PeteSearch: What the Sumerians can teach us about data

Please read the post linked and think about the data we collect on students.
How can we make grading a more neutral act?
How do we convince others that they do not have the power or should not have the power?
How is the data I collect corrupting me?
How is the data our schools collect corrupting them, and in the process making them less valuable?
How do we be more open that all data collected has it base in subjective humanity?
Do we regularly look over the data we collect and try to find where it is giving us bogus information?
(Via Nat Torkington )

Imagination Produces Empathy

I collect thoughts about imagination, mainly because I think there is too little of it. Here is a passage from Wendell Berry's Hanna Coulter.

It is hard to live one life and imagine another. But imagination is what is needed. Want of imagination make things unreal enough to be destroyed. By imagination I mean knowledge and love. I mean compassion. People of power kill children, the old send the young to die, because they have no imagination. They have power. Can you have power and imagination at the same time? Can you kill people you don't know and have compassion for them at the same time?
I love the picture. As I play with how to best teach physics one of the powerful motivators is to imagine ourselves using our new talents in physics to change lives for the better. This has produced powerful images for students that truly motivate them through the harder parts of learning physics.

"It is very difficult for a set of metrics to fully measure what you value."

This talk from Adam Mosseri about being data informed is great. It is worth the thirty minutes. At 13:00 in he says the line that makes this post's title. He then shows two examples from Facebook where the data sent them in wrong directions. These are my summaries of the reasons:

  1. Most of your data is generated by your power users, so if you aim for increasing pure engagement you will market to this group only.
  2. When you optimize for one piece of data you will eventually ignore anything that is not measured by the data.

I think that both of these points contain great truths for teaching.

Bonus quote, "The greatest risk is taking no risk at all." (29:20)

UPDATE: Forgot the link.

The Physics of Osmos Contest « The Physics of Osmos

Welcome to the Physics of Osmos Contest!

Students in grades K-12 are invited to explore the endless physics embedded within the beautiful game Osmos.
Create a one-minute video illustrating the physics concept that you discover in the game. The top student entry will win a $500 gift card to The top three runners up will also receive prizes.


To submit your entry, follow the instructions below.

  • Download and install the Osmos free demo. (Or purchase Osmos from the App Store.)

  • Experiment with your gameplay to illustrate physics concepts using Osmos as your virtual lab.

  • Review the official contest rules

  • Create a video illustrating a physics concept.
    (If you want to record your screen, try Jing or ScreenChomp)

  • Upload your video to YouTube, Vimeo, or

  • Complete the submission form by 11:59 PM PST. December 18, 2011.

Winners will be announced on December 25.

A good friend of mine came up with this contest idea. I think this will motivate a certain type of physics student. Give it a try.

By the way this idea is part our ongoing conversation around the question, what would a compelling online physics course look like. Lots of questions and no answers yet.

What is your real world? or In this problem assume no friction.

I have to drop a connection on the crowd. I was reading John Burk's post with the same title as this blog post and loved the comment his student dropped on him. I felt my head nodding in agreement. Reflections like that would make my day as a teacher. Later in the comments another teacher takes issue with the post. @adchempages has been all over the physics blogosphere with his message. I know he gets his students to achieve their immediate goals, he is famous on the AP Chem list serves.

A few days later I read this post trying to define where the real world is. It brought back to focus that my world is what I prepare kids for, and that is probably the same for teachers everywhere. @tkamps sent me this link to an edutopia blog series. I love the graphic in the last post. I love how everyone has a role to play. I love that the roles all have their basis in the same ideas. This is the world that I live in, and therefore the world I teach. I can see how other teachers who live in other worlds with other commonalities in the pyramid would value different outcomes. They are doing the same thing I am, getting kids ready for the world as they live it.

Our principal just sent home the monthly news letter. It begins with the transcript of a speech given by a student to members of the community, mainly business people.

So why do I love this place so much? What makes it unique?

First of all, the teachers. There are some incredible people here. I think what stands out about them is the conversation they want to have with all of us -- they aren’t simply there to tell us some information and then get on with their day. They want us to question and doubt and, as my English teacher would say, “wallow in complexity.” They care about what we think and want to hear what we have to say -- and want to see us pursue our individual passions. Just one example of this is an independent project that was required in my Physics class last year. We spent the last couple months of the semester researching a topic of our choice and presenting it in a way of our choice, so it was completely open-ended. Physics is really not my thing, but being able to incorporate my interests into a project definitely worked for me: I was able to combine my love of English with the excellent technology resources we have here, by reading three books by great physicists and then blogging and ultimately creating a website to show what I had learned. Another cool thing about this project was that I was able to focus on debates of religion versus science, which is probably not something I would be able to explore or discuss as fully as I did at other schools. And in the end, though I did learn a lot about Physics, I learned the most about how to create an effective project, all because of the wonderful balance of freedom and mentoring that I received from my teacher.

This is why I teach. I love exploring the world God has given us. I love to give students the tools to explore well, the passion to continue to explore and perspective on what they can bring to the exploration. I love that the school I teach in reflects those values as well.

P.S. I marvel at the people who can teach, blog, and keep up their family life. I am so past due for a blog post that I am embarrassed to even visit the space.

Welcome Physics Teacher

Welcome to those who came because you saw my article Introducing Rotational Motion With EXIF Data in The Physics Teacher. I am not the most prolific blogger in the physics world. If you want that see this post. I am also not the most on fire blogger in the physics world, or the most interesting. But if you landed here because of The Physics Teacher magazine, I am happy you stopped by and would love to have you look at some physics posts or some of my favorites.

Interior Table Borders In Moodle 2.1 Course Content

I have had several questions about the interior borders of tables as we have moved to Moodle 2.1 from 1.9. In the new HTML editor is not as clear how to edit table properties and the default table border color for interior borders seems to be set to white. Once you have a table there are a lot more options, but you have to right click on a cell when editing a cell. Then you get a whole menu of options. The screen cast allows you to see how to change the default color of you borders to black in the table you are working on.

Transition to Moodle 2: The Switch Role To Menu Has Moved

On Sat, Aug 27, 2011 at 2:22 PM, Bob

HI, Jim,

Any way to toggle between teacher view and student view in Moodle when I'm logged in? Am I missing something?


I searched and searched for the relocated location of this incredibly popular and important peice of a moddle course that allows a teacher to see what a students would see. This setting has moved from a menu at the top to a menu in the side bar below the Edit Settings link. See the attached screen shot.

2,500,000 Attempts

I am upgrading the schools Moodle server this week. We were using Moodle before Moodle was cool. The very first course ever created in our Moodle was Peterson Independent Research in Physics.

I love Moodle. It is the perfect mix of teacher and school terms, ease of use and student flexibility. It is the glue that holds together our one-to-one MacBook program. Teachers feel comfortable moving their lessons into Moodle. They get it right away. They have this blank nice looking page, and they add familiar items like assignments and resources and quizzes.

At my first ever whole faculty training on using the Moodle quiz module I spent the first hour trying to move the teachers off from the idea that you had to use it for quizzes. I had them brainstorm other uses for it. I showed them ideas I had been using in my classroom with pre-assessment and formative assessment.

Wednesday I am pulling the plug on Moodle 1.9.9 and moving to Moodle 2.1. This is not an upgrade for the feint of heart. As part of this upgrade there is huge change in the way the quiz engine works, and I was presented along the way with a statistic. In all the years we have had Moodle it has stored every quiz attempt ever taken. This sits in our database, and the total attempts at quizzes are 2,500,000.

Our school mission is, "Equipping minds and nurturing hearts to transform the world for Jesus Christ." My question: would we have advanced our mission more by giving 2.5 million quizzes, or if we had instead applied our learning to make 2.5 million edits to the Wikipedia?

We are always the bad people.

I teach at a Christian school. One of my great pleasures this year was having a first hour class, which meant leading devotions. I had a great year leading devotions, for a lot of reasons. The main reason was my students were great. They loved a great conversation. Another reason was the book our Principal gave us for devotions this year, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. We would wrestle regularly with what we though of Sarah, and just when we felt like throwing the book out the window she would hit us all between the eyes. Either way it was fun and we learned a ton.

At one point I read the parable of the prodigal son to supplement the devotional. During the subsequent conversation I asked, "Find a parable where we are the good people."

Katie replied, "We are always the bad people."

What a great discussion followed as we tore through the Bible Gateway and our memories looking for parables where we are not the bad people. In our Calvinist tradition guilt is a big part of life. It was a great day discovering together that we are not always the bad people, or more importantly and more commonly that we are always the people loved by God.

Inspired by these great discoveries we went on to discover great physics.