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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Moving on; but still GLOWing!

Having had a few interesting SKYPE chats over the weekend, I am taking the decision to move my blog to a different platform. I am hoping that this will be relatively easy. With the help of David Gilmour, this should be less than two weeks. Is blogger.com a suitable platform for teachers to use to blog? I have found out that my site could be the referring URL to any page on blogger.com. I don’t like this and I cannot alter it. I am thinking that I will switch to wordpress or typepad.
On a more exciting note, I and the rest of the East Lothian Glow Mentors will be trying out the GLOW Portal tomorrow at Preston Pans Education Centre. I am not sure how much will be ready for the trial; hopefully lots!
Tomorrows post, ‘East Lothian was GLOWing This Morning’

Watch this space!

Digital Camera?

Today I decided to take a few more photos of experiments that I have been doing on a daily basis for the last seven years. Having opened a flickr account, I tried to set up a ‘pro’ account via PayPal. Not realising that the payment was not immediate, I can’t upload the pictures :( (What are they doing with my money in the mean time? A Swiss bank account?) I have uploaded a few onto photobucket instead, but the widget function is not available! I guess I will just have to post a couple of static pictures for now until the account payment clears. This experiment is part of out S1/2 Curriculum:
Formation of Alum Crystals under one of our basic microscopes
I am also in the midst of browsing suitable cameras for use in the classroom, mainly for photography and podcasts etc. I really like the Fuji digital cameras, but I am not sure which is the best one. Ewan suggested I approach the council as they may be able to partly fund such equipment, but I would be using it personally too. Anyone any advice or ideas?

Monday, October 30, 2006


Having read Tom Barrett's blog earlier I thought I would share another new site. Editgrid.com is an online forum where excel templates can be shared and stored. You can see how Tom is using the site to collect and share results of Science experiments by clicking

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Useful Sites This Week

How Stuff Works. This web page is excellent. It has every thing from 'how Batteries work' to 'why do we yawn' It was actually the pupils who told me about it.

Steve Spangler. His blog is really good, lots of new ideas. Definitely worth a click for any scientist looking for experiments and links. He is also a 'Diet Coke and Mentos' fan!

TeachOneBiology This site has a wealth of useful links for Biology and Science teachers, even I have not explored it fully. You will find everything including lesson plans, investigation tips, useful sites and more.

Have a happy weekend catch you later!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Animations for web pages!

I was just taking a quick peek at Robert Jone's blog and thought I would try a site he (and Ollie) recommended. I hope this works. The kids will love this stuff, especially if they are blogging.
gif animation

Try it out!


Just a quick post as I was wondering if anyone out there has a podcast of the reaction between Copper foil and Chlorine? Or any ideas of where to find once. Though I will eventually do my own, my room is a Biology Lab and there is no fume cupboard; hence I am looking for a clip. I have searched high and low on the net with no success. I have found one with Aluminum and Bromine, but it doesn’t match the end of topic test paper. Anyone any ideas? :)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

PODCASTING: Talking Science

Ewan McIntosh posted this site earlier today. Although it looks relatively new, it is very much worth reading for any Science teachers who are keen on using ICT. I will be uploading more podcasts as and when. Watch this space! 'Talking Science'

RISK ASSESMENT: This must be a Thesis?

Having read Jim Henderson's blog earlier, This site is a 'must' for all Science teachers to visit.
Observer Slideshow: Chemistry:
I would love to know how many ceiling tiles this gent has gone through?
The article “Setting Young Minds on Fire”

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Yup! Sorry but still on the 'Diet Coke and Mentos' theme. My INT1 class and I experimented on the last day of term. This was taken on a very basic 2 mega pixel so I'm not sure what the quality will be like? I am still learning the HTML codes on templates, so I am just posting a link at the moment (My blog looks a bit like a jigsaw other wise!)
Miss W's 'Diet Coke and Mentos'

Monday, October 23, 2006

Blogging in Education: Girls?

Having just returned from a fantastic October break I have been doing a little bit of research in to why blogging in education is predominantly by males. I am aware that not everyone reading this post will be blogger.

Quote Wikipedia
'A blog is a website where entries are made in journal style and displayed in a reverse chronological order. Blogs often provide commentary or news on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news; some function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Most blogs are primarily textual although some focus on photographs (photoblog), videos (vlog), or audio (podcasting), and are part of a wider network of social media'

Blogging is relatively new to me. I myself was unaware of the immense benefits that blogging brings until I became involved with the exciting initiative GLOW. It was Ewan McIntosh from LTS who really inspired me to start. Initially, setting up a blog can be a rather daunting and frustrating process. Rather like learning to use a new mobile phone, or an application such as File-maker Pro. However, once set-up it is all go. But why is it that the majority of Educators networking in this way are male?
Briefly asking a few female colleagues from all levels of the secondary sector, their comments include the following:

I just don’t have enough time’

‘I don’t know how to begin? I would if some one could show me’

‘Blogging is fine for reading, but I have no idea what I would write about!’

‘Blogging? No it’s not for me. I have only visited two blogs. Where do people get the time to do this? It’s all a bit flashy and cliquey if you want my honest opinion!’

‘I would rather stick pins in my head than read or write a blog!’

The general feeling I perceived was a lack of confidence in using ICT. Some staff are not confident in using PowerPoint. Logically, they will not be entertaining the thought of producing a blog. I strongly feel that classroom practitioners who are confident and able in this field should be given opportunity to pass our expertise on. I can understand why the blogosphere might appear clique from the outside, but anyone reading this can be rest assured that it isn’t. We are just well practised with our ICT skills. Speaking for myself (and I am sure my fellow bloggers will agree) we are more than willing to help you if you would like to start! Time may also appear to be an issue. It might look like bloggers spend hours on the net, typing and creating sites, but again this is not the case. Once the Blog is created, it is just a case of posting articles when you choose. Most bloggers have become very quick at typing. Having spoken to Ewan McIntosh via SKYPE, he can type a huge 60 words a minute! As they say, practice makes perfect! There does seem to be a slight negative attitude among some staff and I and my fellow bloggers must try and turn this feeling around. As a GLOW mentor, I am hoping to encourage more staff to blog, but before they blog they will need more support in using ICT. You have to walk before you can run! Though, in my opinion, this support will be fairly useless unless it is given on a one to one basis. This will need to happen soon as what we have occurring is a polarisation between those who are seen as ICT gurus, and those who struggle to use outlook express.

Anyway, I have gone a bit off the track here! What are the reasons for more males than females to be blogging in education? I think that, in general, male teachers are more confident in using ICT, that is not to say that us ladies are any the less able! Let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Blogging in Education; Need more GIRLS!!

I am jetting off tomorrow for the October break, but on my return, I plan to write a post on;

'Gender and Blogging in Education'

Is it just me, or is blogging in education predominantly for males? If so how can we attract more ladies into networking in this new way?
Let me know what you think. Catch you on my return.

Breaking into HTML

I am still in the midst of investigating many blogs, podcasts, the wonderful world of HTML. In computing, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is a markup language designed for the creation of web pages with hypertext and other information to be displayed in a web browser, it is a code. HTML is used to structure information, denoting certain text as headings, paragraphs, lists and so on. It can be used to describe, to some degree, the appearance and semantics of a document. On the HTML front, I have been playing about with many templates and formats with a view to possibly starting a site for my subject. One book I have found particularly helpful was
HTML, In Easy Steps’ Mike McGrath
McGrath gives an excellent coverage of all the basics of using HTML to improve the content, aesthetics and format of your site. I found this guide very easy on the eye and very informative in explaining how to use and understand HTML. You can access the summary here.

Friday, October 13, 2006


As you may be aware, the posting times of my blog appear to be some what erratic. I don’t actually get out of be to post articles at 430am!!!!
Quote Mum:
'Darling….. What an earth are you doing on the internet at such anti-social hours!?'
The auto clock on the blog is wrong and I am trying my hardest to rectify the situation!!! I love my PC but really not that much! I can only post the date and time if I choose to and sometimes I forget, apologies to all!

PODCASTS in Education

Podcasting and Secondary Science.

A podcast is a multimedia file distributed over the Internet. This can be in the format of an audio file or a video file (vodcast). Podcasting's initial appeal was to allow individuals to distribute their own "radio shows," but the system quickly became used in a wide variety of other ways, including official and unofficial audio tours of famous places, conference meeting alerts and updates, by police to distribute public safety messages and of course, distribution of school lessons. With regards to the new GLOW Initiative, podcasting will be fundemental. Being a practical subject, there are many advantages to using podcasting in Science education. One fantastic illustration of their use is by the Highland council for the Intermediate 1 Biology Course. They have the three course units now available online. There are a series of lessons for each unit. Each online lesson consists of a short podcast, a PowerPoint presentation and a downloadable work sheet. Podcasting is something that is relatively new to myself and I am eager to trial run of a pod cast. My first thoughts would be during a dissection. My department and I are planning to run another fish dissection after the October break. Following the dissection, I would hope to post a podcast on the net. In the meantime if anyone has any suggestions, ideas or experiences they would like to share, I would be really interested to hear from you!

Check out these sites for some great examples of podcast use in Science education:
Teach with Tech
Bruce's Science Page
You can leave a comment, Skype me (on the tool bar at the side if I am online) or drop me an email tessawatson@tessawatson.com

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Chloroplasts are specialised organelles found in all higher plant cells. These organelles contain the plant cell's pigment chlorophyll, hence provide the green colour. A large part of many of the SQA courses require pupils to analyse plant cells under the microscope and identify the chloroplasts of the cell. The standard plant always chosen is the pondweed Elodea. Elodea has lovely large chloroplasts that look rather like green smarties. You can actually see the organelles move around with in the cells cytoplasm under the microscope. However, sometimes it can be quite difficult to get hold of Elodea. Our technician’s suggested we look at moss cells instead of Elodea (Just the plain stuff that grows on stones and concrete). Our results are excellent. The chloroplasts are just as visible as they are in the pondweed. Big thanks to our fabulous technicians Pamela, Lynn and Sheila.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

East Lothian GLOW

A number of staff have been quizzing me with regards to where we are at with the new initiative GLOW’, so I thought I would write a brief update. We are lucky enough at Knox Academy and Kings Meadow Primary to have been selected to pilot the trail run of the portal. This is to take place after the October break. In the mean time, you can keep track of our progress in East Lothian via the following site.
East Lothian GLOW.
Most of the blogs I read (on the side bar, right) link to GLOW too, so click away!

Get FLICKR-ed!

For all of you people who don't blog, or have not yet started, I thought I would tell you a bit about photo management with Flickr.Flickr is, in my opinion, certainly the best online photo management and sharing application on the Internet.
It allows you to get your photos to the people who matter to you. With Flickr you can, show off your choosen photos to the internet world, blog the photos you take with a camera or camera phone, securely and privately show photos to your friends and family where ever they are and lots more! The basic accounts are free!

You can see my first efforts using flickr on the top right of my page. These photos were taken during our CPD session in one of the School Labs on Friday. Not bad for being taken with a camera phone i say!

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Following her return from SAPS Ann Chapman, PT Biology KNOX ACADEMY, offered to run a CPD session for fellow Biology colleagues in East Lothian on Advanced Higher Biology Practicals. This was a very informative presentation with lots of newfangled ideas that pupils might choose to use for their investigations. Ann's ideas included the following:

1. Photosynthetic rate in algae (Scenedesmus and Chlorella) - Measuring either oxygen evolution or carbon dioxide uptake so that rates can be determined. Suggested variables that could be altered were: Colour of light, Light Intensity, Distance from lamp, Neutral density experiment, Number of balls, Ball size, Concentration of algae, Temperature, Starting [CO2] etc.

2. Micro Scale Investigations with Catalase- The advantages of this type of investigation are quick repetitions, quick microcentrifuge, small samples of tissue, series of samples e.g. from diseased vegetable, no diffusion of enzyme from disc, results are quantified and easily controlled variables. Ann's suggested investigation ideas for this practical included, variation in catalase activity during germination, inhibition of seeds, hormone treatment
Variation in catalase activity between, different tissues, different parts of plant and diseased and healthy regions plant.

3.Biosensors, A modern Use of Bacteria-Photobacterium phosphoreum is a type of bacterium which displays luminescence (i.e. it gives out visible light) You can find out how toxic a substance is by adding it to Photobacterium and measuring its brightness. The more toxic the substance, the more it will damage the cells’ metabolism and the less brightly the Photobacterium will shine. The Investigations Ann Suggestions were: Different concentrations of a pollutant, Different types of pollutants. The pollutants suitable for school are, Ethanol, Copper sulphate, Detergents and any other naturally occurring pollutants. (I think a great investigation could be using common fertilisers?)

Through out the session I took a few amateur photos on my phone. I have now added a flickr badge (top right) to my page so take a peek!

It was an informative afternoon enjoyed by all, thanks Ann! I have more links and pictures to upload which I will do tomorrow morning. Must dash as I have an appointment to share some 'Good Practise' with an old colleague of mine, Sharon Gallagher. Topic? 'Products of fermentation' Location 'The Omni Centre'.

Have a great weekend!

If you would like more information or have any queries please get in touch tessawatson@tessawatson.com

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Smoking Demo: No More?

Many of the SQA Biology courses cover the topic of respiration. Under the Respiration umbrella is the subtopic of ‘Smoking and its effects’. For years the standard effects of smoking could be demonstrated using the 'Smoking Machine' or 'Smokey Sue'. Due to the Laws on ‘Smoking in Public Places’ that were enforced earlier in the year, SSERC have decided to ban this demonstration.
Position Statement On The Use Of Smoking Machines In Schools.
I can see why they might ban the experiment indoors, but what about the use of a fume cupboard? Or demonstrating it outdoors,

'Light winds may cause smoke to drift and be inhaled by observers'

Personally I feel that pupils will benefit immensely by seeing the effect of what just one cigarette can do, even if they are exposed to part of the cigarette fume. Some councils also have a ‘No Smoking on Council Grounds’ policy so even if it were legal outdoors, where would you demonstrate it? The road? All in all I guess that will be the end of the demonstration, rules are rules.
On the brighter side, Highland Council have produced a number of Podcasts for the Intermediate 1 Biology course. One podcast is the Smoking Demonstration. It is not as good as the real thing, but an excellent contender for second place.

Smoking Demonstration

SCHOLAR: A Mini Glow?

Whilst at this year’s SETT conference I and my colleague, Dave Rawson, attended a rather interesting seminar:
‘SCHOLAR: A Mini SSDN’ Gerry Toner, Heriot-Watt University.

Quote: Scholar Website

‘Heriot-Watt University is rapidly becoming a world leader in creating the inclusive and supportive e-learning environment that helps people to learn at the times and in the ways they choose. Drawing on its special expertise in interactive and distance learning, SCHOLAR materials have been specially written by subject specialists from schools, colleges and the university. They bring together the best of innovative learning with tried-and-tested educational approaches’

Having been a keen and active user of the Heriot Watt Programme, I was very curious as to what Toner had to say. His comparison of SCHOLAR and the vision of Glow was of no surprise to my own preconceptions.

Online resources and tools available on a private Intranet anywhere anytime.
Sharing Ideas, expertise and resources nationally for both Teachers and Pupils.
Online assessment that can be accessed by Teachers and Pupils.

In the short term, my opinion is the biggest difference will be the number of persons involved (50,000, Scholar: 800,000 approx, Glow). I feel ‘Glow’ will initially embark with the majority of attributes that Scholar maintains. Eventually, in the longer term, Glow will succeed in revolutionising education. It will be a Premier, National, Education based intranet. This will prove to be fundamental to the ‘Curriculum for Excellence' and an invaluable asset for pupils, staff and eventually parents alike.

Bring on Glow!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Diet Coke and Mentos?

Recently I have had a number of requests from pupils that we peform the 'Diet Coke and Mentos' experiment.
There has been a lot of internet discussion about why Diet Coke and Mentos make such an interesting combination. It is know that the carbon dioxide that has been compressed into the liquid escapes so rapidly that the pressure forces the liquid out of the bottle; Like shaking a bottle before you open it, but even more fierce and wild. Click here to see this experiment in action and for some suggested reasons as to why it works best with Diet Coke and Mentos. This is a fun experiment and would I recommend that it be carried out in a large open area, not to be tried in ones bathroom :(

In the DNA

DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid)
As part of the Unit 1 Higher Biology syllabus, one of the optional practicals is basic DNA extraction. This is a great practical which usually has excellent results. When DNA extractions are performed, you can expect three basic results:

1. No DNA
2. DNA appears fluffy which means it has sheared in the extraction process
3. DNA appears as thin threads.

Although DNA that strands is the most impressive, DNA that has sheared still shows that DNA is present. Having experimented with many types of fruit over the years, I have come to the conclusion that strawberries or ripe kiwi fruit will provide the best results.

Monday, October 02, 2006


If you haven't got it already, you will want it! Skype is a little piece of software that allows you to make calls from your computer. Talk for as long as you like without worrying about the cost or the distance. My Skype name is Tessa Watson if you want to get in touch.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


What is Glow?
Glow is the new name for the Scottish Schools Digital Network. It is a national schools intranet, digitally linking Scotland's 800,000 educators and pupils. Glow is funded by the Scottish Executive and managed by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) in partnership with RM.

Glow Mentors
Being known for my passionate use of ICT, MSN and Skype, I was very excited to be selected as a Mentor for this initiative. East Lothian Glow Mentors met last week to discuss how we will be involved in this national intranet. We’ll be encouraging and supporting colleagues to use Glow. We are planning to start initial trials with the portal after the October break.

Where I have been