ASE Conference 2016
So in 2015 I finally joined the Association for Science Education. I’d been taking part in their Monday evening #ASEChat tweep-ups for a long time so it seemed only right to see what else they had to offer. Not long after joining Jersey’s Education Department announced that they’d partially fund some teachers from Jersey to attend the ASE Conference. This seemed too good an opportunity to miss, especially when school generously allowed me to attend all four days – it turns out our Headmaster used to be a regular attendee.
The Conference being in Birmingham I have to say the first big surprise was just what a transformation Birmingham New Street Train Station has undergone – my memories of it from my time as a student are not good, but now it is all open and airy – fab.
Day One, Wednesday 6th was International Day. Not entirely sure of the point; Wednesday just seemed to be have fewer sessions on (so each was full), with some of those that were on having an international theme.
I went to:
Practical Work in Science “Why we do it, and what it looks like when it works well”
An International Perspective from the National STEM Learning Centre
Day Two, both the Thursday and the Friday were tough, because there was so much on that every choice to go and see something meant that there was something else I didn’t see. Choosing was made doubly hard by the fact that sessions could be anything from an hour to two and a half hours causing all sorts of overlaps, and several ended as the next was due to start in a different building, although it turned out that no one minded you wandering in late. There were also lots of repeated, or at least similar talks, on different days so you could sometimes deal with clashes by attending an alternative.
I went to:
Day 3. One of the problems with multiday conferences away from home is what to do in the evening. On Thursday I went to watch the Star Wars film. Loved the 3D, the plot less so! On Friday evening it was the ASE members dinner which I’d signed up for on the conference booking form. On arrival my name wasn’t on the list, but then nor, apparently, were a lot of other people’s so they didn’t seem to care! I was told that this was the first time that ASE dinner had been a casual affair, previous years it was black tie – which was lucky because my dinner suit was in Jersey. I ended up chatting to a couple of Dutch guys who worked in Primary. They couldn’t believe they’d driven all the way from Holland to Birmingham only to end up spending the evening drinking dutch lager at UK hotel prices. I’m not sure the fact that they found the idea of senior ASE people wearing medals of office funny went down very well.
Anyway the day itself was Physics through and through, I went to:
I then got collared to attend an IOP focus group on whether there was a value in them developing their own “Advanced Physics Teacher” qualification. I’d intended to follow lunch with “IOP: Using Models to Teach Electricity” but as the session got fuller and fuller, and harder and harder to hear because there was another IOP workshop in the other half of the lab, I retreated to the back and went back to chatting to David Cotton about Cern@School.
I spent the rest of the afternoon in the Exhibition Tent.
- The National Physical Laboratory has put together some simulation software (a bit like PHET but more interactive), and even better, they sent me away loaded down with posters.
- And CIE informed us that they were due to making a decision on whether or not to change their iGCSEs to a 1-9 grading system.
Day 4, Saturday. After Friday being packed with trainee teachers, Saturday was pretty empty and had a winding down feel to it. Not helped by the fact that with the students not yet back in full force, and there being few academics in on a normal Saturday, most of the food outlets on campus were closed. But Saturday also featured a talk by Prof. Steve Jones who I always admire when I hear him on the radio, so I was excited – clearly suffering from a bit of man crush!
I was late because I went to buy a jumper – Jersey doesn’t get that cold – but then I went to:
Then the train back down to London.
I’ve been asked several times since I got back what I thought of it, and my usual reply has been “It was entirely science and there was so much going on that you could always find something that interested you. It was very different to normal CPD which it is often general and can be pretty wearing if you realise early on that it doesn’t have much relevance. Definitely worth it.”
On a personal level it was great meet the IoP guys like @NewmanPhysics – David Cotton, who I had particularly gone to meet, and the ASE movers and shakers @ViciaScience and @NeedhamL56. In addition, I can now put a face to fellow Physicist @A_Weatherall, while the preeminent Science teaching tweeter @HRogerson, was pointed out to me from afar – I didn’t manage to get her autograph! I also said hello to several twitterers who like me were tweeting at the conference and came along to Linda’s in-person tweet-up – all of whom I now follow – @Bio_Joe, for one, clearly having forgotten, or forgiven me, for saying Biologists can’t draw graphs!
Looking back over the rather short list of what I went to it doesn’t seem that way, but at the time it felt like I was continually running to the next lecture and never really got the chance to talk to anyone. I made that comment to the following Monday’s #ASEChat which set several people off on talking about how to combat that, so maybe next year there’ll be creches for newbies, or just those on their own, so they can find someone like-minded to have a chat with.
Overall a great experience, lit up by the two Frontier Science lectures that I went to by Professors Cristina Lazzeroni & Steve Jones.