Day 87: FCI Gains

My section of Honors Physics had their final exam today. I used some of that time to administer the FCI post-test. Since this is the first year that we have fully implemented Modeling Instruction in Honors Physics, I’m curious as to what our gains will be. Mine for this year weren’t better than my single section last year, but my sample size is too small for any conclusions to be made. I will compile the data across all sections from last year and this year and compare.

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Day 85: Capstones Almost Done

Thanks to feedback from @arundquist and @wslaton, the student trying to determine the moment of inertia for his color guard rifle was able to do so by creating a physical pendulum and using the parallel axis theorem. This is an awesome example of how colleagues on Twitter can help each other’s students. I’ll share more capstones later, but here is the Rifle Toss Capstone (the equations aren’t displaying properly, but there is a PDF at the end).


  ##expdesign ##setbacks  

Day 84: Momentum Engineering Lab

Rather than a typical lab practicum like we do for most units, we did an engineering design lab instead. Casey Rutherford shared a great lab last year where students designed, built, tested, redesigned, and rebuilt bumpers to minimize the force experienced when a cart crashes into a barrier at the end of an elevated track. Students were very engaged in the lab and quite the competitive atmosphere among groups developed. Here is the design that performed the best:


Here is an example measurement (red is without the bumper; blue, with):



Day 82: Should We Change the Culture of Instruction?

I’m helping to lead a Technology Integration Team at my school this year. As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t need a technology integration team, we need an instructional best practices team. I’m pleased that the direction of our team has completely shifted away from technology and is now squarely focused on instruction.

This afternoon we discussed at length what is required to change the culture of our school to make the transformation to inquiry-based learning. What are the challenges? And, critical to answer first, does this need to happen? Should we bother to try and do this?

When we meet again in January, we will each share our thoughts on the above questions. I have a lot of thinking to do and would appreciate any ideas you have as well.

I feel fortunate to work at a school with colleagues who feel passionately about instruction and tackling these large issues and administrators who promote this vision and support these efforts.



Day 81: Momentum-Impulse IFF Diagrams

This year we are trying a new graphical representation for the momentum transfer model: IFF charts. Kelly O’Shea has described them in detail on her blog. Students have readily adopted them and appreciate the similarity between LOL diagrams and these IFF charts. I have observed that students are much less likely to make mistakes regarding the direction (and signs) of velocity when using the IFF charts.


  ##mtm ##whiteboarding  

Day 80: Capstones!

I love this time of year in AP Physics B. Students have a week of in-class time to work on their capstones. They have already submitted proposals and I’ve talked to students to make sure their capstone isn’t over ambitious for the time we have or is too simplistic. One student is analyzing the motion of a color guard rifle tossed in the air. He is currently trying to empirically determine the moment of inertia of the rifle. Any suggestions on how to do so? His current plan is to spin the rife on a lab stand and measure the impulse he imparts and the rotational velocity and then calculate the moment.


(The cameras in the background are car backup cameras encased in epoxy to make them waterproof for use in the underwater ROV project.)


Day 79: Second-Year Teacher Cohort

Two other teachers and I had the opportunity to lead our school’s second-year teacher (at our school) cohort this afternoon. We led them through an 21st century skills and inquiry-based instruction activity. They had some fantastic ideas. It is wonderful that these teachers, from a wide variety of disciplines, will continue to meet together through their first four years at our school. They have such an opportunity to learn from each other.