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G. Y. Ritchie (Chiang Mai, Thailand)

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Faith and Wisdom in Science
Faith and Wisdom in Science
Price: £11.39

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, intelligent, important, 23 Oct. 2014
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What a delight to read! This book deals with science and theology in an original way, relevant to, but quite different in substance and tone from "God delusion / conclusion" debates. McLeish tells the story of science from within, a story of hard-won understanding, humility, and perseverance. This is story rather different from that told by science journalists who present something more like a triumphal march from darkness to light. Importantly McLeish tells this story as one which has a much longer history than the modern "scientific revolution" of history textbooks. Completely central to his thesis is the gentle recovery of the idea of "natural philosophy" (love of wisdom of natural things) replacing or at least complementing "science" (based on the root idea of "to know"). This immediately makes science an enterprise more human, more humble, and more accessible. As a science educator, no longer a working scientist, I see this as a real game-changer leading to an emphasis on questions, inquiry, fascination, and no little sense of wonder. As regards theology, McLeish spends very little time on Genesis texts, but includes an extensive study of ideas about nature in the book of Job, culminating in the great questions at the end of that book. McLeish sees here at least a hint of a challenge to explore these questions. For those within the Christian church, perhaps the most thought-provoking idea is that science is an integral part the "ministry of reconciliation" to which the church is called. In a world where the local church is often indifferent to science, ignorant of science, afraid of science, or even at war with science, I earnestly hope church members, pastors, and youth leaders hear this. This is an inspiring, intelligent and important book. I hope it is widely read.


Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning
Price: £21.11

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important work? Yes. Highly recommended? No., 23 Oct. 2014
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Before I bought and read Visible Learning for Teachers, I read some reviews, mentally endorsing the positive and dismissing the negative as being written by anti-intellectual teachers looking for no more than ideas to put into practice on Monday morning. However, the negative reviewers really do have a point. The research which Hattie describes and distills, both his own and the many other studies of what works best in schools is undoubtedly very important. The idea of effect size and the key message, summed up in the three simple words "Know your impact", should be the basis for the change of mindset which Hattie advocates in both individual teachers and whole schools. The book also has very good pieces of advice, thoroughly practical and implementable, scattered throughout (put the "hook" at the end, not the beginning of the lesson; start off with a test before any teaching; don't give feedback intended for one student to the whole class - it will be heard by none). Yet despite this I encountered a sense of incoherence in the book. I felt that I was standing by Prof. Hattie's desk randomly picking up ideas written on index cards. The major section of book does follow a lesson sequence (preparing, starting, flow and end of lesson), but when reading I found it hard to identify any developing argument or be aware of what section I was reading. Also contributing to this experience of incoherence was the way that the same works can be discussed more than once in different parts of the book with no reference being made to the fact that the writer has previously introduced these ideas.

The main reason why I would not wholeheartedly recommend this book to colleagues is not, however, the incoherence. It is more the way that Hattie's "solutions" frequently present an unbridgeable chasm for classroom teachers, requiring more than just a change of personal mindset, but also a change in the way schools are organized (to give, for example, more collaborative planning time). In fact the final "mind frames" part of the book seems to be directed more at school leaders than teachers. Certainly more so than ought to be the case in a book with "for teachers" in the title! In addition, the solutions can be so frustratingly opaque. Take this example: In citing work identifying right and wrong "drivers" of change, Hattie gives one of the wrong drivers as "assuming that technology will carry the day". Fine. I can get that. But what are the right drivers? The first is "creating a powerful centrality of the learning-instruction-assessment nexus". I'm sorry, but that does not move me forward at all.

However, despite the reservations, when I look though the notes I made on the book I realize that it is a rich source of interesting and powerful ideas, and will merit re-reading. A good book? Yes. Important work? Undoubtedly. A "must-read" for classroom teachers? No, I wouldn't say so.


Secret Seven: 1: The Secret Seven
Secret Seven: 1: The Secret Seven
Price: £3.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!, 16 April 2014
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My 8 year old son loved this book because he says it was exciting and interesting. He would recommend this for children between 7 and 9. He'll be reading more Secret Seven mysteries.


The Chronicles of Narnia 7-in-1 Bundle with Bonus Book, Boxen
The Chronicles of Narnia 7-in-1 Bundle with Bonus Book, Boxen
Price: £15.19

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still magical, 5 Jan. 2014
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Reading these at bedtime for my 8 year old takes me back to when the stories were first read to me at school decades ago. When I started reading them myself as a child, even as youngster I could see that there was something about them which was deeper and more significant than other childrens' books I read. While there are certainly elements in the stories which are dated - the heroes and their lands are rather too Britsh, - the magic is still there. My son has always enjoyed his bedtime reading, but with these stories he is captivated.


Sustaining formative assessment with teacher learning communities
Sustaining formative assessment with teacher learning communities
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, 16 Dec. 2013
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Dylan Wiliam on formative assessment is always a treat. No surprises then that this paper (it cannot be described as a book) was packed full of insight and interest. It is only suitable for those who have already worked through his earlier "embedded formative assessment", as it describes research on how the strategies contained in the earlier book can be implemented in schools through the establishment of teacher learning communities. The author cannot be faulted for being honest about how difficult change is to achieve, but I did feel that I would have been more encouraged had the case study of teacher learning communities given been more successful. But the encouragement Wiliam offers does not come through saying the journey will be easy, only that it is worth the effort.


Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest
Uncle Albert and the Quantum Quest
by Russell Stannard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, 9 Nov. 2013
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This story presents the early development of quantum theory through the thought experiments of Albert Einstein and introduces some of the other important players and their ideas. All of this is done in a way that children of 11 and over can follow, but even adults will enjoy.


Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator
Teach Like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator
Price: £7.48

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A generous three stars, 9 Nov. 2013
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I am sure that the author is an exciting teacher. I'm sure that I would have enjoyed studying history with him rather than with the teachers I had. I know that I expected to like this book. However, despite that I found the book disappointing, even irritating. The author is at heart a performer. He dresses up (as a pirate and in other costumes) to deliver workshops and teach his classes. He organizes his classroom as if it were a stage, paying attention to lighting, sound, and atmosphere. He describes in considerable detail what he does in his outrageously engaging (his words) history lessons. And it does sound like fun. But I can't help thinking that all of this misses the point. The whole book is really about how to teach "outrageously", with next to nothing on student learning. In this view it seems that the teacher does more and more and - from the classroom episodes recounted - the students sit back and watch the teacher work hard. There are some decent parts to the book, such as the section on questioning your practice, but they are outweighed by the "teacher as performer" aspects and the thread of positive self-evaluation for his own classes in contrast to those of his colleagues. There are also frankly immodest claims such as his classes are "based on the latest brain research". If you read this book then read alongside it the polar opposite - "the lazy teacher's handbook" by Jim Smith. Then you decide what kind of teacher you want to be! I'm going to keep the pirate outfit for Halloween.


Embedded Formative Assessment
Embedded Formative Assessment
Price: £13.67

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, and much more besides, 9 Nov. 2013
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This book was rather different than I expected. From the title I thought it would be another of those books giving tips, tricks and activities for your teaching toolkit. Those books have their place, but this one is much broader and more authoritative. Wiliam starts by taking a very broad view, evaluating the importance of a strong education system for countries. Having established this he looks at how education can be improved, at all times supporting his conclusions with research data. Along the way he casts doubt on the value of costly curriculum revision exercises and educational technology such as interactive whiteboards and dismisses educational fads such as so-called brain-based learning. If these don't help boost achievement much (or at all), then what does? He presents powerful evidence that the key to improving achievement is the quality of teaching. Through all of this he is homing in on what he believes is at the center of effective teaching - formative assessment. The latter part of the book details in both broad strokes and fine detail what this might look like. He explores sharing learning intentions, learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning, feedback (including the difficulties of providing feedback), collaborative learning, and learners as owners of their learning. These sections are where you will find the great ideas. My copy of this book has been extensively highlighted. I'll just give one quote to provide a flavor: "The secret of effective feedback is that saying what is wrong isn't enough; to be effective, feedback must provide a recipe for future action." For teachers, this book certainly provides the basis for action in implementing formative assessment.


Sigma ROX 9 Computer with Heart Rate and Cadence Counter
Sigma ROX 9 Computer with Heart Rate and Cadence Counter
Offered by Discount Bicycles Ltd
Price: £232.48

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars All I had hoped for, 20 July 2009
I made this purchase because I wanted more information about my cycle rides than was being provided by my previous combination of heart rate moniter and basic computer. in addition to basic functions, I was really interested in generating elevation profiles of my rides, and getting information about inclines. I had no previous knowledge or experience of Sigma products - the Rox 9.0 was a recommendation on an online forum. In this review I'll say a bit about the unit and setting it up, the heartrate functions, the user friendliness of the computer, and the software.

First of all, the unit which attaches to the bike is about half the size of a mobile phone. Certainly not cumbersome - I was surprised to read another reviewer complain about the size. The display shows three horizontal lines of information. The top line shows current heartrate, elevation, incline, and cadence. Helpfully, it is possible to zoom in on just one of these. If you are doing an interval and want to keep HR high then you can choose to have this shown in large size with the other values hidden. The second line shows current speed and an indication of whether this is above or below average for the trip. On the third line the user can scroll through a range of information including distance, trip time, average speed, total elevation etc. Setting up the unit was quite straightforward. I was pleasantly surprised that I had no trouble in getting signals from the speed, cadence, or heart rate sensors. The only time I have failed to pick up signals the problem was solved by wiping the back of the unit before reattaching it to the bike. The sensors can be attached by either O-rings or cable ties. I have used the unit on two bikes. On an old steel bike there was plenty of room to position the cadence sensor. However, on my carbon road bike with its chunkier stays it is a very tight fit indeed - the magnet on the crank almost rubs on the sensor.

As for the heartrate functions, the first thing I have to say is that this is the best heartrate monitor I have used. Previous HR monitors have had problems with 1. Picking up a signal, and 2. Giving reliable readings. In particular I have been plagued by HR monitors which gave ridiculously high readings, particularly at the start of rides. Happily, the Sigma unit has been completely reliable and free of erratic readings. One of the most useful features of this computer is the ability to program in three heart rate zones. It is then possible to get information at the end of a ride (or during a ride) telling you how long you spent in each zone. This is great information if you are trying, for example, to spend a certain amount of time at high intensity. I have discovered that my long(ish) distance rides (say 80-120km) with plenty of hills have entailed much less high intensity riding than I had thought would have been the case.

Overall, the unit is easy to read and understand. There is one thing to be aware of though. It seems that the computer must be removed from the bracket (the attachment to the bike) after rides. If not then the clock loses time, and data of the latest trip disappears.

I am not a computer expert by any means. However, I found the software easy to install and use. Seeing rides that I have logged (not all rides are logged - this has to be done manually) as elevation profiles along with whatever other data I choose to display (speed, heartrate, incline, temperate etc.) has been a lot of fun!

All in all I am a satisfied customer. This unit has given me all I wanted in terms of information about my cycling. The only features it doesn't have are GPS and a powermeter. But the former was not important to me, as I normally ride on roads I know. The latter was beyond my budget. Why four stars, not five? Well, I've used the unit for about a month now. It's durability is still untested. If two years from now it is working as it worked today, then my rating would go up to five. Time will tell.


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