the appropriate folder so they are waiting for me when I come to teach a topic again.  Of course this takes time which is a commodity in very short supply, regardless of time of year.

I’d be interested to hear from others what their highlights from the ASE conference were and what they do to make sure there is some impact from the workshops they attend.


Read magazines like New Scientist for free (good for teaching ideas)

Teachers need to keep their subject knowledge up to date.  I can still remember one of my lecturers at university in an epidemiology lecture telling me that one day John Selwyn Gummer would come to regret feeding his daughter those beef burgers. In the twenty years that have elapsed since, we’ve know a lot more about CJD and have put measures in place to tackle it.  By reading and watching the news, I’ve been able to build on and update what I already learned back at uni.

I’ve blogged before about ways of developing subject knowledge (a little out of date now) and using internet websites to help that.  I’ve recently discovered two ways of reading magazines for free or cheaply.

Using your library

I’m guessing that the days of the library service could be numbered but in the meanwhile you should be using the service that your tax contributions have paid for.  Lots of local authorities buy into a service where you can check out magazines and read them inside the Zinio app – this can be on a tablet, phone or laptop (or all three!).  I would suggest that you start on your county library pages.  New Scientist is only one of the magazines you can check out, others include BBC wildlife, National Geographic and even computer magazines.


I discovered Readly this Christmas.  Basically it is like Netflix for magazines where a flat fee (£9.99 a month with a one month free trial) gives you access to dozens of different publications.  You can even change the country in the app and read American magazines if this floats your boat.  Titles of interest to the teacher include BBC Focus, Wonderpedia and the Sky at Night.

I’m sure that much of the content in these magazines is available on the internet for free, but if you are old school like me, you can’t beat sitting down with a cup of tea and reading a magazine (even if it is on an iPad!)

Leave me a comment if you use either of these services?  What magazines do you read and find useful? (and which are the opposite?)