Day 60: The Fruits of My (Students’) Labor

Tuesday, Dec 12

Physics: We reviewed the exam and then they worked for a bit on the lab that is due tomorrow. They are not well-versed in Excel nor Sheets, and anything they don’t know how to do is immediately given up on as impossible. I’m trying to train them to ask Google before they ask me on procedural things like adding trendlines to data, but I feel so awful turning them away that I do end up showing them or sometimes just doing it, which I know is terrible practice and I need to harden my heart like Pharaoh and Make Them Google It.

Honors Physics: Today is the day the experiment culminates. Last week they built the rubric and decided what they wanted to do to be assessed on their knowledge of the sources of light. I picked something I consider pretty simple and basic to try this out on. It overall went well. The students did a lot of work and the presentations were par for a high school class in terms of power point slides being read to us. We chatted afterwards, and there was talk of how some students were not clear on what content had to be included and that they basically saw the same content five or six times and were losing interest (as if teachers don’t see the exact same content far many more times than that when we’re marking, but still), so after break we’ll do another project like this where they divide up into groups and each one does a different topics. I’m considering having them take each topic and extend it past the introductory treatment that we’ll have done before break (reflection/refraction yesterday, then a quick review + diffraction today, tomorrow we’ll do interference, and then then we’ll start putting those behaviors together to see how they are important for looking at and understanding the universe).

Like, have one group do reflection with curved mirrors so we can talk about reflecting telescopes, another group to refraction with lenses and refracting telescopes, the diffraction group also talk about the inverse square law and more details on Huygens’ principle or something, and interference/resonance just because it’s awesome and also Tacoma Narrows Bridge. I don’t have the specifics figured out, obviously, but I think that would be a cool thing for the students to do: assess their basic info while they present the more advanced info.

AP Physics: Still on electrostatics. Today I tried out some clicker questions in the first class, but they weren’t great (notation got messed up, and the choices in notation were confusing even when it wasn’t messed up). They did get us talking about finding the electric field for a uniformly charged thin rod, which was some fun and exciting calculus. For the second class I found a better quality set of clicker questions and we went through those. The students are super reticent to write things down. I still haven’t figured out a way to get them to stop doing everything in their heads and just write it down. I used to think that students “didn’t want to think”, but now I know that reasoning skills are super hard to develop and take lots of practice. I’m sure thinking that students “don’t want to write things down” is similarly mistaken in terms of what is actually happening. I need to change the incentive structure somehow.

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