Thanks to Karen Hutson, Head of Science, for launching our new series of “PED-Talks”. Borrowing outrageously from a similarly named repository of all human wisdom and experience, we decided to start up our own forum for staff to share their experiences and insights, emphasising our view that all teachers are learners.
Following her inspirational three days at Cambridge University, courtesy of the Prince’s Teaching Institute, Karen returned invigorated by her exposure to the latest and best insights into a range of topics, from DNA sequencing to the causes of diabetes. This can now be cascaded throughout the department, and our GCSE and A level teaching will be so much better informed as a result. Karen was also able to network with Heads of Science from across the country, building a valuable network for further collaboration and sharing of ideas and practice.
We live in a rapidly evolving technological world, where processes that seemed impossible a few decades ago, are now easily achieved. Karen used, as an example, the fact that in the 1980s, to read 1 million base pairs of DNA would have cost £7, 800,000; and it would have taken over 1000 years to read an entire set of human genes. Today to read a million base pairs would cost 4p, and to read an entire set of human genes would take one day!
How do we equip students to make sense of the vast quantity of information that is now available to them, when many of their teachers relied on the Encyclopedia Brittanica as the sole authoritative source when they themselves were students? How can we help students to make the correct inferences from the plethora of data that they are exposed to?
- To give students a little bit of the available data?
- To control the flow of data?
- To collect some data for them to use later?
- To cap off the available data?
All of these “solutions” have clear advantages and disadvantages, and Karen’s conclusion is that as educators, it is even more important now to teach students how to ask questions, how to look for information, and to evaluate the credibility, source and value of the information. Knowing where to look, what to look for, and what questions to ask is a key digital competency.
The next step? Making sure that teachers see themselves as being in a position, and with a responsibility, to foster these skills; and equipping them to do so. The IT department can no longer do it alone!