I am actually not that tired; actually right now I feel great! But the participants and I are putting in a ton of mental (and a little bit of physical) energy. Which I totally appreciate about the them. They are awesome!
Today we did a bunch of stuff. We started off, like we always do, with a discussion of two readings, some chapter 2 from Arons and an article by Jose Mestre.
I feel like the participants didn't have as much to say about these as they have about the previous readings. I wonder why that is?
They did, in my opinion, enumerate the salient points of the Mestre article which I affectionately call the "Holy Trinity of Instruction". These are the three keys to good teaching;
1 you must know your content
2 you must know how students learn and
3 you must know what student know when then get to you (misconceptions)
Each of these are crucial to good teaching.
Knowing your content is a minimum. However, the extent to which you have to be a master is not clear. For example, I have very little knowledge of advanced physics content but still do a fine job in the classroom. Do I need to know about Hamiltonians and Lagrangians to effectively teach about mechanics? I saw no. I do need to know more than the kids so that I have a good sense of the nuance of the concepts but there is no need to be able to recite the standard theory of subatomic particles!
Kids learn by doing and to really learn (and complete a conceptual change) they must construct their own knowledge. Studednts will learn very little from you telling them or them reading it. They have to be engaged at all levels.
The idea that kids come in empty and its our job to fill them up with physics knowledge just isn't true. Not only do they have a ton of physics knowledge most of it isn't very Newtonian! We have to know what they are thinking and have strategies to help them change. This doesn't mean our classes should turn into misconception which hunts, but we need to know what they think if we're to help them learn.
The Arons reading was especially important because it high lighted the fact that developing a concept should come before the vocabulary. This was extended by the participants to include the idea that the concepts should also come before the equations. I can't wait until we do the equation thing tomorrow!
After that we hit unit 3 pretty hard. We finished looking at the position vs. time white boards they made yesterday by chasing the cart down the hill. Then we did the same lab with the motion sensors. Then we did the ups and downs and motion maps.
Some of these ideas are very difficult, even for veteran physics teachers. I saw some real (and I mean real) cognitive conflict for the participants. How can the acceleration for a cart on a hill be negative the whole time when half of its motion is speeding up?
And should there be an acceleration arrow on the first dot - even if the cart was at rest?
As in interlude we did the T-Bone Challenge in the middle of the day so that we could pose for some pictures. How did they do with the practicum? only 1 out of the 4 groups got the cars to crash on the X. What is up with that? I love to see them really struggle and engage each other in authentic dialogue. I hope they do better on the next one!
At the end of the day we did the velocity dance and ended with the balls on the ramps and tracks.
Today was long and took a ton of mental effort. I hope that the participants remember how that feels when they're doing it with their kids next year!