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I know I will cry when I eventually leave the school where I’ve worked for the last decade or so. I won’t be able to help it – I’ve cried on my final day at every school I’ve ever belonged, as a student or teacher. The last time was when I left my second teaching […]

“Our ability to understand the universe and our position in it is one of the glories of the human species. Our ability to link mind to mind by language, and especially to transmit our thoughts across the centuries is another. Science and literature, then, are the two achievements of Homo Sapiens that most convincingly justify […]

It’s been a while since The Young Atheist’s Handbook was published but I’ve continued writing about Atheism and Humanism in New Humanist magazine and elsewhere and I have become a trustee of the British Humanist Association. However, I’ve been focussing on my work in science education and am proud to announce that Demo: The Movie, […]

“Love songs have been a majority of all songs ever written” and “Love in music has been expressed in all cultures and among all gender, race, and age groups” are claims made by social scientists who study this sort of thing. I suspect no-one reading this will be surprised by these statements or find them […]

The Government is currently carrying out a consultation on the draft criteria for GCSE Science. Physics textbook writer David Sang, who I’ve worked with in making a number of physics demonstration films, has some concerns which he’s allowed me to share here: I have specifically commented on the Physics sections as I feel unqualified to […]

I remember the first time I saw my name in the credits of a TV programme – it was for the BBC’s Blood of the Vikings. It felt awesome. A few years later, I was lucky enough to see the words “A film by Alom Shaha” on the big screen at the Ritzy Picturehouse, where […]

A little reading around the subject reveals that some of the Biblical stories featuring the Abrahamic God are almost certainly loose adaptations of earlier myths. Noah was not the first character in a story who had to deal with a massive flood, and Jesus was not the first to be born when a woman was […]

Scientists often get annoyed, or even angry, when creationists claim “evolution is just a theory”. It’s often unclear whether creationists are deliberately using a widespread confusion about the use of the word “theory” in science to their advantage or whether they genuinely believe that the theory of evolution is simply a guess, an idea, that […]

I’ve been delighted to find that The Young Atheist’s Handbook is being used in schools by teachers like Laura Cooper who wrote to tell me: “I recently read your book, The Young Atheists Handbook, and would just like to say as a teacher of Religious Studies how useful I have found it. It is exactly […]

積ん読 This is the Japanese word “tsundoku”, meaning “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with such other unread books” (amazing that such a short word can mean such a thing, but I’ll trust that the internet isn’t lying to me on this occasion). I have such a […]

I received the following email from a Turkish reader of The Young Atheist’s Handbook. She has kindly let me share it here: Dear Mr. Shaha I read your book in Turkish some time ago. When I read your statement that you don’t know if your book can translate into your mother tongue or not, I […]

The Turkish edition of The Young Atheist’s Handbook was published a few weeks ago. Over there, the publishers have gone with a different title, Tanrının Öldüğü Gün (“The Day God Died”), taken from chapter one of the English edition. Here’s the introduction I wrote for it: There is a Turkish grocery store in my neighbourhood […]

What’s the point of Atheism? That’s the title of a panel discussion I’ll be taking part in at this weekend’s “Battle of Ideas” at the Barbican, organised by the Institute of Ideas. The blurb on the event’s webpage asks “how relevant is [atheism] in a society where fewer and fewer people are being raised with […]

Lots of lovely people have asked me to give talks about the book so I will be travelling round the UK hoping to meet readers over the next few months. The list below provides details of the events I’ll be speaking at: 31st July Cheltenham Skeptics in the Pub (SitP) 9th August Book Barge, Barton […]

If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I give over quite a few pages to the significance of bacon in my life. Here’s a short film made by my friend Barry Gibb which explains why eating bacon for the first time was, for me, a liberating rite of passage:

As you’ve probably gathered if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ve been relentlessly trying to build up interest in my book over the last few months in the hope that people might buy it when it’s finally released in the UK on July 19th. Not sure how successful my efforts have been (I […]

It’s Father’s Day in the UK today, and I suspect many people will spend at least a few moments thinking about, and being grateful for, their dads. It feels like today is an appropriate day to share this short film, which encapsulates what I think is probably the central “lesson” from The Young Atheist’s Handbook.

It’s still a couple of months until my book will be published in the UK (July 17th), but Biteback have decided on this beautiful design for the cover of the UK edition and the lovely people at the British Humanist Association have organised an event to launch the book with A.C. Grayling, Samira Ahmed, Robin […]

It’s Shakespeare’s Birthday today, a date which has been chosen by the organisers of World Book Night for “a celebration of reading and books which sees tens of thousands of passionate volunteers gift books in their communities to share their love of reading”. The project is not just about celebrating reading but about reaching out […]

It’s the Easter holidays and I’m hoping my A-level students are using at least some of the time to revise. I’ve been sending them regular emails reminding them to study and including useful web links when I find them. I’ve recently come across a whole series of A-level Physics Revision Videos on YouTube as well […]

  • Joe Apr 13, 2012 Reply

    Youtube videos can be an excellent medium to aid revision, the real problem is making sure that the video uses the terminology that is required by the specification that you follow. There are some great photosynthesis songs on the Internet but of they are from the US so don’t use the names for the molecules that are in the spec.
    Little chunks are the best way to revise, 20min bursts on an area that you are revising backed up with targeted questions. Revising in groups is helpful, devising your own questions and testing each other hits those higher level thinking skills.
    I often use the analogy of taking food out the freezer for revision. If you have some meat in the freezer and you defrost it you have to cook the meat before refreezing it so you don’t get food poisoning.
    For revision to be effective you have to ‘cook’ the knowledge, not just defrost and put back in your brain. Reading over your notes or just reading the revision guide isn’t enough.
    Re-write your notes (don’t copy). Make a mind-map. Write questions, Do past papers, Explain the concept to someone else (parents, friends, siblings etc). Make a 1min audio podcast. Make flash cards. Read mark schemes and try to work out the question was.
    Reprocessing the information allows for new synaptic links to be formed in the brain and so strengthen your knowledge of the material.

  • Alessio Apr 13, 2012 Reply

    Hi Alom,
    Thanks for this link, the videos look very useful! I know someone else who makes similar videos for the whole of GCSE Science and you can see his videos here
    I agree it would be very useful for learners to make their own videos too, but I think using these short videos as revision and at home could be very effective if teachers linked other tasks and activities with them. I like your suggestion of getting them to take notes, but I would probably add worksheets, exam style questions and maybe more open tasks like performing a review of the videos like a news report, or writing blog posts about them, etc…
    So, if these videos were used by learners in their own time as independent study, that could free up lesson time to do more consolidation work and creative tasks!

  • Carol Apr 13, 2012 Reply

    Hi Alom
    I would agree that just watching the video isn’t the best method of using them. There needs to be some engagement. The Learning Skills for Science project has a number of activities which structure learning from aural/visual materials. We made use of one of these in the Nuffield produced Science in Society website. You can find it here: by clicking on LSS:watching a film.
    I’ve often found when getting students to make their own films, the final product may be of a poor quality, but the discussion and thinking which has gone into the production is often very helpful.

  • Alom Apr 13, 2012 Reply

    Hi Carol,
    Thanks for the link – really useful. I agree about the poor quality of videos students sometimes produced and also agree that it’s the process of making the video that can be useful.

  • pete Apr 13, 2012 Reply

    The video looks to be very good – I shall make it available to those students of mine who are doing a resit of the January Module which contains a lot of electrickery. I am thinking a
    I will produce some partly completed recording sheets – mimicking the one used in the video. Getting students to aim to be able to complete the sheet from memory. (Over recent years I have come to think that many weaker students struggle because they have memorised some key facts without which it is impossible to progress when doing a particular question).
    A few years ago – maybe 5 actually – I did set students tasks of recording short videos on phones/ digital cameras as a means of revising superposition. The aim was for them to explain in a diagram what was meant to happen / then video an experiment of it happening.
    People did standing waves/ diffraction gratings / interference of microwaves etc. Video was meant to be short – 1 or 2 mins max – just showing really key points.
    The videos weren’t very good. However, the process of discussion / thinking of how to explain and carrying out the short demo experiment were valuable. I also thought that the whole business may act as a kind of prompt when facing an exam question.
    Thanks for the link!

  • Ian Apr 14, 2012 Reply

    I agree entirely; I tell my students regularly that reading is *not* revision, and that definitely applies even to the best of videos or podcasts. However, they can be a great starting point for loads of good, effective revision methods.
    For videos using American terminology, why not have students write ‘English’ subtitles, or script a local version? I like having them create their own resources, so writing questions to test each others understanding. They could create summaries of the content, in a range of formats (Cornell, mind map, bullet points etc) and add anything missing. Once they’ve sumarised, discussing the relative importance of different parts is worthwhile.
    I like the thought of dividing videos into chunks; what you can then do is assign a 2/5/10 minute section to a pair or group of students and have them prepare a summary, test questions (including mathematical ones) with markschemes, as well as clarifications or added examples/explanations. These can then be blogged or otherwise added to a school vle for everyone’s use. If two groups cover each section you can have other students compare their work using the ‘good because, great if’ framework.
    Sorry if I’ve babbled, it’s the middle of the night!

  • Mary Apr 16, 2012 Reply

    A good video, no doubt useful for students following that course. Though as others have said, students must not think that by watching this they are really revising.
    Some great suggestions from the others about how you could use them with students.
    The output looks like my revision notes I made when revising for A Levels myself – summarise a topic on an A3 sheet of paper.

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