'Twig Science' picked up awards at BETT and the Education Show. Sue Branson knows why
TwigWhen I first looked at Twig Science it was as part of the new resources that get sent to science departments throughout any academic year. I don’t always spend time evaluating them, as often the time is wasted and there is always precious little of it anyway! However, thank goodness I did.

Twig is presented as an online resource offering “outstanding short films on science”. We are always interested in new video content for the classroom and so I went to the website to take a look. Within a few clicks, I was mesmerised by its simple, clean-looking, vibrant pages that immediately caught my eye and made me want to delve deeper.

The first aspect that became apparent is the "big-picture", which sets out clearly how each sub-topic is linked to not only the main feature, but also to each other. On screen, Twig films are laid out in a very clean, mind-map structure, showing the more curriculum-focused films in the centre and the contextual stories around the outside. It is very visual, with quality images used to represent each film in the mind-map.

In planning our lessons, all the staff present a "big-picture" at the beginning of each lesson. Not only can we now take a screen shot of the Twig mind-map and embed it into a PowerPoint presentation, but we can hyperlink each part directly to the Twig website, as and when it needs to become a part of our delivery. This saves an enormous amount of time, as previously each link had to be separately sourced.

Twig mind mapNot just videos: Twig uses other resources including mind maps
The second feature that became apparent was the different linked content within each topic. The first time I used it to plan a lesson, I was teaching "Cells and DNA".  Once I clicked on the overview circle, another five circles were presented to me. I began where I felt it necessary for the students, at "The Cell", and after clicking on this icon I had nine further links presented to me. Each one was related and they all could be referred back to the question that started my lesson – “What is a cell?”

So, there I was, knowing only what the objective and outcomes for my first lesson were. However, in no time I had the big question; the film information to give me an overview; the key learning that students should get from the film; and a transcript ready to download. That alone provided depth to an already valuable resource.  

Over and above that, with Twig I also had learning materials that included detailed background text information, leading extension questions, and two quizzes for reviewing understanding, one basic and one advanced. The subsequent lesson focus then presented itself for exploration, which in this case was moving on to the types of cells.

Twig Science engages learners by rendering visible the invisible as in 'What is DNA?'

One benefit of Twig is in saving us teachers valuable time. You can search for the films, and for the non-film materials, by a basic keyword search box as well as through the mind-map; you can even search by the curriculum point from the relevant exam board. This gives you quick and easy access to hundreds of suitable films and extra non-film materials.

'As an adult I too am engaged by the stunning images and well thought-out narrative'

The added benefit is in the rich quality of the resource. Twig Science comprises more than 600 short 3-minute films. It is clear that these are complete film units, rather than clips of longer programmes. The films are paced well, with plenty of time allowed for letting an explanation sink in or for reinforcing a definition by seeing the word repeated on screen. Ultimately, it is the quality of the films that stands out the most though, and even as an adult I too am engaged by the stunning images as well as the well thought-out narrative.

Furthermore, Twig saves us expense due to one payment allowing such a wealth of resources to be at our fingertips. Within "Cells and DNA" alone there were nearly 40 films available, from "What is a Cell" to "The First Human Clone" and "Smallpox Vaccine". Coupled with the transcripts, diagrams, quizzes and further information –  and all of this available through a simple, single sign-on from home or school – our subscription provides us plenty of content to work with.

Twig free filmsThere are a number of free films available at www.twig-it.com/films which provide a good selection of the film library. With examples taken from across curriculum and context films and from the four science disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science, it is so easy to take a few minutes and watch one of these examples.

In the past I have too often looked at the previews offered by vendors before the full content can be accessed upon purchase, and bought on this evidence. Upon actual use I have then been disappointed when the whole package didn’t reflect the sample. Fortunately, this was absolutely not the case with Twig.

As a department we are very focused on constant evaluation and development for ourselves in order to deliver in the best way for our students. As a profession we rely on any impact that can stimulate the minds of the pupils.  Twig was immediately welcomed as an interactive resource when I showed it to my colleagues. They were both enthused and inspired as to how it could support teaching and learning. Subsequently, we feel that our capabilities to engage students have been enhanced by such a well-written, motivating tool.

Ratings (out of 5)

Fitness for purpose    5
Ease of use                5
Features                     5
Quality                        5
Value for money         4

Twig Science  

Online resource featuring more than 600 high-quality short films on science for key stage 3 (early secondary) and GCSE accompanied with further information, images, diagrams and quizzes. Recommended browsers are Internet Explorer ( version 7+), Safari (5+), Google Chrome (9+) and Firefox (3+). Prices depend on school size, from £240 to £715 per year (ex VAT) which includes home access for students and teachers
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Tel: 0203 463 8606 

Sue Branson is curriculum leader for science at Queen Elizabeth’s Endowed School in Mansfield - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

More information

A relative newcomer to the education technology market Twig World has already made a great impact in 2012 with Twig Science winning a BETT Award (Secondary Digital Content) and an Education Resource Award (Best Secondary Resource – ICT), and winning the hearts and minds of those teachers who use their service. More subjects will be covered and samples for mathematics are already available for view (see also "Recognition for Ray Barker at the end of the ERA").

You can view examples of Twig Science films, and download a complete list of what's available, at http://twig-it.com/films/