Continuous Learning: Quantum Mechanics

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Currently, I am taking a physical chemistry (a basic quantum mechanics course- hence the picture of Milikan’s oil drop apparatus above) and I am thoroughly enjoying it because  it combines physics and chemistry knowledge into one (almost as fun as thermodynamics/kinetics!). As I am fresh out of college, I am still wired to be taking courses…it will be a strange day when I am no longer taking classes.

It has been a stretch because I am also a high school physics teacher, however I think it is so important to constantly learn and challenge yourself, especially as a teacher.

Many would ask, “why would you take that course? You’ll never need it.” However I don’t see it that way. As a high school teacher, I think it is my job to constantly learn and challenge myself, and in turn that will help me be capable of creating a classroom environment where students can excel past just what the state standards are for physics. If I can inspire kids to go on to major in chemistry, physics, biology, computer science, math, etc. or even simply just have some sort of interest in it, then I have done my job.

I think it is vital for teachers to continue on with your own education; if we can expand our areas of expertise, then students can make better use of us as their educators.

Also- just think about everything else you can do? Currently, as I’ve stated previously, I am working on building a website/app that will have great resources for physics classes..This week I also realized chemistry could use more resources too, so I will be adding that to my project. Ideally, I want to see a website that students of ALL ages can go to for help- whether it is watching a chemical reaction take place, or learning more about circular motion, I want the site to be in-depth and easy to get around…I’m still gathering thoughts about everything, and I am sure this will take years to get it up and running, but I am excited to see what comes next.

Physics: Multimedia resources are lacking.

One issue I’ve run into lately is that I will be wanting an animation (flash animation or a simulation of some sort) and there just aren’t many places for me to pull from. I use ActivPhysics in my class, which is a great website that has interactive simulations and guided questions to go alongside it. However, I want something that is a little more visual- something more animated that can show students how different things work.

For instance, when teaching circuits, I want to show students in a simulation how Ohm’s law works. When you add resistors (or lightbulbs) in series, they get dimmer. When you put them in parallel, they maintain the same brightness. I have yet to find a good simulation that lets me do all of that- and manipulate the resistance of each resistor. (or manipulate current or voltage!)

I got adobe creative suite so I have been experimenting with Illustrator and flash, and I am able to do the graphics somewhat (keyword: somewhat) but when it comes to coding the flash simulations, I have A LOT to learn. Next fall I hope to take a computer science class or two so I can pick up programming and start making my own software and programs for my classes. The picture is of a combination circuit board I made in illustrator. The goal would be for it to look great, & be an interactive simulation for physics students who could define each resistor and see what happens…Currently, the charge (the white object) can circulate throughout the circuit, but Adobe flash keeps saying something is wrong with the code. Obviously this project is in it’s very beginning stages- it will take me quite a while to figure this out. I’m not worried about posting my ideas because if someone beats me to this, you are saving me a lot of time and frustration!

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The simulations that are out there now are (for the most part) too simple and can’t go beyond basic ideas. Hopefully I can knock some of this out over the summer, because there is a GREAT need for more physics resources in high school (and college!) classrooms.

Am I the only one experiencing this frustration?

Socrative

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Ever heard of “Socrative”? It is a great website and app for smart phones, iPads, and computers. The idea behind it is simple: Socrative is a free service turns students smart phones, tablets, and laptops into a clicker.

It is very simple to get this started; you need maybe 5 minutes to set up your account, and another 10-15 minutes to start uploading practice problems and quizzes. Socrative saves you time by receiving students answers to questions (multiple choice and short answer) and it will grade it for you. All that’s left for you to do after the activity is download the report in an excel file, and upload the students grades (or review their progress).

Why use it? Not only does it save you from having to grade students activities, but the kids love using it because they get to use their phones (Unless you have them use school computers or laptops). I believe smart phones and tablets (i.e. the iPad) are not our enemy, but rather a tool that is so often overlooked in schools. I am speaking specifically to high schools for this one, due to the fact that many middle schoolers don’t have phones. I find that 3/4 of the class have smart phones and can download this free app in a matter of seconds.  For the 1/4 that don’t have smart phones, they simply pair up with a partner and answer the questions together on one phone.

Socrative is WONDERFUL for assessment, both formal and informal. I use it 3-4 times a week, and give students a grade once a week for all of the questions they answer. Sometimes they have 3 or 4 questions to answer after they take notes, other times they are answering questions from a worksheet as an in-class activity.

Visit and sign up for socrative here.

And so it begins…

About a month and a half ago, I started teaching high school science at a well-to-do school near where I grew up…I was pretty nervous to begin- I just graduated college in May, and I graduated a year early at that…Meaning, I am 21 years old, teaching kids who are between the ages of 14-18. It has been an incredible learning experience for me, but it has also really opened my eyes to a lot of issues in education that I dealt with just a few years ago when I was in the students shoes. Times have changed, and a lot of teachers are straggling behind, stuck doing the same thing they did 20 years ago.

What has changed exactly?

Technology.

The way students think.

How they interact with their peers.

How they interact with teachers.

What they need to do to prepare to college.

etc. etc.

After getting to know a lot of teachers in my department, I am realizing that I have more to contribute that I first thought: my experience as a student. I can relate to my students better than any teacher I know, simply because just four years ago I was right where they are today. I listen to them when they complain about policies and rules, and I try to understand why they do some of the frustrating things that they do. I know how tempting it is to be on your phone the whole class period. I know that in physics, they girls are more worried about who they are going to prom with instead of doing they work they need to do. The boys are bold and very flirtatious (something I’ve had to really watch out for!). A lot of students don’t like doing work in class, but they also don’t want to take notes either…But there are ways around all of this, I am learning every day.

 

Through this blog, I hope to share my experiences and plead the case of the students. Not so they can text more in your class, or have more time to socialize. But so students and teachers can work better together, using resources and ideas in school to better students learning experiences. I will be posting about technology, lesson plans I am working on, and of course my own trials in the classroom.