Tag Archives: inquiry

Why I’m a Modeler

This is the first in a series of posts sharing the stories of teachers using Modeling Instruction.

My name is Frank Noschese and I’m on the American Modeling Teachers’ Association Board of Directors as Member-at-Large. Here’s my modeling story:

I had heard about modeling instruction on various physics teaching email lists when I began teaching in 1998. “Awesome,” “life-changing,” and “the best professional development I ever had” were phases my virtual colleagues frequently used when describing modeling and the intensive summer workshops.

After my first few years of teaching, when I was finally able to keep my head above water, I investigated the Modeling Instruction program and poked around the ASU modeling website. I found the mechanics worksheets. I had struck gold! I was excited to transform my classroom into the hands-on, minds-on, discussion-based physics course I had been longing to teach. I opened up the first document file like it was my 6th birthday all over again.

I’ll be honest: At first glance, I was not impressed. The worksheets seemed very pedestrian and had problems just like any other textbook. Additional representations like motion maps and energy pie graphs seemed juvenile.

But the praise kept pouring in on the email lists. And there was this nagging voice that wouldn’t go away. It kept saying, “Maybe there is more to this modeling thing.” So I enrolled in a 2.5 week workshop called “PHY 620: Powerful Ideas And Quantitative Modeling: Mechanics” run by Buffalo State College’s Physics Education Department. The workshop leaders were Dewayne Beery, Dan MacIsaac, Marie Plumb, Chris Filkins, Joe Zawicki, and Kathleen Falconer.


In the workshop, the power of modeling became clear. It wasn’t about the worksheets. It wasn’t about the labs. It was about the discussion and discourse and the questioning and the arguing and the failing and the guiding and the succeeding that happened as we worked through the material. The multiple representations aspect was exceptionally helpful and powerful, not juvenile. I was hooked. I returned to school in September feeling more excited (and nervous) than before.

That first year went really well, I thought. As did successive years. Though I feel my discussion/questioning skills have been getting a little rusty and I’m longing to take a second workshop in E&M or Waves.

The Modeling Listserv has always been an invaluable resources for sharing ideas and asking questions. As have other email lists. But I slowly started noticing other teachers (particularly younger teachers and math teachers) reaching out for help and offering advice by blogging and tweeting. They weren’t connected to the email lists and weren’t going to hear about Modeling Instruction the same way I had. Upon first hearing the word “modeling,” they might incorrectly think it means “I do, We do, You do”-type teaching. I wanted to reach out to these other teachers and showcase modeling and other physics education related pedagogies. So in the summer of 2010, I joined Twitter and started this blog. The word is getting out, even if it means shouting over the voices of less effective pedagogies which have been getting the lion’s share of the money and media attention.

I became an AMTA member because I want Modeling to continue and thrive. And I wanted to be on the Board to help bring AMTA and Modeling into the view of educators beyond physics and show the world what effective science instruction looks like.

I hope you’ll join me.

Interview with MSNBC.com

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for MSNBC.com’s “Future of Technology” series for a story on Khan Academy and online lectures. I appear in these two videos:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

View it on MSNBC.com: Khan Academy sparks education reform debate
(mobile friendly link)

Vodpod videos no longer available.

View it on MSNBC.com: Teaching with technology: What works in class
(mobile friendly link)

I am grateful to the show’s producers, Matt Rivera and Wilson Rothman, for giving me the opportunity to share my work in the classroom and for staying true to my main criticisms. And extra kudos to Matt for what I fear is now commonplace in journalism: he was a one-man show — he brought and set up all the equipment (camera, lights, and sound) AND conducted the interview. Thanks!

Khan vs. Karplus: Elevator Edition

Exhibit A: Sal Khan on elevators


Exhibit B: My students on elevators
Framed around the Karplus learning cycle (Exploration, Invention, and Application) my students construct the conceptual and mathematical models themselves.

1. Exploration Phase:

2. Invention Phase: 

  • Draw a motion diagram for the object attached to the scale when the scale is stationary, then being pulled up and then stops.
  • Draw a force diagram for the object attached to the scale when the scale is stationary, then being pulled up and then stops. Decide whether the force diagram is consistent with the motion diagram. How is the force diagram related ot the reading of the scale?
  • Use the force diagram and the idea under test to make a prediction of the relative readings of the scale.
  • Observe the experiment and reconcile the outcome with your prediction.

(Video and questions for this phase taken from Eugenia Etkina’s awesome site Physics Teaching Technology Resource which has many more video experiments.)

3. Application Phase:

Instead of showing our students a better lecture, let’s get them doing something better than lecture.

UPDATE: Welcome New York Times readers! Other recommended posts:

Angry Birds in the Physics Classroom

I recently blogged that you can now play Angry Birds in your web browser. This opens up all sorts of video analysis possibilities for physics lessons and assessment. Students can easily make their own videos or you can pre-record your own. Videos can be recorded using Jing, Screencast-O-Matic, or Camtasia Studio. Analysis can be done in Logger Pro or Tracker.

Here are some possible investigations to carry out (shared by Michael Magnuson on the WNYPTA email list):

1. Make a reasonable estimate for the size of an angry bird, and determine the value of g in Angry Bird World. Why would the game designer want to have g be different than 9.8 m/s²?   Download Angry Birds video.

2. Does the blue angry bird conserve momentum during its split into three?  Download Red and Blue Birds video.

3. Does the white bird conserve momentum when it drops its bomb? Why would the game designer want the white bird to drop its bomb the way that it does?  Download White Bird video.

4. Describe in detail how the yellow bird changes velocity.  You will need to analyze more than one flight path to answer this question.  Download Yellow Birds video.

5. Shoot an angry bird so that it bounces off one of the blocks. Determine the coefficient of restitution and the mass of the angry bird.  Download Red Birds and Falling Block video.

You can download each video using the links above or get them all here.

Other posts with ideas about how to use Angry Birds in physics class:

How have you used (or will use) Angry Birds in the classroom?

UPDATE 12-28-2011: Our class has been featured on CUNY-TV’s “Science and U!” Jump to 10:25 in the video below:

#anyqs: Energy

Inspired by Dan Meyer’s blog post on his new Twitter meme, #anyqs, I started our unit on energy with this demonstration:

I asked students to write down any questions that came to mind. Here’s what they said:

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I would have had the students investigate their own questions and then share with the class, but I only have 2 slingshots. So we did it as a whole class demonstration. I also tweeted out the demo using the #anyqs hashtag. Your responses were similar to my students. Here they are, with the new demo modifications and outcomes:

The adding/removing of books was most perplexing to students and it was a great lead-in to the concept of energy conservation. The rest of the lesson was pure pseudoteaching, as I started throwing terms at them like kinetic energy, gravitational potential energy, and elastic potential energy. (No formulas yet, though.) I’m really bad at running effective whole-class discussions, so if anyone has any tips, fill me in!

What would you have done differently?

SETI Message

Can you decode the following extraterrestrial message? Is it real or fake? How can you tell?

 

Skype Interview for EDM310

I was recently interviewed via Skype by Lisianna Emmett, a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. We talked about pseudoteaching, misconceptions, students’ fear of math and science, and advice for new teachers. You can watch the videos at Lisianna’s blog post: Interview with Frank Noschese.

As Lisianna quickly figured out, I love talking shop. Thanks for the great chat!

My Teaching Conditions Are My Students’ Learning Conditions

As a science teacher, I need my union to ensure I can do my job properly and give my students the best possible learning experiences.

My union ensures I am evaluated fairly.

I use inquiry methods with my students whenever possible. They devise their own experiments, collect and analyze their data, and share their results with the rest of the class. We problem solve on whiteboards. Students must construct their own knowledge. My students are frequently talking and moving around.

However, these methods are sometimes met with resistance from parents, students, and even some administrators. By having a fair and standard evaluation system which was negotiated by my union, I know that I am an effective teacher.

My union ensures my students are safe.

Class sizes in science are capped at 24 students. I can effectively manage the transitions from whole class discussion to small group discussion to laboratory work. Students are not overcrowded in lab. I can easily and efficiently monitor the progress of all the lab groups.

My union ensures my students are assessed in a variety of meaningful ways.

With 24 students maximum per science class, and a maximum of 5 sections, I can assess my students’ understanding in more meaningful and authentic ways. I can give my students timely feedback. I can implement standards-based grading without it becoming a bear.

My union ensures I grow professionally — and I help my colleagues grow, too.

We have options for professional development — time for self-directed PD during staff days, the ability to offer after school courses to my colleagues, the option to take graduate courses on campus or online. It is only through continuous reflection and growth that I become a better teacher.

I support my union because without it, there would be 50 students in each of my classes sitting quietly in rows, reading their textbooks (instead of doing labs) in preparation for their next multiple choice exam which will be graded by the Scantron machine.

This post was written for EDUSolidarity Day. Visit the EDUSolidarity website for the complete list of blog posts and follow #EDUSolidarity on Twitter.

Increasing Engagement in Science

As part of a session on innovative practices in science at TeachMeet New Jersey 2011, I gave a presentation entitled “Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Increasing Engagement in Science”

I have posted that presentation, complete with speaker’s notes and plenty of links to further information, here: http://bit.ly/EngageSci

Any feedback you have would be greatly appreciated! (e.g., is there a bigger theme I am missing, etc.) Thanks! J3BC3J3HSY8J

Pseudoteaching Update for 2/22/2011

Two new posts have been added to the pseudoteaching page:

Pseudoteaching FAQ by John Burk (Quantum Progress)
John gives us the low down on PT.

Pseudoteaching: Laboratory Experiments by Dolores Gende (Journey in Technology)
Dolores takes on cook book labs and offers suggestions on how to make them more open-ended.

Please add your own pseudoteaching story!