Modeling Workshop – Day Two

Okay, time for a confession…I’m a thief. Like many teachers, I hunt through old texts, dig through others curriculum, chose what I want, modify it, discard the rest and pass it off as my own assessments. It’s kind of odd when you think of how much we harp on plagiarism, but we “borrow” liberally from other teachers ourselves. All of this is just my round about way of saying this – I do not have a lot of experience in designing curriculum. Turns out, it’s a lot of hard work.

Today started with us jumping right back into working on developing our initial storyline for our model. We needed to decide what model(s) we were asking the students to develop, identify what representational tools would be needed, the investigations they would use to develop these models and the general sequence of events. Thankfully, this is our first draft, so we can get it wrong. We’ve identified our model as the rigid rotating body model and have kept the general flow of torque -> rotational inertia – > angular momentum for now. I won’t explain everything right now as I’d like to share the work with the interwebs when we’re finished, but here are some pics of the madness that emerged from our minds:

My partner, Tyler, snagged the torque simulation from PhET and we think we can put it to good use in building the model of torque. Our main tactic is to let the students build on previous knowledge to draw conclusions, so we lead off by repeating the hover-disk questions from the BFPM but now applied to a rotating disk. I’ll let you have fun trying to chart our course through the whiteboards in the photos. Suffice to say, we are very happy with how we lead the students through a development of the idea of balanced toque on a rigid body, constant torque and the rotational inertia of a rigid body, but then we stalled at angular momentum (Check out the far left board in the pic above.)

This might have been my fault, but I just wouldn’t settle for the standard demos. I want a phenomena that not only requires angular momentum to investigate, but also one that will invoke questions from students, not physics teachers. And I want to avoid that feeling of contrivance. It should feel natural. We wracked our brains trying to come up with something beyond the spinning ice-skater and flipping the bicycle wheel. I’m not saying these aren’t great demos that are cool to see, I just think few kids would be interested in them if their physics teacher weren’t drawing attention to them. We talked to everyone at the workshop about our mental block too, and people were supportive and offered ideas. It’s great to work with folks who will put aside their own work to help you make yours better. There are a lot of good folks at this workshop.

After lunch, we spent time discussing this article by David Hestenes. We do have readings from journal articles each night and we spend time the following day discussing them as a group. The article sparked some good discussion points, but I think we all still feel kind of new to each other so the conversation felt a bit stilted at times. If you’re a modeler and haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. If you aren’t a modeler, it is worth a look, but I don’t think some of the explanations will resonante with you as much as they do with me.

We wrapped up today by presenting our first draft to the entire group. This was a great way to organize our thoughts into something more coherent than the atrocity you saw above. Additionally, we could field questions and ask for assistance on particular trouble spots. Some of the other advanced groups are working on the following units: forces for 9th grade physical science, circuits, chemical equilibrium, acids and bases, and scientific underpinnings. It’s a very nice mix.

Finally, I wanted to mention how awesome Twitter is for professional development. If you read the Day One post and saw the challenges pic, you noticed that one of the issues mentioned was feeling alone as a modeling teacher in your building. Many of us who are new to modeling are the only ones in our building who are using it. Well, be alone no longer! When Tyler and I found ourselves stuck today on angular momentum, I put out the following tweet:

Avengers Assemble! It was like this awesome call to a super-hero team. Over the course of the afternoon and evening, tweet after tweet arrived bearing examples of angular momentum. Other teachers shared eight different ideas including the following awesome video (Merry-go-round video). Oh, and literally as I’m writing this another popped up on my Twitter feed. So awesome. Seriously, if you are a teacher, get on Twitter.

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