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Why I started Flipping Biology

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 am currently over half way through an online course in flipped teaching that will give me Flipped Certification Level I.

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New Pre-U videos

This is my latest set of ‘flipped’ teaching videos for section 1.1 of the Cambridge Pre-U on Eukaryotic Cell Structure.

Cambridge Pre-U Biology

From September I will be teaching the Cambridge Pre-U Biology course. My focus therefore over the Summer will be to develop resources for it. However, my plan is to come back to A Level, and the IB soon and there is plenty of cross over so I will be able to develop all three courses.

Here is my guide to the Cambridge Pre-U Course:

I have finished the PowerPoint for section 2.2 on the Chemicals of Life which is probably the first topic many teachers will start with, and in the next few days topic 1.1 on Eukaryotic Cells will also be complete.

Here is the PowerPoint sample for section 2.2 Chemicals of Life.

As I will be doing with all my resources from now on, here are the teaching YouTube videos for this topic.

New A Level Biology Topics

I have now completed a fully animated PowerPoint for topic 5 of Edexcel A Level Biology B. This covers the biochemical processes of cellular respiration and photosynthesis. You can view a sample of the PowerPoint here:

It is probably my most advanced presentation to date, with complex animations for the electron transport chain and photophosphorylation.

It is designed for the Edexcel syllabus but would be a suitable resource for any A Level or post 16 biology course.

Even better, I am now working hard to produce teaching videos for all my topics. These feature stripped back versions of the PowerPoint with my explanations. The playlists for respiration and Photosynthesis can be found here.

 

New TEDEd Lesson

I have just uploaded a new video and TEDEd lesson on the digestive system which I have been putting together for a while. I am also planning on updating my older video resources to bring them more up to date.

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I will be posting a Christmas Special video in the next few days so subscribe on YouTube to see it first.

Mr Exham – Past, Present and Future

I have been meaning to write this post for a while in order to let you know what the plans are going forward for mrexham.com, and this week seemed like as good a time as any with the GCSE results coming out and a new academic year starting.

Firstly I would like to thank everyone who has used the website in the last year, I have received some great emails and tweets and I am really glad that it’s been useful to so many people. I’ve now decided to take mrexham.com in a few different directions. Firstly I am making some of my key resources, which take the most time and effort to make, available to purchase through sellfy.com. This has meant spending more time on these resources to make them as clear and informative as possible, and it has also given me the impetus to make more of them! There will soon be a PowerPoint for each section of the IGCSE course along with revision quizzes.

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I will continue to make free resources as well, including Quizlets, revision sheets, YouTube dissections, practical demonstrations, worksheets and I also intend to write Socrative quizzes for teachers.

Given that there will be a new A-Level starting in 2015 (read the Ofqual announcement here) I will no longer be adding to the current A-Level pages and resources. Instead I will focus on making new resources ready for the launch of the new linear A-Level next year. I will also be blogging about the various courses and exam boards offering Biology A-Level as my department make their decision about which to choose.

Thank you once again for all the positive feedback and please let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see on mrexham.com!

Mr Exham

Happy Halloween

To celebrate Halloween why not enlighten yourself with some fun Biology Halloween trivia.

  • The scientific name for the pumpkin is Curbita maxima.
  • The pumpkin is not actually a vegetable but a fruit – in fact it’s a berry! It develops from a single pistil of the flower and has no stone or papery core.
  • Pumpkins are monoecious, which means they produce both male and female flowers on the same plant. To ensure adequate pollination farmers often place beehives in pumpkin fields during the bloom period.
  • Beta-carotene gives the pumpkin it’s bright orange colour. Beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A which is needed for healthy skin and good eyesight.
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin is 20.1 seconds, achieved by David Finkle of the United Kingdom.
  • If you know someone who is afraid of Halloween don’t make fun of them, they may be suffering from Samhainophobia – a condition where people have an irrational fear of Halloween.
  • According to legend, a monobrow, pronounced canine teeth, and having a long middle finger are all signs of lycanthropy – being a werewolf!

And finally, here’s a hilarious video from Steve Spangler conducting a simple halloween science experiment to make oozing pumpkins.

Teaching and Learning – Animations

Recently in my department we have been using modelling clay to help animate complex biological processes that students find hard to visualise and learn. It’s very simple to do, all you need is some modelling clay, a smartphone or digital camera, some pens and paper and some basic video editing software like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. To make the animations as smooth as possible the students should take as many still frames as they can. These are then put into the software and text, music and transitions are all added. It can be done in the class in small groups or for a homework task. Below are two examples of processes that this works particularly well for meiosis and protein synthesis.

Protein Synthesis:

Meiosis:

Other biology topics that this technique would be useful for include: movement of substances across membranes, the nephron, genetic engineering of human insulin, action potentials, respiration, photosynthesis, enzymes and many more.

Do you know your stigma from your anther?

Plant reproduction is often seen as dull and boring compared to animal reproduction but it’s actually incredibly interesting. The lastest video to be uploaded to my YouTube channel shows me dissecting a flower to help you learn about it’s anatomy and how the two processes of pollination and fertilisation occur.

If you’d like to learn more about the life cycle of a plant including seed growth and dispersal, why don’t you click here and work your way through the great animations and activities available. You could also test your knowledge of flower anatomy by trying this quick quiz.

It’s important to remember that pollination is not just carried out by bees, watch this amazing video on YouTube about ‘The Beauty of Pollination’. There is some fantastic footage of insects and birds collecting pollen from anthers.

New IGCSE Quizlets available

I know a lot of recent visitors to the website have enjoyed using Quizlet to help with their revision. For anyone who hasn’t used Quizlet before you can learn what it is, and how to use it, by clicking here. There are now two new quizes available to help you revise Food and Digestion, just click on the links below to access them:

IGCSE Biology – Nutrition and Biochemistry

IGCSE Biology – Digestion and Enzymes

For anyone studying this topic I’d recommend watching Hank Green’s YouTube video below. He will take you on a crash course through the bowels of the human digestive system and explain why it’s all about surface area!

Hank’s YouTube channel is a great resource for anyone studying Biology, it has 40 different videos covering topics such as photosynthesis, meiosis, natural selection and ecology. Why don’t you check it out!

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