Monday, July 11, 2011

Physics Modeling Day 1 and an Epiphany

If you know me at all, you know that I fell in love with Modeling last summer. My first year Modeling Chemistry was filled with ups and downs and everything in between. It was rough. And exhausting. But I know this is one of the best teaching methods out there. I can't help but think this will get somewhat easier with time.

So this summer, I am taking a Physics Modeling class. Three weeks. Twelve days. Great discussions. Lots of goodies. I have been excited about this class since I signed up in March.

What a nerd.

We took the Force Concept Inventory today. Now, bear in mind that I haven't taught actual physics since some time in the last century. This test kicked my butt! I talked myself out of so many answers you would think I didn't have a license to teach this stuff. So when we go into "Student Mode" this time around, I will truly be able to play that part. All the better for me, I guess :)

Today we covered Unit 1. Mostly this shows the kids how to set up labs and take good measurements. We did the Pendulum Lab. Again, this is probably the same lab done in every single physics class in America.

But different. You know, backwards from the "normal" way to teach. Start with the lab and then develop the ideas.

One quote from our teacher really hit home with me today. "It is important to let students take their own data and create their own graphs and discuss it. They have to see for themselves or they are never going to believe it."

I had never really thought about it in terms of "believing" it before. Oh, sure, I am well aware that some kids simply don't pick up on the ideas and need to come at it from a different angle, but for some reason, I never considered that one of those kids wouldn't believe me. This is physics, for crying out loud, not evolution. (I know, I know, touchy subject, please don't yell at me for that one.) And besides, why wouldn't those sponges absorb everything I say in class. I have masters degree, doggone it, I'm know what I am talking about!

But that's the whole key, isn't it?

When we walked in this morning, there was a set of questions on the board for us to think about. One of them was "What is a student-centered learning environment?" It's one of those things that I kind of knew the answer to in the back of my head, but never really sat down to think about and articulate. All it took was one simple quote and a semi-coherent blog post to really bring it all home.

Those kids have to see it with their own eyes. Write it in their own hand and speak it with their own voice. Only then can they "believe" it.

This is the core of Modeling. The entire pedagogy is based on those kids seeing for themselves how this world works.

Man this is awesome.

1 comment:

Scott Thomas said...

Looking forward to seeing the workshop through your eyes. Have fun, and keep us updated.

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