New start?

2020 June 1 Monday 22:23

Sars-CoV-2 has been a real "tease"; fantastic weather during April (warmest on record apparently), continuing into the precedent month. So, a new, final half term of the year begins with the start of a meteorological summer beautiful day in the capital.

Looking back at notes of activities done this time last year, the omens are not good. Not much learning was done, later manifest as relatively poor gcse results. Time will tell if different this year. Perhaps, the "virtual classroom" will be an opportunity for some to learn at their own pace, whilst the usual suspects languish at home doing nothing (no change there) with the added advantage of nil zoo behaviour management (great change for the more studious child and citc).

Data entry ignorance

2020 June 4 Thursday 11:57

Exam boards have had to make adjustments to their administration for award of exam grades this year. OK, so the "corona virus pandemic" was unexpected, so adjustments had to be made quickly. However, consider the request of a UK exam board for teachers to make –wait for it–manual data entry of students' centre assessment grades and rank order!

				Step 1: Enter grades

				Once set up with an account, you can begin entering centre assessment grades and rank orders.
				The portal will display all students entered for that subject, and you will need to enter the centre assessment grade and rank order for each student individually.

How can a major institution be incapable of creating a simple web form to submit data via xml / csv, with appropriate data validation???

From "blended learning"to "#wfh"

2020 June 7 Sunday 08:28

By coincidence to this fellow teacher question, citc has also pondered: has the ("life"–)skills learnt for students during the "coronavirus crisis" been good preparation for future employment?

This weekend, a trio of programmers had chosen to broadcast –live video – of their collaboration to do some sort of team task from their respective dwellings (sorry, no idea of the specifics). Upon further review, it seems this episode was a window into an extant working world that today's students may well be expected to do not too far from the future. Is this analogous to the "flipped learning" mode, whereby students are assigned a task to complete in advance of a dependent future task? Presumably, the programmers had some prerequisite work that they had to complete prior to the collaborative task performed via video. How should a teacher prepare students adequately for this future? How should a combination of "offline" tasks be prepared in conjunction with integrated "online" actions to complete? In the commercial world, if an team member fails to do the necessary individual tasks (e.g. complete a section of computer code?), ultimately (s)he will be expelled from the group, but this can't shouldn't be replicated exactly in the school/college environment. In attempting to make learning relevant to the real world, teachers should not forget that summative assessment (i.e. exams, grades) is really an individual concept; extant assessment does not evaluate any collaborative capability of the student.

Is there some sort of magical planning tool/document to help teachers with this change in education pedagogy? Don't think so. The combination of individual study with collaborative peer–to–peer study (centred around thematic projects) is nothing new. Open University pioneered this for (admittedly different) adult students how many decades ago? In terms of practial subjects such as chemistry, Inner London Education Authority developed various resources (now available via National stem Centre). Children living in remote areas of other countries received their education via radio (correspondence courses?). Today we have a plethora of technology to use, snake oil sales (wo)men to confuse, but teachers just have to filter out the noise, remember the time immemorial pedagogical principles and use the technologies of the day (preferable open source, not proprietary please!) to be relevant to the next generation. Remember the fax? :)

Inadvertent exposure of inequity

2020 June 10 Wednesday 17:31

Is it convenient, deliberate or both, that commentators about the Sars-CoV-2 "pandemic" use the term "this covid-19 disease exposes societal inequality" rather than "...inequity"? By choosing the former, those in power and influence are making a subtle, yet important diversion of attention onto the results and not causes of inequity. An example pertinent to current affairs: it is claimed that certain ethnic groups of peoples are "more at risk" of the covid-19 disease and consequent death that could occur. Remember, both causation ≠ correlation and also, death with is not equivalent to death by covid-19 disease. It is expedient for the populace to be led to believe that those dying because of this"pandemic" may be down to their ethnicity, with not too much investigation into lifestyles. After all if the cause of group of people dying were all living in squalid conditions, one would be compelled to take remedial action. Unlikely. Why are people moving thousands of kilometres for employment? Why are corrupt governments complicit in such movements if it means fewer people willing to challenge incumbents and monopolists have a wider pool of "talent" to exploit for maximum short-term profit?

What has this to do with education? If a child is living in suitable accommodation in leafy Twickenham (lower population density, room and equipment to participate fully and live, online lessons in a virtual school environment, etc.), it is not unreasonable to expect an unequal output (grades, results, other metric of "learning") in comparison to a child living in less optimal conditions of less salubrious Tower Hamlets (sharing a room and or resources to access education, higher population density, multiple generations in a household to pose higher transmission risk, etc.). It is relatively easier for government to be reactive to such inequality and throw some money at the relatively superficial problem. What is really needed (not just in the education sphere), more critical analysis to answer the question of inequity: why is the parent of Tower Hamlets child ignored for promotion at work, or the ignominy of a queue at the food bank?

Anonymous covid-19 monitor

2020 June 14 Sunday 16:37

It has been intriguing to read about efforts to "track and trace" people that contract Sars-CoV-2. Open source software initiatives such as Trackcovid[-19], Open source againstcovid-19, Open covid[-19], but they all want to make use of a mobile phone. For true privacy, data should be submitted without the need for these surveillance machines, but how?

An alternative:

Yes, labourious and manual effort by individuals, but secure, private and totally reliant upon private, social responsibility, as it should be.

Manual "pingback": gcse reform...

Posted at:

One problem with education is a seeming inability to set actively an agenda for change; most changes appear to have been instigated by external actors, with teachers reacting usually negatively. A recent example, UK teachers' reluctance to open schools due to perceived fear, whilst others employed in an environment of actual fear. There is no mention about whether the proposed changes would benefit the private sector (remember, they need to employ people to generate a profit to pay for state education!). Finally, considering extant protests, no mention of (un)conscious teacher bias mitigation. If it is true that teachers are better at relative assessment within a cohort (i.e. rank order assessment) compared to absolute prediction (student X predicted grade 8), summative assesment should stay (maybe with fewer subjects?), with a supplementary teacher assessment (equivalent to a degree transcript?).

Manual "pingback": E-learning forum...

It is great to see individual blogs being posted via ActivityPub, which was how the following post was found.

Posted at:

This blog post is a little opaque. What forum and where is the hyperlink? Anyway a quick web search suggests: Discourse forum of Qoto. Did not see anything titled 'E-learning forum' (purpose? Not sure...) but unsurprisingly, got distracted by the category 'chemistry' and in particular a subsequent hyperlink: "LaTeX and Chemistiry[sic] due to the typographic error (what to expect from a teacher? :) ). A minor suggestion: the LaTeX math mode is not ideal for chemistry due to the slight position of super-/sub-script characters. Specific packages such as 'mhchem' are better, e.g. see a previous post.

Botched blended learning

2020 June 21 Sunday 20:40

Latest government diktat is that £ 1000 million covid-19 is to be made available. Of course with the current administration, the devil will be in the detail. All very laudable to promote the concept of remote learn resources, but without unmetered internet access a useless gimmick. Even if internet access and equipment is available, those students with a poor attitude to study are unlikely to change during "lockdown". This was evident during recent review of students' work thus far. An interesting observation has been some students that produced work of a better standard than normal, whilst the better students have been very conspicuous by their absence. As implied in research published, the "lockdown" exposes disadvantage manifest in different forms (e.g. access to dedicated study hindered by sub-standard accommodation).

ResearchEd Norwich: a review — part one

Soon after reading an article in 'RSC Chemistry World'about online conferences, decided to have a look at a slightly false version by 'ResearchEd'; false because the presentations were pre-recording video, then published onto a well-known video host platform. Whilst initially some video was easy to view, others after day two were still too slow to download. Anyway, some subsequent thoughts on each presentation to follow...

Metacognition, modelling and misconceptions, Dr N Kaiser

Enjoyable to view because of the stimulation to think deeply about chemistry concepts (in this case, bonds) in order to maximise effective teaching the subject matter. Interesting references to pursue further (e.g. 'Threshold concepts in chemistry' (doi: 10.1021/ed500679k)). Would have liked to have seen dissemination of the questionnaire research raw data, perhaps into a suitable data repository.


2020 June 23 Tuesday 11:51

This week is the start of the online RSC conference week chemistry education — beyond lockdown. Unfortunately due to the technism of poor testing of technology, citc was not able to report an enjoyable experience.

Yesterday, the sound quality was terrible. Today, performance of the 'Zoom' web server was even worse. Managed to listen to about five minutes, before the web browser crashed and despite numerous attempts, was unable to gain access. What are the problems?

The decision makers, not being diverse, are not aware of the full range of technical options to evaluate. Apache Openmeetings? MIT Unhangouts? Let's not even ask about gnu-linux...
Surveillance capitalism is all pervasive
Right, now the biggest data collectors in education are Google and Microsoft. There is a distinct comfort in teachers contuing to use these oligopolists.
New entrants business models
Who owns Zoom? What is their business model, collect user data then sell to the highest bidders? Their preference is to download their proprietary software. So tried it. Proprietary licence for GNU/Linux system: mmm... downloded it and tried to run with the normal command terminal instructions. Failed, due to various dependencies. Sorry, having many years experience of "dependency hell" to know the risk of breaking your carefully configured operating system. No thanks. So the only option is to try the web browser model, which is hidden from their web site. Also fails; either the latest version crashes, or an earlier version is incompatible with a component (such as audio)

Did manage to see a hyperlink to resources to download, but hosted on 'Dropbox'? Not as accessible as a simple hyperlink on their own server.