You ask what NASA can do for science education. Funny you should ask.
One of the most famous clips in all of Science is actually NASA’s own video of the hammer and feather drop by an astronaut on the Apollo 15 mission.
Given the budget of NASA, would it be possible for them to throw a few dollars at this video clip to make it more user-friendly; you know, digitally edited and remastered with all the bells and whistles where the viewer can clearly see what’s happening?
Currently it is very fuzzy and only gets worse when it is projected onto a large screen in a classroom.
It’s a beautiful demonstration, and rightly pays homage to one of the defining moments in Science (even if, as historians claim, it never actually happened).
It would be nice to show a cleaned-up version to students, possibly with a slo-mo follow-up.
It always amazes me how many students have never heard of this demonstration or have never stood up on a bench and tried to replicate it.
You did ask . . .
If you’re reading this as a teacher then the chances are that you were a good student in school. You probably did well in most of your exams and certainly well enough to get the required points to get to college and once there you managed to get your degree without too many repeat exams. It’s unlikely that you had or have any learning difficulties (not that many of the terms even existed way back then).
Let me make a bolder assertion. You probably didn’t even hang around with the ‘slow learners’. They had their own friends and you had yours. You weren’t enemies or anything; just moved in different circles and followed different life-paths.
Bottom line: you – like me – probably have no idea what it is to feel like a student who has a learning difficulty.
What must it be like to have an attention span that’s almost zero?
- to have organisational skills so poor that, with the best will in the world, you’re never going to be able to locate your homework in time for your teacher to acknowledge it?
- to know that whether or not you work hard for an upcoming exam the result may well be failure either way?
- to feel physically ill at the thought of upcoming end-of-year exams?
Something to ponder as the Summer exams approach.
As teachers we are very good at getting courses covered, and often that is (unfortunately) how students (and parents) judge us. But revision is an essential part of a student’s learning and it’s one we often leave to the students themselves. This may be okay for the very good students, but for many others, particularly those with learning difficulties, it’s quite likely that they could do with a helping-hand coming down the home straight.
This may well mean setting aside a class every week right from the very beginning of the year. It sounds radical but the exact amount of time spent and other details could vary from class to class and year to year.
Most schools will have just three weeks of teaching left. If revision is one of those things you’ve been meaning to get around to but keep putting off until you get that next chapter finished, maybe it’s time to call a halt now. If so the following may prove useful.
1. Inform students what is and is not going to be on the exam, along with the time and structure of the exam (often it’s as important, if not more so, to inform the parents of students, particularly those with organisational issues, so they can help the students at home).
2. Make sure the students take down this information in their homework journals or similar (again, the students who need to take it down most are also the ones least likely to do so). Maybe parents should be asked to sign a form to acknowledge that they know what is on the exam.
3. If you use notes/handouts then provide students with a list of what they should have. The issuing of notes suits some subjects (like Science) more than others – are there alternatives where notes aren’t suitable?
4. Homework for students is to locate these notes and organise them such that they can be found readily when they are needed.
5. Students will invariably be missing some notes; they next need to compile a list of what they are missing. For disorganised students
this may necessitate seeking assistance from a parent, SNA or even another highly-organised classmate.
6. This step will seem like a pain but ideally students would be furnished with replacement notes (alternatively could these be put
online, say on the school website, where they could be downloaded by the student at home?).
7. Create a revision schedule for the class and refer to it every class between now and Summer exams. Have pop quizzes based on the
nightly revision to act as an incentive for the students. Students can correct each others’ work so it’s no extra workload for the teacher.
8. To give a further incentive, these totals could act as a percentage of the final Summer mark. It doesn’t have to be a large percentage, and if you have a set of 10 scores for each student you don’t need to add them all up on a calculator; just throw your eye over them and guess what the average would be. If it’s only a small percentage of their final mark then it’s no big deal if you’re out by a little. The idea is to encourage weak students to do a little each night.
This is not an absolute template – different aspects will work to a greater or lesser extent with different subjects and teachers. But it is VERY important that we help these students, and as we all know, it’s the ones who are least organised who need help the most.
I am not happy with the Leaving Cert Physics exam. In a nutshell – it’s too hard. The vast majority of the questions come from material teachers cover in sixth year, and the closer you get to the end of the course, the more popular the exam questions. Nothing wrong with this so far, except when you consider that this often represents the most difficult sections of the course. And never forget that Physics is a difficult subject to come to terms with at the best of times. So many concepts are very, very counter-intuitive. After all, only one civilisation ever accepted it as a means of generating knowledge about the world around us.
Even if you look at some of the material that we do cover in fifth year, the questions on this in recent years have been very, very difficult. Optics is usually the first thing we cover and yet, based on the questions on this topic that appeared in 2011 12 (b) and 2012 12 (b), I now have A students who swear they won’t go near the topic if they see it on the paper this June.
Which is why the following document seems is very popular with students (particularly those struggling a little with the subject).
It looks at the pattern of questions that have appeared since the syllabus first came into existence in 2002 and allows you to decide what questions to focus on.
For example Static Electricity and Capacitance are two short chapters, and they have appeared every year since 2002 as a half question, with the exception of last year, so expect them to make an appearance this year.
Electromagnetic Induction came up every year from 2002 to 2008 as either a full or a half-question. It hasn’t appeared since 2008 however. Expect it to appear as either a half or a full question.
The Electron has appeared on 9 of the last 11 years. Nuclear Physics (that’s Radioactivity and the atom, along with Fission, Fusion and Nuclear Energy) has appeared every year as either a half or a full question.
You can see similar patterns for other topics listed in the document. The important point is that, assuming you’re going to do Question 5 (series of short questions which cover the entire course, with choice built in) and Question 10 (Particle Physics; comes up every year) then you really just need 3 questions from the remaining 6 (and one of these is Question 12, which offers a choice of 2 parts from 4).
Every year since 2002 you would have been able to answer a full paper by just learning the topics below (and usually with some choice to spare).
You still need to cover all Mandatory Experiments for Section A, and all definitions for Question 5, but if you’re a D or C student it would be highly advisable to use this as your guide. If you’re looking for the A then you really need to cover all topics on the course to cover yourself for all eventualities.
So it took us many attempts, but we eventually figured out to break one of the laws of physics.
This was our practice go
This one wins us the Nobel Prize:
Many Leaving Cert classes will have a mixed attendance over the coming weeks, with Oral exams in Irish, Modern Languages and Music Practicals.
One way to keep students up to date with what has been covered in class is googledocs. If you use gmail then there should be a tab for “Drive” on top of the page. Click on this.
Once there, create a new document (a drop-down menu will appear when you click on the “CREATE” option above) and when it opens rename it (File – Rename) and then save by clicking on the blue “SHARE” button (top right).
The following window will then open:
Click on “Change” and the following window will open up:
Tick the “Anyone with the link” option.
Then copy the url for reference (I also put mine on my “Bookmarks toolbar” using Mozilla on my school pc so it’s there at the click of a button in class).
It does require having the students’ email addresses so you can email them the link, but this only takes a minute. You can also use it to update with any additional info as you choose.
Now towards the end of every class you just note down what was covered in class that day (and homework, if you’re into that sort of thing). Any students who are absent can then click on the link and see what they missed. It also acts as a nice reminder for yourself as to what you did last class if class plans aren’t your thing either.
Alternatively you could go down the Edmodo route, but if you’re just dipping your toes into this type of communication then googledocs isn’t a bad way to start.
The link below is a video of the g-ball in action.
There are all sort of errors involved, but it’s still reasonably accurate and errors can often serve to act as source of further discussion.
I like it in that it takes away all the confusion associated with the traditional circuit which I think distracts from the important physics (drop a ball; measure time of fall and distance traveled and from this work out g using a very simple equation).
If I was setting up a lab and trying to save money I would use the g-ball instead of the traditional set-up (while still ‘learning’ the traditional set-up for exam purposes).
To order the g-ball contact the boys at ibotz.com
Oh. And did I mention that it’s fun?
Physics? Fun? Who’d a thunk?
By the way, this is the traditional method:
Posted February 23, 2013on:
I received the following from UCD and thought that the best way of getting the information out was to post it here.It certainly looks like something you should follow up on if you are thinking of taking Physics in college or, as they mention here, have a keen interest in computing:
Dear 5th & 6th Year Teachers and Students (Science/Physics),
UCD School of Physics is delighted to accept applications for our 2nd International Particle Physics Masterclass (IPPM), aimed at 5th & 6th year Leaving Certificate Secondary Students.
This is your chance to get your hands on real LHC data and analyse it to find W & Z bosons, and look for evidence of the Higgs!
UCD School of Physics as part of a worldwide initiative is inviting students from around Ireland to participate in a one day Masterclass to delve deeper into the mysteries of particle physics.
Last year’s IPPM event was a great success with students from 35 schools nationwide coming to UCD Physics for a day of hands-on-learning about particle physics. This year again we invite you to apply for a place on the UCD School of Physics International Particle Physics Masterclass 2013.
UCD School of Physics, will provide students with state-of-the-art computing facilities, specialised software, expert guidance and real data direct from the CMS experiment at CERN in order to allow you to look for W & Z bosons produced in the collision of two protons at the LHC.
This activity is open to 5th and 6th year Leaving Certificate students, with a keen interest in Physics. No advanced experience (beyond studying
physics or maths for Leaving Certificate or a keen interest in computing) is required, though an interest in particle physics and the
recent results from CERN is an advantage. This is an excellent opportunity for students who are considering entering a Physics focused
third level education path.
The UCD School of Physics International Masterclass 2013 will be held on the 20th of March. The activities will start at 9:30am and finish at
4:00pm. The day will consist of practical lectures, hands-on data analysis, and an international video conference to compare your results live with students in other countries. (If you can’t make it on the 20th March, similar activities will be running at Maynooth NUI on March 6th and Trinity College Dublin on February 26th.)
Click on the following link for the UCD IPPM Application form in .doc (MS Word) format.
If you or members of your physics class at school would like to participate at the UCD School of Physics Particle Physics Masterclass, please ask your teacher to send an email to the appropriate address (email address is available in the MS Word document) with the subject line ‘PARTICLE PHYSICS MASTERCLASS’ (or fax 01-2837275).
The closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday, the 6th March, 2013.
Successful applicants will be contacted in early March.
This event is free of charge.
Further information at: