Friday, June 21, 2013

Modeling Workshop Day 1

It was quite the day.

First of all the content level of this group of physics teachers is very high!  We have many teachers who have been teaching for lots of years and those who haven't were engineers in the past.  So content is not going to be an issue.  The actual issue in the past has been that there has been a mismatch is content expertise between the participants.  There were some that already knew the physics and some who were, let's just call them "novice".  That made it difficult for we as leaders to know where everyone was given a particular moment.  But that is a very good analog to what happens in the physics classroom!

Another difference between this and last year is that there are no outright skeptics.  Sure, there are plenty of participants that question what we're trying to do and why we're doing it.  But no one who thinks that I'm full of shit and is just waiting to point it out.  For that I'm thankful.  It is difficult to get in touch with a group when you as the facilitator constantly feels that you have to justify what you know to be good teaching.

We did have one "ah ha moment!" and that was pretty cool.  The group had completed and white boarded what we call the variation and measurement labs.  These aren't labs in the modeling materials but what we use to establish the relationships that we want the participants to know and be able to use in the future.  Once they have them on white boards we circled up and started to discuss the boards.  I was facilitating the conversation and having a dialogue with one of the participants.  I was asking, "Let's say you had a tile and you added 1 square cm to its area...what would happen to its mass?"  He referenced his "for every statement" and said that, "the mass would go up by 0.71 grams."  I said, "What would happen if you increased the area by 10 square centimeters?"  He said, "It would go up 7.1 grams."  Then I said, "and what would be the mass of tile whose area was 100 square centimeters?"  He looked at me, looked at his board and saw that one of his data points was a tile whose area was 100 square centimeters and the mass was very close to the 710 grams he was about to say.  He looked back at me then back at the board and threw his hands up in the air!

I said to the group, "I think something important just happened there!"  and we all laughed and cheered.  Seldom do we get to see that kind of moment happen so vividly.  It was awesome!

That is the power of the workshop though - it can be that trans-formative; even on the first day.

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