Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I just found this on NPR Science Friday.  It is an old video.
I think we should do this in physics this year, as well as our build a speaker out of a paper or styrofoam plate.

I wish I could figure out a "voice" and post more.  I post things on our Physics pages and Geometry pages.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Started with
14 2x4's ($2 each = $28)
3 2x6's ($5 ea = $15)
2 1/2" & 3' screws
36" metal rod ($5)

After about 3 hours of work...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010


Why should we blog.  A blog is the web 2.0 version of a journal, but it can be more than that.  it can be a portfolio of your work.  It can be a review for an exam.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


My PLN is having a discussion and I would like to contribute some data.
Could you please fill out this quick survey (2 or 7 questions)
I would appreciate it.

Friday, September 24, 2010


I started using Geogebra a little earlier this year.  It is a dynamic Geometry & Algebra software.  I started with Geometer' Sketchpad a few years ago, but recently switched because Geogebra is FREE and can be run on the web (or downloaded).  This way the students have 24/7 access to it. I am the only one in my school using this kind of software.

We started with an intro to look at some of the tools, then we stepped to drawing polygons & measuring their interior and exterior angles and summing them.  Some did not look up the definitions/descriptions of interior & exterior angles, they just assumed "inside & outside".  Some looked them up & even had drawings, yet did not recognize what an exterior angle actually is. I could have told them the "rule" in 5 minutes, but they need to find it. They needed to make this mistake about exterior angles so they actually know what they are.

Students still struggle on computers.  Not just with new software, but basic functions like copy & paste as well as screen capture or using Paint (I thought "everybody knows Paint").  They have trouble with new software programs because they refuse to look through the drop down menus.  They keep wanting me to tell/show them how to do it.  Better yet they want me to do it for them.  One student asked me how to change line size or color for part two, after doing this on the intro practice.  They asked "you want me to remember from something I did before?" And this is a good student.

I use this software because I want them to explore the ideas.  Does every triangle really add up to 180 degrees?  With this software you can draw one, then move a vertex and run through thousands of variations of triangles in a few seconds.  I still get frustrated that students don't know how to use computers for learning opportunities.  I shouldn't because I know they have not had to do these things before.  I really need to keep telling myself "they know nothing about computers."

I had a sophomore girl "fight" me about using computers.  "Math is paper and pencil! We are always on the computers.  I don't need to learn how to do this stuff!  I am going to be a nurse, I don't need computers. I won't need to know how to use Geogebra. If I have to do something on computer they will show me exactly what i need to know."

Oh my.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Mousetrap cars

Physics classes had to build mousetrap cars that went 7 meters. They were given a board, a mousetrap, some hubs to make CD's into wheels, front wheels, two different size axels and a rod to extend the action arm. I had to pick up some extra mousetraps and found out that they had different diameter windings for the springs. So the metal rod to extend the action arm would not fit inside the coil. Duct tape always works though. The students did a good job of working on the cars and helping each other when they figured out part. It is always a good idea to have a model/example from last year. They did a good job working out the kinks in their cars to reach the 7 meters. They were also supposed to time their car in order to calculate speed (average for both classes, Advanced needed to do instantaneous). As soon as the Advanced heard that 14 meters would get them a grade of 4 (beyond the standard of 3) that was their benchmark. Unfortunately most ignored the idea of timing the car for velocity (tunnel vision on A's). They had to take pictures and/or videotape their cars and write a blog post. I am still waiting for some to get a blog post up and it has been over a week. Overall the project worked well and got them hands on. What Physics did they "actually learn"? Well they were experimenting and revising and troubleshooting. They were also calculating speed.

Monday, August 9, 2010


My master plan for 3 Physics classes this year.....
Second semester last year was project/standards based...explain/show me you know "this list of things" from your building & research.  Interviews with 25 people in a classroom are tough to get done in a timely fashion with 50 minutes a day.  Need to get better at that.  I liked this approach better, but some slacked and relied on others (not that that is very different).  I want to them build more stuff and explore the Why & How.  Do science.  We build many things already, but I need to get better at discussing/exploring the Physics of it.  (forgot to build some last year, but also ran out of time).  I am thinking I want them to tell me the grade they want/are aiming for.  Then when grade time comes around they use their ePortfolios (piloting Google Apps for this) to discuss "did you do "A" work and "A" learning.  We also need way to differentiate between the Advanced Physics (5 pt A) and Regular Physics (4 pt).  Before it was the different book and more homework problems and more math involved in the problem solving.  Now??

Project ideas for this year :
Semester 1
1) linear velocity - I still need an idea for this...dragsters? video analysis & questions? sprinters? penny drop from stands in stadium? How fast are the cars on the road going? Speeding?
2) projectile motion - slingshots, punkin chunkin (trebuchets) model rockets (do we need a motorcycle ramp jump like Evil Knievel?)
3) friction - how much push or pull to move a box across the floor (min/max), tile vs. carpet.  what about a ramp (up/down)
4) potential/kinetic energy & work - build a model rollercoaster that makes a complete loop
5) elastic energy - bungee jumping (weighted stuffed animal with rubber bands)
6) simple machines - build a rube goldberg that uses every machine @ least once and does "X" in 10-14 steps

Semester 2
1) ???   - mousetrap cars that go 7-10 meters  what physics are we doing?? maybe this should be linear motion, but they do not go linear (they turn)
2) electric circuits - wire a "house" (box with 4 rooms each has a mini christmas light & switch OR real socket/switch & outlet) (last year they had to generate electricity somehow)
3) electromagnetism - build a speaker (& take apart a microphone)
4) sound - shatter a wine glass with voice, how loud is too loud? how loud are you? how loud is your car
5) ??? - light a light writing pen and create some art
6) density - build a mini hot air balloon, get local hot air ballon club to come launch during school  build clay boats (that float)

Should they get to pick 4 or 5 out of the 6 each semester?  I would like them to actually have time for "do overs".  It did not work, fix it.  Or that was good, make it better.  What if...? 

A) I want the Physics classes to buddy with the elementary classes and answer their science questions.  I want us to make a weekly (bi-weekly?) science video (~10 minutes) answering science questions and doing a mini experiment.  Our very own Mythbusters (or Bill Nye).  Post these on class blog or class website.  (We will also submit them for our cable station that needs content)
B) I would like the Physics classes to organize a science night for the elementary, a showcase of experiments and projects.
C) Finally I would like them to do a yearlong site assessment/testing for a solar power project and a wind power project

So do I have enough planned?  I wonder if anyone wants to make a hovercraft? What is the name of that flame tube for sound waves?  Maybe they should all find a video for each topic and describe the connections (blog post).  I recently came across an idea WCYDWT, which stands for What Can You Do With This.  You use a video that is a lesson intro to start discussions and questioning.  We need to make a resource page (Places to Learn Physics) for them to populate. One category would be online text.
I also would like to do similar with 3 Geometry classes.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

In the Beginning

Time to start a blog to think and discuss how I want to teach Physics and Geometry this year.  My classes will be piloting Google Apps for Education for an ePortfolio, including the recently added Picasaweb, Reader and Blogger.  I want to use Standards Based Grading to attack Mastery Learning.  We do a lot of projects already, many were mastery based (just picked "random" points to award), so it is not a massive leap to go SBG & Mastery.  I do understand it is a major transition in thinking (& reporting) for students and parents.

Each student will have an account (once I create them) with all services available.  I will want them to store "all" of their work in the cloud.  I want them to "share" all work with me.  Sometimes that will require scanning documents.  Some of our Geometry work was computer based using Geogebra, so Picasaweb will be a place for them to store screenhots.  Then they will create an album to consolidate each projects work.  In Physics I want them to photo document the building projects we do (Picasaweb).  I want each student to weekly (every two weeks?) write a blog post about what they did to learn that week and what they learned, and how they learned it.  I need to have each student turn on comment moderation and put in my email to moderate comments.  Maybe every two weeks would be easier for me to handle 150 blogs (75 Physics & 75 Geometry).  Have Physics blog one week and Geometry the next week.  I would like students to read each others posts and comment on several (how many is good? 5 every two weeks?).  I should probably have them use Reader to subscribe to each others blogs.  There will be no points awarded, so it will be part of the discussion of "are you doing what is required to learn" and "are you learning from each other."  I need to remember to tell them that their comments can be a lead in for a post.  I will want my Physics students to use Reader to follow some science news (can I say "require them to" if there are no points?).  What "Math" news can I have Geometry students subscribe to?  Maybe we can each find a "math blog" to follow.

Now for my ePortfolio idea for assessment of learning.  If they struggle with demonstrating Mastery on a topic, they can create a blog post or Sites page to showcase their understanding as an alternative assessment.  At the end of each semester they will create a blog post or Sites to showcase their learning for that semester to support what grade they should receive.  I also hope that students will use these during parent teacher conferences to show how they are doing.  If we figure out a way to have the parents be a part of the portfolio the whole time, we could probably do away with scheduled PT conferences (not that many parents show up, usually a handful)

As if that is not enough...
I want my classes to create a video (every two weeks? weekly?) for elementary classes. I want Geometry to answer questions/create tutorials to help elementary students.  I am not sure if we want to create a blog site or Sites to embed these videos. (suggestions?)  The page/site will also be the place for the elementary students to ask for help, ask the questions, and comment.  Embed a Google Form? Embed Comment or Question block?  My idea for Physics was to create something in the vein of Mythbusters or Bill Nye.  Answer questions, do an experiment, show that science is exciting and fun (geeks are cool...maybe we need t-shirts)  A different group of students will be responsible for each episode.  We already do video in my classes, this might give it more purpose.

I still do not have a perfect idea where students can put video in the cloud to embed in Blogger or Sites.  I am leaning towards one TeacherTube account that everyone can access.  (I was hoping Google Video, but not enough storage for that many people)

One grand experiment.  I have used wikis & blogs a little with class, but I have not used Google Apps before.  I have some ideas how it can be used.  I am hoping the students will be willing to find all the ways to use our resources.
Suggestions and discussions would be welcome.