Day 54: Relativity is Relatively Hard

Monday, Dec 4

I just reviewed my teaching goals, and it reminded me that one of them was to push the cognitive load onto the students rather than spoon feeding them information. This is a different goal for each class when ability levels and background are taken into account, but I think it’s a good focus for me on this particular day.

Physics: Step 1 is to figure out what happened on Friday while I was gone. Apparently things went ok, so we took the quiz and went over it, which was starting the ideas of relativity. I realized that, while I have the concepts of the first two postulates in my brain, they are not well-connected enough to the other stuff I know for me to tell a convincing story. I also am not 100% confident on where this is heading, so I’m not sure what points need to be emphasized and which points can be safely skimmed over. I have some personal physics homework in my future.

Honors Physics: On Friday they started fooling with the blackbody radiation simulation. Today we talked about blackbody radiation with some conversations the students thought were completely disjointed around different topics such as how the eye works, how we see color, what is the overall EM spectrum, etc., but then their minds were blown when I was able to tie all those things together and back to blackbody radiation in a way that (I think/hope) tied it up in a neat package where everything was related to everything else. We’ll see tomorrow when we continue the conversation just how much sense it made. I did have one student ask me if they have to take notes on all this biology, and that’s another reason I’m looking forward to our move toward integrating the science. IT’S STILL PHYSICS. Harrumph.

AP Physics: Continuing SHM. We reviewed a few FR practice problems, and then we got to one with multiple springs. Very exciting. I asked them to analyze this new system and figure out how it was different from a system with a single spring and half the class pulled out their laptops to look it up. There’s a time and a place for research in physics, absolutely, but that is not when I ask you to analyze a new system using the techniques we have practiced previously. I do like that their impulse is to look things up rather than just give up when they aren’t sure. That’s a great impulse to have when there’s a question you aren’t sure about, but is not the goal of this particular activity. After I had them put the laptops away, there was still almost no discussion happening, so I paired them up to figure it out together. Discussion exploded immediately. FINALLY. They 100% do not appreciate that I make them do the heavy lifting for things like this on to them, but dang it kiddos, engage them brains. In the last five minutes they had to write their own homework problems with at least three springs in combinations and do the analysis for how that changes the period, energy, max speed, etc. Should be interesting.

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