The Damage Done

I came across a paper on Piaget cognitive levels and learning in physics. There were lots of interesting things to think about from this paper but one thing in particular caught my attention. The concept behind this paper is that people go through stages of cognitive development. In high school we typically get students that arrive with concrete operational thinking, and they hopefully leave as formal operational thinkers. The following two math problems are good ok examples for comparing concrete to formal.

Algebra Help

So we’re just over 1/3 of the way through Physics 11. Despite my intentions to ward off predictable problems, they nevertheless continue to appear. One of them is Hooke’s Law. My students did a lab to see the relationship between force and how a spring reacts to the applied force. They could graph the relationship and figured out that the slope was the stiffness of the spring. Most students also go an equation of the line from their graphs and I helped this process along by generalizing the equation to Fs = kx, aka “Hooke’s Law.

Work - Impulse Connection

Something just dawned on me and I wanted to write it down before I forget. Maybe this is already obvious to many people but it was a new realization for myself. In physics I stress that Work is a transfer of energy in or out of a system. I don’t specifically invoke the “Work-Energy” theorem, as I really try to stress that work can be found by analyzing the transfers of energy.

Concrete vs. Abstract Scientific Thinking

This year in Science 9 I wanted the students to be able to perform a task for their final assessment in the electricity unit. Besides all the theory and concepts, I felt that after studying dc circuits the kids should be able to do something with it. Enter the Black Box Test. The general idea is that each black box has 3 to 4 light bulbs on it with the wires hidden.

Classroom Websites

Over the past 4 years I’ve used several different platforms for classroom websites including wikispaces, wordpress and moodle. They each have strengths and weaknesses, and they all have one thing in common: it takes a lot of work to keep them updated throughout the year. By the end of this year I was taxed out and unsure if I was willing to continue with class websites, the reason being that I wasn’t convinced that my students really used them very much.

New Projectors

As we prepare to move into a new building next fall, I’ve been thinking about the projectors that we’ll have in the new classrooms. We are leaving our old ones behind, and for good reason. Not only do they not perform as well as new ones but the replacement bulbs are outrageously expensive. My projector bulb is on its last legs (dim, many colours aren’t shown), and a new bulb costs $400.

Finals: Good Practice or Fool's Errand?

It’s that time of year again where the courses start to wind down. Which leads to the most anticipated question of the year. “Will there be a final exam?” This can be a tricky question at the best of times. For my grade 9 science students, it’s beyond tricky. There are lots of arguments to be made about final exams. I don’t want to do a complete analysis of these arguments but I would like to say what I think the various pros and cons are.

The Mobile Device Conundrum

I regularly come across blog posts, twitter posts, and comments on BYOD and how students should use smartphones in school. Smartphones are occasionally used in my science and physics classes, and can offer some interesting opportunities. Smartphones are much more than learning devices though. For every one part of learning there is hidden in a smartphone, there are probably about 3 parts digital addiction. Phones in classes are driving me nuts.

BC Curriculum Suggestions

The thoughts below are based on my experience working as mechanical engineer for 15 years, my experience as a high school science and physics teacher, my interest in professional development, and my study of problem based learning and how to educate competent, useful and resourceful students. Science K - 9 In general I’m very pleased with the draft K - 9 curriculum. I had sent feedback and ideas about the new curriculum before the drafts were published.

New blog posts

I’ve been making smaller posts on a separate blog here: The idea is to post a picture and a vignette for every day of the year. They’re just short reflections on things that happened during the day. I have benefitted from reading other peoples’ 180 blogs and I thought it would be good for me (and hopefully for some readers) if I did one too. I’m still trying to figure out the best types of posts to make.