Thursday, July 29, 2010

HPAT and Teacher Promotion

There are a couple of things on my mind today and that can be potentially dangerous. Firstly is the Irish Independent’s story today that teachers will be elevated to more “higher-ranking” positions based on merit rather than seniority from September in a new “shake up” of teacher promotion. The second is the whole HPAT thing – it’s really getting on my wick!

Wow, you might say that is a lot to think about when you are on your summer holidays Humphrey. And it is, but there is no better time to think about the would-be flaws in our education system.On the whole teacher promotion thing, have teachers really been promoted solely on seniority up until now? Didn’t their merit always count for something? In my experience, merit was always a factor and it was unlikely that schools purely went on seniority – but please correct me if I’m wrong. In my school meritocracy rules supreme for most roles. If schools have been promoted based solely on seniority then shame on you! But I welcome this “shake up” although I think it is a bit ironic that they are introducing a new means of filling A and B posts when there is a moratorium of such positions being filled! But I think teachers who work hard, have particular skills and “do a little extra” should be rewarded.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guest Post - When is an Experiment Not an Experiment?

This is a guest post from Eoin Lettice, a lecturer in plant science and zoology in UCC. Eoin manages his own blog - Communicate Science - which contains excellent articles on a range of science topics. In this piece, Eoin outlines his views on science pupils entering third level after "successfully" completing second level science syllabi. This post is also posted on the Frog Blog.

Just under sixty thousand students have just finished some of the most important exams they’ll ever face. As Leaving Certificate students around Ireland await their results, it may be useful to examine just what these students have gained, particularly when it comes to the sciences.

About 30,000 students sat an exam in biology this year, with twice as many females as males taking the paper. In physics, 5,246 males took the exam with just 1,751 females studying the subject. This brings the total for physics to just under 7,000. In a country where science and engineering are seen to be at the forefront of our national recovery, these physics numbers especially are disappointing. Over in the chemistry department, about 8,000 students took the final exam, with the genders much more evenly divided. About 6,000 students took an exam in agricultural science.

The statistics beg the question as to why so many students are attracted to biology rather than chemistry or physics. Perhaps they believe it to be easier, but colloquial evidence suggests that students who take another science exam other than biology often find biology the more demanding of the two. There may well be a large number of students who take biology as a means of ensuring they have that “one science subject” in case they wish to study science at third level.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Appliances of Science

The article below, written by yours truly, also appears in the Science Today section of today's Irish Times 

The development of Apple’s iPhone has revolutionised our perception of the mobile phone. But how can it help us learn more about science?

Since its release, the iPhone’s potential as a multi-purpose device has been realised with the development of applications or apps, software programmes designed specifically for your mobile phone. Last year, there were 2.5 billion app downloads worldwide and this is expected to rise to 4.5 billion this year, 82% of which will be free.

The development of apps for the iPhone led other mobile phone manufacturers to alter the way they structured their operating systems and recently developers have expanded their apps to serve Nokia, Blackberry and Android Smartphones. And now, with the imminent release of Apple’s latest offering the iPad, apps are about to get bigger and better.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bad Teachers

A lady, called Zenna Atkins, has said that every school needs a "bad teacher". She outlined that poor teaching staff gave pupils the invaluable experience of coping with incompetent people later in life. Who the hell is this moron? Well, Zenna Atkins currently holds the chair of the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) in the UK, essentially putting her in charge of inspecting schools in the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and ensuring they live up to standards. As a teacher, society should not tolerate bad teachers one bit! It is not good enough to suggest that they have a role in our children's social development! Poor teachers make good teachers look bad! Full stop!

I firmly believe that teachers play a vital role in society and to allow schools to be filled with teachers below a certain standard does little to promote our fine profession! It is my opinion that bad teachers should not be tolerated. In Ireland, teachers only complain about wages. Class sizes might be mentioned once or twice a year and the ASTI or TUI will utter something about behaviour every couple of years. But we (generally our unions) don't dare mention the elephant in the room - standards! Maybe if our unions addressed the standards issue it might make our claims for addition reward more compelling. I think we all need to be accountable for the work we do. I don’t believe we should be judged on the results our pupils attain in terminal examinations necessarily but I do believe we need to have some level of assessment – even if internally. Our inspectorate does little in this regard and their reports are often vague, never highlighting very poor or, possibly even more importantly, exceptional practice. We need to assess how teachers perform and reward the teachers that go beyond the minimum standards.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Recommended Apps - Dropbox

Over at the Frog Blog I have been posting on recommended iPhone apps for science teachers, pupils or enthusiasts. But there are loads of other great apps that are available to download now for your mobile device, which are not science related, but would be extremely useful to the busy teacher. First up, in what I hope will be a series of posts, is Dropbox.

Dropbox is an excellent app which is available for iPhone, iPad, Android and, very shortly, your Blackberry. It provides an easy way to sync, store or share documents, presentations, spreadsheets between computers and mobile devices. All you have to set up a free account at, install Dropbox on your PC or laptop, then on your mobile device and away you go. To use, just drag a file into the Dropbox folder on your PC or laptop and hey presto - it's also on your iPhone or Android phone! Have all your frequently used files on your mobile when you need them! You can also access your files on any computer in the world! It is an absolute essential for the busy teacher! And best of all - it's completely free!

Click here to download Dropbox for your iPhone, here for iPad and here for the Android version!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Reading Time - Ian McEwan's Solar

One of the best things about being a teacher are the holidays - no one will deny that. But I feel they are a just reward for putting up with smelly snotty nosed teenagers for nine months of the year. Most of my friends  are envious of my holidays but still wouldn't do my job even if the pay was doubled. Holidays are the only time I get a chance to read (something other than over priced textbooks anyway) and having just received my well earned holidays last Saturday, I quickly got stuck into my first novel of the summer - Ian McEwan's Solar. 

I'm not a prolific reader but I do try to tackle a few during the intermittent breaks over the year. When I do get a chance, I generally keep it light. However, McEwan's novel is both light and dark, and it is a testament to his writing talents that he manages to pull this off. His most potent tool in accomplishing this is humour, but not in your face short snappy humour but much more subtle dark and drawn out humour.