Sunday, August 28, 2011

Engage = Connect

As the beginning of the school year gets underway I ask myself this question:

“What learning environment will I provide so that my students can’t wait ‘til the next class?”

I believe that every person is unique and every child can learn, but I recognize that students learn best when engaged, where expectations are appropriately challenging within an environment that is both safe and that contributes to the dignity and self-worth of all. Students respond to encouragement and to a structuring of time and activities that reinforces their striving to meet and exceed those expectations while at the same time recognizing their increasing capacity to manage responsibility and independence.

I also believe that engagement depends on quality interactions resulting from connections that happen inside and outside of the classroom.

Here are some of my Engaging-Connection ideas to make learning exciting and enjoyable in Honors Physics this year:

1. I will engage my students by making connections to their passions:
In Sports:
Our first major project is to design a special issue for a sports magazine (similar to “Sports Illustrated”) for their selected sport. This project will engage them as they construct their knowledge of the concepts of kinematics and forces.
In Music:
- As part of our unit in waves and sound, the students will design and build their own musical instrument.
- Our last day of school before the holidays in December, my students will create and perform their own Physics Carols.
In Art:
For the 6th year, my students will participate in the AAPT Photo Physics Contest taking their own photos and explaining the physics behind them. For the past two years we’ve had three students showcased at the AAPT Summer Meetings where their photos have been admired by hundreds of physics teachers and professors from around the world.

2. I will engage my students by making connections to popular digital games.
Take a look at our classroom bulletin board:

Students were thrilled when they found out that I am an Angry Birds fan (well, who isn’t?).
We will have an opportunity to do a quantitative analysis of the game in order to answer some of these questions:
a. What is the mass of each of the Angry Birds?
b. What is the gravitational field in Angry Birds world?
c. Using energy conservation, calculate the coefficient of restitution when a bird bounces off the wall.
d. Is momentum conserved when the blue bird splits into three?
e. Does the white bird accurately represent projectile motion when it drops an egg?

(Thanks to Frank Noschese for his ideas!)

3. I will engage my students by making connections to the physics concepts through investigations and experimentation.
The development of physics concepts occurs best in a hands-on, inquiry-based environment. My students will design and test their own investigations as opposed to just following directions in cookbook type labs.
In the unit of Simple Harmonic Motion, my students will investigate the factors affecting the period of a pendulum. The culminating activity of this unit will be their constructing their own snake pendulum just like this one:

4. I will engage my students by facilitating their connection to the world through their own blogs.
The use of digital tools will afford them the opportunity to deepen their skills in communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creation. At the same time, as part of a connected global community, my students will become self-starters who can model and coach while knowing how to learn and share with transparency and respect.

5. I will engage my students by enabling them to connect their learning progress to our physics learning objectives.
Our current educational systems, in both public and independent schools force the students to focus on their grades as opposed to focusing on their learning.

I have modified my grading policy to shift this focus from “getting an A” to “becoming proficient” in physics though a modified version of performance-based assessment. My students have received a copy of our Learning Objectives. As we move through the topics, the students have the responsibility of keeping track of their own progress. Their final grades will reflect their most recent learning. One nice caveat of this approach is the opportunity to skip homework assignments if they have mastered a specific topic. (Shhh, don’t tell them yet!)

6. I will engage my students by making professional connections:
a. With my colleagues at school:
Working together in vertical and horizontal teams will allow me to bring opportunities for cross-curricular activities that will enrich my students’ learning experience.
b. By participating in vibrant learning communities through Twitter and blogs and connecting with members of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) I will continue to grow as a learner and an educator.

I would love to hear your strategies for having your students engaged through connections!

Cross-Posted at Voices From the Learning Revolution (PLP Network #vflr)

Image Credits:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

PLP Journey: Planning our Professional Learning Day

Our PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) project last year was to develop a meaningful professional development program for faculty and staff that enriches teaching and learning.

Our program is called IP21 (Individual Plan for 21st Century Teaching and Learning) is in its second year of successful implementation!

The five characteristics of our IP21 program are:
- Sustained
- Embedded within subject-specific needs
- Focused on the TPACK framework
- Aligned with the NETS-T and NETS-A
- Grounded in a collaborative, inquiry-based approach

Over 120 faculty from three divisions: Lower School, Middle School and Upper School selected a minimum of three professional goals for the current school year.

Faculty acquired the competencies through instructional technology support or by self-learning using the resources compiled in the NETS-T wiki. Everybody has documented evidence that demonstrate acquisition and application of competencies in teaching and learning.

This is the link to our 2009-2010 project: Parish Episcopal School PLP Action Research Project

Our PLP team read a very articulate posting by M.E. Steele called 'Unconference: Revolutionary professional learning' that got us thinking about adapting the idea of an unconference to design our own Professional Learning day at school.

According to M.E., unconferences are part of the learning revolution. They’re participant-driven professional learning gatherings. The “un” refers specifically to the fact that there is no top-down organization, no registration fees, and no vendors. The unconference is organized and led by participants.

One of the best parts of an unconference like Edcamp is that it creates a level playing field for discussion. Since the attendees drive the conference and the attendees also serve as presenters there is no hierarchy between presenters and attendees. Teachers can present in front of administrators and administrators can engage teachers in dialogue with both parties taking an active role in the discussion.

Our faculty has been very active throughout the year implementing innovative teaching strategies and creating engaging projects that fit their IP21professional goals.These goals are not mandated by the administration but rather selected by each teacher. Giving ownership to teachers to design their professional growth makes these goals relevant and meaningful to our teaching practice.

Why not apply this fact to designing our Professional Learning day?

The focus of the PLP Year 2 teams has been on Project-Based Learning.
We decided to use a PBL approach to guide us through the process of design a Professional Learning day that encourages teachers to facilitate and participate in conversations discussing their ideas and passions as they relate to their IP21 professional goals.


 How can we engage our faculty and administrators in meaningful conversations about teaching and learning? 

Our IP21 Edcamp needs to include the following traits of optimal Professional Learning:
Relevant, Meaningful, Applicable, Adaptable, Differentiated, Enjoyable, Safe and  Diverse

This is how we created our action plan:

Take a closer look at how our plan developed:

Faculty will complete an online survey to reflect on their personal learning as a result of their participation in the IP21 Edcamp.  The survey invites the teachers to relate:
- What they learned 
- Impact of their learning on their teaching practices
It is our hope that all of our colleagues find value in their participating in the conversations throughout the day.
IP21 Edcamp Reflection

Creating our agenda was the final task in our process. Our IP21 Edcamp day will include a Keynote, four sessions with 24 conversations, a lunch with a Pecha Kucha round and a Closing Remarks session.

Take a look at the final program here: IP21 Edcamp Agenda

So there you have it: Professional Learning 2011 Style! 
Cross-Posted at Voices From the Learning Revolution (PLP Network)

Image Credits: Sunset on Boracay by wili_hybrid. Attribution-NonCommercial License

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Science Simulations: A Virtual Learning Environment

Experimental work is an integral part of science courses. Although excellent science learning can take place using the simplest equipment, the integration of laboratory activities with classroom work requires careful balancing between time allocation and budget restrictions.

Technology can be a powerful tool for learning science concepts and developing skills of measurement, analysis, and processing information. Virtual labs and simulations should not substitute for laboratory experience, but may be used to supplement and extend such experience.

In this posting I will discuss the advantages of using simulations, different types of simulations, simulation resources, and instructional strategies about implementing simulations in the science classroom.

What Education Research says

Education research shows that:

1. 'Students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application, when they are in control of and responsible for their own learning.'
(Active Learning on the Web by Bernie Dodge, Department of Educational Technology, San Diego State University)

2. 'A survey, based on 62 courses with total enrollment of 6542 students, strongly suggests that the classroom use of interactive engagement methods can increase mechanics course effectiveness in both conceptual understanding and problem solving well beyond that achieved by traditional methods.'

3. Kozma and Johnston (1991) conceptualized seven ways in which instructional technology can support learning:
  • Enabling active engagement in construction of knowledge
  • Making available real-world situations
  • Providing representations in multiple modalities
  • Drilling students on basic concepts to reach mastery
  • Facilitating collaborative activity among students
  • Seeing interconnections among concepts
  • Simulating laboratory work
(Kozma, R.B., and J. Johnston. 1991. "The technological revolution comes to the classroom." Change 23(1):10-23.)
Projectile Motion by Walter Fendt
What are the advantages to using simulations?

1. Simulations can help students translate among multiple representations.
Simulations contain physical systems represented in many different ways in two or three-dimensions: pictures, graphs, words, equations, diagrams, data tables, contour maps, etc. The students can make sense of the concepts by seeing the connection between the representations and how one variable affects another.

2. Simulations can help students build mental models of physical, chemical, biological, geological or astronomical systems.
Simulations allow students to visualize concepts that appear on textbooks or hear from their teachers in lectures. By using the simulation they can see a concrete situation that helps them build a mental model.

3. Simulations can give students engaging, hands-on, active learning experiences.
Simulations give students control when exploring scientific concepts and phenomena.

4. Simulations can help students understand equations as physical relationships among measurements.
Simulations are great tools to help students recognize how equations relate observations and measurements. Using a simulation where the students are able to vary parameters and see the effect of these variations, the role of equations is powerfully enriched.

5. Simulations can serve as a vehicle for student collaboration.
Students working in groups can use a simulation to explain and describe their understandings to each other.

6. Simulations can allow students to investigate phenomena that would not be possible to experience in a classroom or laboratory.
Students can have access to investigations and equipment not commonly available in the classroom like studying a nuclear reactor.

What is needed to use simulations?

Integrating simulations into the traditional classroom practice does not require sophisticated equipment. The basic equipment consists of a computer, a LCD projector and availability of an Internet connection though this is not necessary if the simulations are in a CD-ROM. Students can also access simulations individually in a computer lab or in a laptop environment.
The most common requirements for using simulations are free plug-ins like Flash, Shockwave, and QuickTime. Your browser must support Java for some simulations.
Most simulations are in the form of a Java Applet, a short program written in Java that is attached to a website and executed by a web browser.
A large amount of simulations include general directions; an audio clip and the most refined include multiple representations (vectors and graphs) and let the user modify the parameters to collect data.

How do I implement simulations in the science classroom?

Digital technologies require us to rethink our approach to the educational process.
The real challenge is not the actual technology, but finding pedagogies that use these digital tools to give our students an improved learning environment.

The following are some ideas about using simulations in the science classroom:

• Lectures
- To help students visualize abstract concepts: the use of simulations brings a visual and dynamic nature to a lecture presentation.
- To initiate a discussion on a reading assignment: simulations open up avenues of thought and discussion that are not typical of a textbook question.
Physlet Problem 4.1 Which is the correct free-body diagram?1
• Interactive Demonstrations
Simulations can be used to ask students to make predictions, run the virtual experiment and then discuss the observations made and/or the collected data.
pH Scale
• Pre-Lab Exercises
Simulations can serve to introduce the ideas and equipment of the lab experiment allowing the students to work through the laboratory faster and with less confusion.
Here is an example from one of my students’ blogs about using a DC Circuits simulation to explain the concepts of voltage and current in different circuit arrangements prior to going to the lab : AC/DC Not the Band

• Cooperative Group Problem-Solving
Simulations can be given to a student group to solve challenging problems that require multiple steps. This strategy allows students to understand the material more clearly by engaging in a demanding, higher order thinking skills problem.
Physlet Problem 11.5: Determine the torque on a yo-yo1

• Virtual Labs
In many cases where time is a constraint or the equipment is not available virtual labs can provide the students with an accurate idea of a particular experiment by manipulating variables, collecting data, calculating, graphing and drawing conclusions.
Gravity and Orbits
Where do I find simulations?

One of the best websites for science simulations is PhET from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Originally founded by Physics Nobel Prize laureate Carl Weiman, PhET provides fun, interactive, research-based simulations of physical phenomena for free. These simulations can be downloaded or played directly on your browser.
Teachers can access the Teacher Ideas & Activities page for teacher-submitted contributions, designed to be used in conjunction with the simulations.
These are the links to the core science courses simulations. The PhET website also contains excellent Math simulations.

Simulation Resources

Comprehensive list to virtual labs and simulations
Comprehensive list to virtual labs and simulations

Comprehensive list to virtual labs and simulations

Earth Science/Geology
Comprehensive list to virtual labs and simulations

My website contains links to hundreds of simulations.

In the next blog posting I will discuss the second Science Practice about using equations.

1. Mario Belloni and Wolfgang Christian. Physlet® Physics: Interactive Illustrations, Explorations, and Problems for Introductory Physics ISBN 0-13-101969-4, Prentice Hall, 2004

Cross-Posted at Voices From the Learning Revolution (PLP Network)

Monday, March 21, 2011

March Madness: The Meaning of Success

By Guest Writer: Andy Schroeder, Physical Education and Health Subject Area Coordinator and Girls Basketball Coach.

March is my favorite month. We all have our favorite months: in June summer starts, August is my wife and I birthday and we usually take a vacation of some sort before the start of the school year, December is Christmas, but March, the sun starts to come out, you begin to have nicer weather, you have St. Patrick’s day, Spring break, but every March –March Madness!

If you’re not familiar with March Madness, March is the biggest basketball month. In high school if you are still playing in March, you’re an elite team, one of the few left to play. However, in college basketball, March is when the season gets really exciting. Every year in March every conference has a tournament. If you win your conference tournament you get to go to the big NCAA tournament. In the end, only one team in the country wins their last game.

When I think about the NCAA tournament I think about one of the most successful coaches in the history of all athletics: John Wooden.
Some facts about him:
- Born October 14, 1910, died June 4, 2010
- Enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1961
- UCLA men’s basketball coach from 1948-1975
- He won 10 NCAA championships – next best is 4
- 7 consecutive NCAA championships – next best is 2 and nobody has won 3 in a row
- Won 88 consecutive games – next best in men’s basketball is 60
- 4 undefeated seasons – no one has ever done that more than once.

We are talking about an extremely successful man in terms of winning.
We are also taking about a man who did not win his first championship until his 15th season at UCLA. John Wooden never viewed success in terms of winning and losing, this is reflected in his most famous quote about success:

This attitude, this philosophy, is embodied in his Pyramid of Success:

Wooden’s Pyramid of Success two cornerstones are Industriousness and Enthusiasm.

Industriousness – in plain language means that you have to work, and work hard. There is no substitute of hard work. The best people whether in business, law. Plumbing or art, all share this fundamental trait, they all work very hard at their craft. Individuals like Kobe Bryan, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, to name a few athletes, are legendary for their industriousness.

Enthusiasm – simply, you must enjoy what you do. Your heart must be in it. It must be a passion. As you all grow older, if you don’t like what you do, if you find yourself whining and complaining, don’t do it, get out, because if your heart is not in your work you cannot perform at your highest level. “Nothing great can be achieved without enthusiasm”.

At the center of the pyramid is Skill – you have to know what you’re doing and be able to do it well. Furthermore, you have to be able to execute all aspects of the job. In basketball you could be a great shooter, but you need to be able to get open. You could be a great coach, but you need to be able to make adjustments, and understand people. Just as a doctor. You could be technically proficient, but you also need to be able to diagnose illnesses and understand and communicate with your patient. The point is that there are a wide range of skills, and they differ from profession to profession, but you need to master them all.

At the pinnacle of the pyramid is Competitive Greatness, which Wooden defines as “A real love for the hard battle, knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required.”

Which brings us back to success. Success is not wins or loses, but peace of mind, knowing that you did your best, to become the best you were capable of becoming when your best was required. Had the football or soccer teams lost State, the season would not have been a failure; the team may have been disappointed at the end outcome, but definitely would not be a failure. And this is the genius of Wooden's success, because when you are continually chasing your best, the best you are capable of becoming, only you can determine your own successes and failures, because only you feel the self-satisfaction in knowing if you truly did your best.

What I want you to take from this, what I hope you understand, is that although I’ve been speaking of basketball, this talk is not about basketball. It’s about what you’re passionate about, whether that be teaching, service to others, art, music, piano, medicine, your family.

At the end of March Madness, sometime in early April they will play this video, with new clips:

As you watch this video from 2010, I hope you will see, people who are passionate about basketball, these qualities that Wooden speaks of: Enthusiasm, Industriousness, along with Loyalty, Alertness, Team Spirit, and Confidence. And once we understand the qualities associated with success we can then utilize them towards what we as individuals are passionate about to have a better opportunity of achieving success in our future endeavors.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

21st Century Science Teaching: Getting Students beyond Formula Hunting Strategies

In AP Physics (and many other science studies) the journey to find an answer to a problem is the most important component of the learning process – not the answer itself. Our need to make sure students think deeply about the subjects they study is one key reasons the College Board AP Program is undergoing revisions of several courses and exams in history, science and world languages.

The science course changes are driven by data from the National Research Council Report (2002) and aim to implement improvements in content and pedagogical approaches that represent best practices in teaching and learning.

The curriculum frameworks for the new science courses are organized around subject specific ‘Big Ideas’ with a strong focus on scientific reasoning and inquiry. The courses will emphasize depth over breadth and will include cutting edge areas of research within each discipline. The College Board recently released the Biology curriculum framework.

For students to be successful in these courses, teachers will need to use instructional strategies that require higher-order thinking skills that help develop a deeper conceptual understanding of the topics.

This is the first post in a blog series that will explore how the AP Science Practices can be integrated in the 21st century science classroom with a variety of strategies for the implementation of digital tools. While the primary focus will be in physics, the series will have relevance for other courses such as biology, chemistry and environmental science and could be used at the middle and high school levels.

Scientific Problems and Representations

The first science practice states:
The student can use representations and models to communicate scientific phenomena and solve scientific problems.

Problem-solving is a major part of a physics course. When confronted with challenging problems it is common to hear students say: “If I had the formula, I could solve this problem.” After all, finding the right equation is a key element in most textbooks’ problem-solving strategies and is often reinforced in the classroom through lectures, quizzes and tests. In most cases, by using appropriate equations a student is able to find the correct answer, but I will argue that finding the correct answer to a problem does not necessarily reflect a deep understanding of physics concepts. There are several studies in Physics Education Research that substantiate this claim. See the works cited on “An investigation of introductory physics students’ approaches to problem solving

Effective Approaches to Problem-Solving

The ability to relate physics concepts to the situations presented by problems and questions is fundamental for success. A powerful strategy in developing a deep conceptual understanding is the use of Multiple Representations of Knowledge.

The diagram (*) below is an example commonly seen in kinematics problems. This example demonstrates how physics equations are only one representation of knowledge.
The Power of Multiple Representations

Here as an analysis of each of the representations and its usefulness in helping the students deepen their conceptual understanding:

- The real situation is the context of the problem; i.e., a car moving down a hill. It is common to represent real scenarios with a pictorial representation such as a sketch. It helps the students that have a preference for visual learning.
- A verbal representation could describe the motion of the car in the context of the problem, in this example students could say that the car speeds up as it travels down the hill, or the student can describe the energy transformation that occurs. It helps the students articulate what is happening in the given scenario to specific physics principles.
- The equation that describes the velocity in an inclined plane is the mathematical representation. This equation is usually derived from a free-body diagram by analyzing the forces acting on the car while it is accelerating.
- The situation can be represented in a numerical representation by providing data of position and velocity with respect to time. Data acquisition is often done in physics labs where students have to opportunity to gather the information in a hands-on experiment.
- The data obtained can be represented graphically in a velocity versus time graph. Graphical representations are commonly constructed from data collected in a lab experiment. Through graphs students can obtain information from the slopes, intercepts and areas under the curve. In this example the slope of the line represents the average acceleration and the area under the line yields displacement.
- A motion diagram can be used to illustrate the velocity vectors. This is another example that helps the students visualize the situation (a car speeding up) =i.e. increasing arrows as velocity vectors.

Students can demonstrate a deeper level of understanding of physics concepts by their ability to translate (move back and forth) between different representations of knowledge.

Multiple Representation Resources

Rutgers University Physics and Astronomy Education Research (PAER) group has written a document with the rationale about using multiple representations in physics, how to implement them in the classroom and how to score them: Multiple Representations in Physics

You can also download power points with multiple representation exercises:
1. Mechanics: kinematics, dynamics, energy, momentum and statics
2. Electricity and Magnetism: electrostatics, DC circuits and magnetism

Digital Tools for Multiple Representations

Verbal Representations
These tools can be used individually or in collaboration among students

Pictorial Representations
Image Editors
Sketchcast (Record a sketch with or without voice)

Mathematical Representations
Google Docs includes an Equation Editor

Graphical Representations
Google Docs: Spreadsheets
LoggerPro: software for data collection and analysis through graphs

Another powerful tool that helps with the implementation of Multiple Representations is the use of virtual simulations. In the next posting of this series I will be describing effective strategies for using simulations and a variety of resources for simulations in all core areas of science.

(*) Figure adapted from: Redish, Edward F. Teaching Physics: with the Physics Suite. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2002

Cross-Posted at Voices From the Learning Revolution (PLP Network)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pseudoteaching: Laboratory Experiments

My physics colleagues Frank Noschese and John Burke have invited physics and math teachers to contribute a posting that exemplifies the concept of pseudoteaching [PT]:

Pseudoteaching is something you realize you’re doing after you’ve attempted a lesson which from the outset looks like it should result in student learning, but upon further reflection, you realize that the lesson itself was flawed and involved minimal learning.

Laboratory work is essential in the sciences; after all, don't we want our students to have a first-hand experience of thinking like scientists?

Why then are ‘cookbook’ type of labs ubiquitous?

During my first years of teaching this is how I did labs in my physics classes:
a. I had all the equipment neatly set on the lab tables.
b. I divided my students into teams.
c. I provided each of them with a worksheet with step-by-step lab directions.

When observed by my immediate supervisor I always got praised by how well I conducted the lesson. After all it was evident that the students were engaged. Perhaps they were busy, but were they learning?

Let’s take a closer look at this example of a traditional cookbook type lab:


The objective of this lab is to determine the spring constant for a spring using two methods.

Ring stand, Mass set, Spring, Meter stick, Stopwatch

1. Hang the spring from the ring stand.
2. Place the meter stick vertically and record the position of the bottom of the spring. This is the unstretched length.
3. Attach a mass on the spring so that it will stretch the spring and hang at rest.
4. Measure the new position and record it in the Data table.
5. Measure the displacement for 5 different masses added to the spring.
The displacement is the difference between the unstretched length and the stretched length. Record your measurements in the Data table.

1. Construct a graph of Force (N) vs. Displacement (m).
2. Determine the slope of this graph.
3. What are the units for the slope?
4. The equation relating the magnitude of the force and the stretch is F = -kx . How does this equation relate to the slope of your graph?

1. Remove the spring from the hanger and measure its mass and record it on the table.
2. Hang the spring from the ring stand.
3. Attach a 100 g mass to the spring.
4. Stretch the spring about 5 cm and let it oscillate up and down.
5. Use your stopwatch to measure 10 complete oscillations. Divide this number by 10 and record it as the period on the data table.
6. Measure the period for 5 different masses added to the spring. Record your measurements in the Data table.

1. The total mass of the system is given by adding the hanging mass plus one-third of the mass of the spring. This is called the effective value of the mass.
2. Use the period equation to calculate the spring constant for each of your trials.

1. How do the values of the spring constant compare with both methods?
2. Calculate the percent difference.

So, what is wrong with this lab?

From the lesson perspective apparently nothing is wrong with it. The lab provides guidance to the student for determining the spring constant with two different procedures. The lab includes data collection, the students graph their data, they follow prompts to analyze the graph and answer a couple of questions as a conclusion. They must have learned how physics works in the real world!


The students just followed a recipe and completed a worksheet. They were told what to do and how to interpret the data. Completing this worksheet does not provide evidence of critical thinking at all!

What actually happened is that the students were robbed of the opportunity to do real science! It would be more effective to let them design their lab, make their own decisions about collecting and analyzing their data, and investigating the sources of error and uncertainties in their measurements.

I believe that it is by doing science that actual learning occurs. I've found that a better way to conduct this lesson is by making it an open-ended investigation. In this type of inquiry labs the students are given a task for the experiment but have significant latitude in terms of what procedure to follow, which measurements to take and how to conduct their analysis. The students record their findings in a lab journal including the following items:

I. Purpose
Write a statement of the problem to be investigated that provides the overall direction for the investigation.
II. Hypothesis and Prediction
State a hypothesis and a prediction for your experiment as appropriate.
III. Equipment and Equipment Setup
- A list of all laboratory equipment used in the investigation.
- A detailed and labeled diagram to illustrate the configuration of the equipment.
IV. Step-by-Step Procedure
- Neatly explained, preferably in a numbered sequence.
- Identify and name all experimental variables and describe how the independent variable is controlled.
V. Data
-What data needs to be taken?
- How many trials do you have to include?
- How is data reported?
VI. Data Analysis
- How do you interpret data?
- Include graphs and analysis of graphs as appropriate
- How do you compare the results obtained by two different ways?
VII. Conclusions
- Discuss any questionable data or surprising results.
- Explain the possible source of any error or questionable results.
- Suggest changes in experimental design that might test your explanations.

Nowadays when doing a lab about this topic, all my students receive from me is this prompt:
"Design and conduct two different experiments to determine the spring constant of a mass-spring system."

What are the advantages of doing this type of investigations versus traditional ones?
Here are a few:
- Open-ended investigations eliminate the busy work component of “take the data and run” approach

- Students develop a sense of ownership and vested interest in their own learning
- Motivates students to create investigations with real-world applications

This link to my physics website has over 50 prompts for Physics Open-Ended Labs.

Arnold Arons said:
“The problem is to provide students with enough guidance to lead them into thinking and the forming of insights but not so much as to give everything away and thus destroy the attendant intellectual experience.”1

Amen to that!

1 Arnold Arons, "Guiding Insight and Inquiry in the Physics Laboratory", The Physics Teacher, Vol 31 May 1993

Monday, February 14, 2011

What KHAN be done with it!

Last night we received an e-mail from our Head of School inviting us to read this posting by Aaron Saenz: Yes, the Khan Academy IS the Future of Education.

He asked for creative ideas of how to leverage the power of Khan Academy in our school.

I believe that Khan Academy can be integrated in our school in two major ways: asynchronous and synchronous. Here are my ideas of what KHAN be done with it:

Asynchronous learning is a student-centered teaching method that uses online learning resources to facilitate information sharing outside the constraints of time and place.

Students access Khan Academy outside of the classroom:

1. Khan Academy as a Digital Textbook
The Khan Academy videos contain background information, problems and examples clearly explained with simple but neatly done illustrations. The videos can be used by Middle School and Upper School students.
The Academy covers almost every single topic for each of the following subjects:
Mathematics: Arithmetic, Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, Pre-Calculus, Calculus
Science: Biology, Chemistry and Physics
Selected topics in European History

2. Khan Academy as a Virtual Tutor
Students can watch the videos anytime, anywhere. This includes mobile devices that can access YouTube or directly with this I-Phone app: Khan Academy: A Classroom in your Pocket

3. Khan Academy as a repository of Review Materials
a. To review for topics, access additional problems and exercises and get another explanation for a particular concept.
b. To prepare for quizzes or tests.
c. To prepare for the AP Exams: Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Calculus.

4. Khan Academy for Reverse Instruction
Flip the classroom by having students use Khan Academy to study the content at home then use face to face instruction for deepening into topics, allowing for more practice time, classroom discussion, additional hands-on activities and problem-based learning.
Excellent resources:
Reverse Instruction in the English Classroom

5. Khan Academy as a Summer Academy
A course can be structured having the students access the selected topics to learn the content and go through the Exercises section.
The Khan Academy Exercise Software is a powerful learning platform that allows students and teachers to track their progress through the Profiles. Students complete Challenges and can earn Energy Points and various levels of Badges. It offers an amazing variety of interactive visualizations (knowledge maps, timelines, focus charts, exercise progress reports, etc.)
A Summer Academy can also be part of a Blended-Learning school component where a teacher acts as a facilitator setting goals and expectations and tracking the students’ progress through the Exercise Software.

6. Khan Academy for Enrichment Courses in Blended-Learning:
Students can have access to courses not offered in traditional core curricula:
- Organic Chemistry
- Cosmology and Astronomy
- Differential Equations
- Linear Algebra
- Finances
Students can study the material at their own pace using the Khan Academy Exercise Software.

7. Khan Academy for Math Remediation
Students that are transferring from other schools and need to acquire or refine their math skills can work through a set of exercises until they demonstrate the level of mastery required.
The students can be motivated by completing the challenges and earning a series of badges.
(Suggested by @mmmcewen)

Synchronous learning refers to a group of people learning the same things at the same time in the same place.
Students access Khan Academy in the classroom:

1. Khan Academy for Differentiated Instruction
Differentiated Instruction is a teaching strategy based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation to different readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles of students in the classrooms.
The three key elements of differentiated instruction are content, process and product.
The Content refers to the curricular materials to be learned by the students. The Process consists of the activities through which students develop their knowledge and the Product refers to the array of options through which students can demonstrate what they have learned.
Using Khan Academy for differentiation:
a. Teachers can facilitate differentiated learning by Content and Process having the students use a laptop in class to learn or review the material at their own pace.
b. Teachers can facilitate differentiated learning by Product having the students research a topic and creating a reflecting artifact such as a blog posting, a digital presentation (Glogster, Prezi, video).

2. Khan Academy as Teaching Assistant
Teachers can divide class time into three activities as follows:
I. Using laptops or the computer lab the students access Khan Academy to work through the material and practice problems and exercises.
II. Students present a quick wrap-up of the topic.
III. The topic can be used for a deeper classroom discussion or students can work individually or in groups on new problems and exercises.

3. Khan Academy as Substitute Teacher
Teachers can create a generic lesson plan that involves students using Khan Academy for a lesson and then completing the Exercises section. The work of the students is recorded for teacher verification.

4. Khan Academy for Snow Days
For the winter months: January or February, teachers can create and post a list of potential videos that can be used in case of school closings.

5. Khan Academy as a Motivational Tool
Teachers can get inspired to create their own screencasts and introduce reverse instruction in their courses. (Suggested by @Deacs84)

I bet there are countless other ways to use Khan Academy. Would love to hear What you KHAN do with it!