Thursday, September 20, 2007

[TIPS] a great physics lesson


I just had the opportunity to watch a really cool physics lesson. It was all very low tech, but the final presentation might just end up being quicktime movies or splashcast videos saved in their moodle site. The teacher took some digital pictures and I took a few with my cell phone. Now I'll have to go home and read the manual to see how to pull them off the phone!

Here's the lesson. The teacher found this lesson on the web while searching for vector physics lessons. This was an AP Physics class of a dozen kids. The class was divided into three groups and each group was given some graph paper, a yardstick, a few smaller rulers, a length of string, a protractor, and a 100' tape measure. One group got a 50' tape measure. We then went outside.

He took the students to show them a spot on the curb in front of the school which would serve as an end point. Then they walked around the building to a back corner and marked that as the other end point. The task was to find out how far it was from one point to the other - in a straight line. They had to use vectors to work their way around the building.

It was interesting to see how the groups approached the task. The building wasn't your nice neat rectangle, either, so they had lots of angles to work with. Kids were down (prone) on the ground, talking through how they'd find the true angles, dealing with metal measures that wanted to kink, and having a good time.

At the end of the period they came back inside to do their calculations. As the bell rang a couple students stopped to ask what the real answer was. The teacher asked what THEY found (claiming he couldn't remember exactly), and the two that I heard were very close. One was within three meters, and the other was right on the money! Very good work.

As the one girl left she said, "I'll just go home tonight and use Google Earth to find it."

What's interesting with that is that Google Earth has not been a part of the curriculum anywhere, so she has learned that tool on her own. AND - she thought of it right away as the way to solve this problem.

It all comes back to the teacher, doesn't it? A great lesson. And if we had some student machines the kids would be making their own presentations using the images we took. I'd love to see this one in splashcast. My bet, however, is that if they made the movies they'd want to upload them to YouTube and then use the embed code to include them in the Moodle site. I hope to find out.

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