Monday, June 30, 2014

Southwest Michigan Modeling Workshop Day 8

So we are halfway through this roller coaster we call a workshop!  Halfway already?  Part of me feels like we have been doing this forever; and part feels like we just started.

Everyone came back bright-eyed and bushy tailed this morning, myself included.  

We started the day with a discussion of the lone reading from the weekend, the foundational article by Hestenes and Wells about the Modeling Method.  The participants were really focused on Malcolm Wells as an individual.  They wanted to know all about him, were so impressed with his genius and with his passion for teaching.  In all of the years I've done this (5) the participants never focused on him so much. 

What is different about this year, or this year's group that put them in that position?

We talked for a while about the 10 year rule for mastery and I talked about chess and Hestenes and then for a while about Malcolm Gladwell.  I think they were a little disappointed to hear that it would take them 10 years to become a master.  I tried to reassure them that each of them could get huge gains in even their first  years, which helped a ton, but realistically to is going to take between 5 and 10 years of directed practice to get good at this.  Frankly it takes about 4 years to just get comfortable with the content!

I word about me.

I am pretty good at this; the Modeling Method.  But that is because I took my first modeling workshop in 2000.  The next summer I took a related (but not modeling specific) workshop in Portland, OR.  In 2002, 2003 and 2005 I went to ASU to take  advanced Modeling courses.  Between my own practice and my advanced training I got good.  But I worked my ass off at it!

So in 2010 when I was asked to lead a workshop I was ready - at least I thought I was ready.  I learned more running that workshop than I had in the previous 3 years of teaching combined!  It takes time, and work and directed practice but you can get good.  

Do not, however, let that discourage you.  Bad modeling isn't any worse that bad lecturing.  At least you 'll be having fun!

We then did some review of the concepts from later Friday.  They did a lab activity on Friday where the conclusion was that no matter how the carts interacted the forces that they exerted on each other were exactly the same; constant speed, constant acceleration, collisions, different masses the interaction forces were always the same.  What does this mean?

The only conclusion we can draw - without evidence to the contrary is that the interaction forces is equal!  This is not a small deal, however, seemed logical to all of the groups because that is exactly what they saw in the lab.  So we went with it.  I constructed two situations where this was the outcome but seemed different (a 2N block on top of a 4N block AND THEN a 4N block on top of  a 2N block) and asked which pushed more 2 on 4 or 4 on 2 for each situations.  Each group drew the schema and the force diagrams and we compared them.  

We got the same equal relationship in the force diagrams.  

Then I told the "Confrontational Stu" story.

After that I asked them to teach me how to walk (we started wtih jumping)

Tomorrow we'll start with a block on the table and see if the weight and the normal forces are N3LFP.

The friction lab was after that and we did a pretty standard modeling treatment for that.

Then we jumped into the Newton's 2nd Law lab.  I set up the track, pulled the cart and watched it accelerate.  The questions was, "What could you change that might affect the acceleration of the cart?"  The participants (acting like students) suggested the mass of the cart, the strength of the pulling force, the angle of the pulling force and the angle of the track.  The first three of these I'm on board with but I didn't really understand the angle of the ramp.

I should have done what I do with my students and steered them away from it, but I though it would be cool do "chew" on it a little bit.  It turns out that it was quite a debacle!  The two groups who chose to examine that didn't have a good concept of how it was even done, let alone an idea of how it should come out.  So a lab that should have taken at best 35 minutes lasted past an hour.  

Bad decision making by me?  Maybe.  But there was a point when I wanted to pull the plug, call it quits and just have them do the ones that really matter in this context.  However, it occurred to me that maybe this might be a good transition into forces on ramps.  So I let it ride.  That and it was a lot for them to chew on.  

I can't wait to see the results tomorrow.

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