Archive for May, 2009

Non-visual content

May 28, 2009

Just a random thought for the 1 or 2 people who might not already know; Astronomy Picture of the Day is the best place every for desktop backgrounds. BTW, the title says non-visual but I have to include some of my favorites.

(does it really make sense to listen to a guy who still uses an almost default appearance on a wordpress blog?)





What are you going to do this summer?

May 28, 2009

Next year is going to be an interesting year of change. I have been teaching multiple sections of an academic physics class at a science magnet school for 7 years. Next year I will not be teaching that class. Its due to a curriculum change (going from a 2 year physics/AP physics sequence to a one year double scheduled AP physics) so its not a problem. In fact I’m looking forward to it in a way as I felt I was getting stale. I love Modeling Physics, its clearly the best thing that has happened to my teaching. On the other hand it comes with a fair amount of curricular material. Add in 7 years of my own material and I’ve fallen into a comfortable rut of tweaking, fine tuning, and polishing without ever really re-examining my teaching apparatus.

So now I get to spend the summer planning for one class of Active Physics, and 2 classes of physical science (which I have not taught in the past 2 years). Of course I’m fired up about planning for the new double blocked physics class but I figure I can channel some of that energy into Active Physics and physical science and use them as testbeds of new methods.

Other then the purely mechanical aspects of planning my real tasks are to incorporate some of the things that are firing me up right now.

– Dan Meyer’s thoughts on design in teaching (with perhaps a nod to Tufte although I am using his ideas more for enhancing my research students’ presentations)

– Ruminations on Thomas Guskey’s ideas from a recent workshop. From a physical point of view is was a terrible professional development since it consisted of him talking in front of a PowerPoint. But the ideas (and the fact that he is a good speaker) were enough to carry the day. I really like the separation of academics and behavior, his thoughts on the need for purpose first, and the perils with current grading systems.

– (not really a completely new topics) Glasser’s choice theory and quality schools. I have no idea if his ideas will still interest me but I found them inspiring when I got into teaching and they mesh with some of the standard’s based thoughts of Gaskey.

Even just those 2 and a half things are more then enough so I’m forcing myself to stop there.

Anyone seen a shadow around here?

May 22, 2009

Yes, I’m back.

Every spring the flowers bloom, days get longer and slow lorises start to write again. As this school year winds down and planning for next year goes into high gear it just seems right to put my thoughts down. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Are Students Quantized?

May 22, 2009

Does a teacher have to be an expert in a given medium or tool in order to be able to teach it?  Dan Meyer comes down firmly on the affirmative side when talking about the use of videos and music.  As an amateur, his term, you should not attempt to judge or evaluate the products of other amateurs for fear of instilling bad habits and reinforcing amateur status.  In principle this sounds good particularly in the creative or artistic examples that he cites.  It makes logical sense that it would be better to have an expert judge how the music in a video project adds (or subtracts) to the overall mood of the piece.  Setting the bar higher by having real experts grade artistic efforts sounds wonderful.

On the other hand I have to wonder if we should be willing to push students (through grades or less formal evaluation) even when we are not able to get them fully over the bar.  I am not an expert in graphic design (or even just PowerPoint) but I have some ability to critic the errors made by my research students as they present their work.  It is true that my evaluation of their products is not static over time, as I have learned more they have gotten better feedback, but I believe that I have always added value.

So it seems to boil down to one’s view of the nature of creative achievement.  Can a student be moved from one state to another higher state through multiple small nudges in the right direction or are students quantized such that only a single big push will work?