The teacher or textbook may say that it is important to do such things as to "draw a diagram," but they seldom say why, and the student can see that the answer comes from a formula, so why bother with a diagram? (1987, p18)
As awareness of a national crisis in science education has increased recently, substantial federal funds have been allocated to cope with the crises on the secondary level. However, little of this is directed toward significant pedagogical research, and much of it promotes a reactionary "back-to-basics" approach. I am not alone in the dour prediction that the main result of this movement will be more bad science teaching and in the opinion that substantial pedagogical research will be essential to a more salutary outcome.
Oh yeah...I have been reading your blog. I have you as someone I follow on Twitter so I link off of that. So, on the best test ever, what grade did you give the kids? All the same or did you still give individual grades? I liked the getting the group consensus on a question and having anyone defend it--just didn't know how that fit the pressure of giving a grade.
Thanks so much for asking the question. It is so helpful for me. In rereading my post I realized I had not really talked about the grading at all. This adds so much to my attempt to clarify what I am doing this year in physics, I hope others will comment and contact me as well. So there are two solutions in the pyramid testing option [PDF]. In a traditional points based grade book you might weight each section of the test to match what you are emphasizing that day. So a very generic match might be 50% of the grade is your personal attempt, 30% is the group's grade and 20% is the almost always totally correct class grade. It seems to me that this is a fair way of putting these grade into the book. Here is what made me truly excited about what happened in my class on Wednesday. I have been using standards based grading. The unit we are in has four standards. The questions that I asked in class each focused some combination of two of the four standards. As students were working on the questions I had the standards in mind that I was evaluating. I would ask questions about why a student choose something (during the personal time) or I would listen into a group conversation. Then I would run up to my computer and record scores. I also asked if students wanted to hand in their work at the end of the hour. Some did. Others did not. Great work was handed in. I am going to give one more attempt at each of the standards, so I am not too worried about them handing in something yet. If they do not after hand in something after the second attempt then their grade will not be good. They will be allowed to challenge that. Students are allowed to challenge any one standard on a given day. They have to name the standard and tell me what they have done to improve their knowledge. There is a long list of resources for them to use to improve. I then give a quiz or just talk the standard through with them. The main point of this is that the conversations I had with students were wonderful and very instructive about where they were at. The period moved quickly but without stress. There was no tension in the room like a normal test can bring. It was the first time I can remember feeling like I was evaluating while knowledge was increasing.
I have been using this program in a similar way to use the iPad school is letting me play with to control my screen. Today I had several breakthroughs that are moving me closer and closer to thinking that this is the way to go. In the past my classroom has used the awesome combination of Skitch and a Wacom Graphire Wireless, and I still love and recommend that combination to anyone looking at a traditional interactive white board. Much cheaper, much more student, subject and learning focused and significantly cheaper. Above all this, it just works. Teachers do not use stuff that does not work every time.
That being said I am trying AirSketch on the iPad. Why? because it is cheap as well. The combo that I use is about $300, but if you buy the pads from Promethean or Mimio they will set you back north of $400. Lately I have see iPad popping up on the refurbished list for $450. So if you can make it work as well as these other options, for only $50 more you also have a iPad instead of a hunk of plastic. And, since the connection is through your wireless network there is little chance of interference like there is with my Wacom.
Some things happened today to make it click that AirSketch might just be the right thing. First, I accidently two finger zoomed, and sure enough I could fill in details in a section of my drawing. Details are much easier to draw with a pen than a finger. The AirSketch app makes detail possible by allowing you to zoom in and work in a small area. Before I knew this I was not able to fit an entire problem on a page.
Second, I figured out how to take a screen shot using my iPad. Any screen shot is only a fw clicks away from being a background to draw on in AirSketch. For me this is essential, since most of my homework is online. I used to surf to a problem that a students asks about and screen shot it with Skitch and go. Now I surf on the iPad to the problem, screen shot it by pressing the Power button and the iPad button at the same time, then switch to AirSketch and pull it out of the photo gallery and draw on it to help the students.
Third I found that if I toggle on full screen mode in Chrome while using AirSketch it makes my screen a ton less busy so we can all focus on the learning. Enable full screen mode in Chrome by pressing Command-Shift-F.
What is super cool is now I can also give it to the students, since they can see where they are writing. If only the iPad had four finger swipe application switching we would be all set.
From my assignment for the day (in a Forum post)
A Fermi Problem is a great exercise in making estimates of answers to burning questions on people's minds today. Really. They are a powerful tool that physicists use to make sure their answers and experiments make sense before they commit to them or make decisions based on them. Enrico Fermi would use them to warm up the crowd at physics conventions in the 1920's.There are several forums below and each is a Fermi problem. Randomly choose five and solve the problems with a partner. Problems usually solve this way:
- Decide what pieces of information you need to know.
- Make powers of ten estimates of those values (which might require some research).
- Combine the information into a final power of ten answer.
As you write your responses please include your thoughts on each of the points above, and if you did research include links to where you found the information that you needed to complete the problems.After they play around with these for a while I asked them in another forum to make their own Fermi problems and try each others out. It is a fun day and it gets at the basics of breaking problems down into their parts, qualitative guesses, and a little of the history of physics.
What I did not know is how well it would dovetail into my next necessity. I needed them to ask questions about power needs in Nicaragua. Well, after we were done with regular Fermi problems we did just that, and some great questions came out of that. Most especially, how much energy will a rural Nicaraguan school need? I asked them:
- How many Joules will we need per school?
- How many people know what a Joule is?
- Have we arrived at our first thing we need to know?
What is energy and what is a joule? We had discovered our first unit of study.