Day T-17: Google calendars and scripting

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One of the things I’m doing this year is helping to our entire calendaring system over to Google Calendar. This is a significant undertaking, since many of our calendars are really just lists of dates and assignments, and as a boarding school, we have a number of “duty calendars”, like ER Driver that need to be transformed from paper documents into electronic calendars.

The good news is once you get this information into google calendars, the sky is practically the limit in terms of what you can do with Google scripting. I’ve managed to set up the ER driver calendar so that it sends out a reminder both the week and day before you are on duty to confirm you’ll be taking on this duty. You can even set up mail merge style emails.

It seems to me like this would be great for creating a google form for reassessments that also reminds students about the reassessment they signed up for.

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Day 36: Whole class feedback

Today we had a great whiteboarding discussion that reminded me how strong the students are in my physics classes. At the same time, they are still making lots of errors that seem to indicate they aren’t getting enough practice outside of class, which is probably because I don’t grade or assign homework, and so they often let physics practice slide to the background. This email is an attempt to rectify that.

Practice and Blogging SAS

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Day 35: the end of remediation

skips a month or so…

Inspired by Michael Pershan and Frank Noschese, I’ve decide to try an experiment with ending trying to help a struggling student by pushing them on questions about present and future material, rather than going back and having them re-hash their mistakes from the past. If this is going to work anywhere, it’s got to work in the super-spiraly world of physics, right?

Also, with this student, I’m taking an extra proactive step of simply simply emailing one question a day in the hopes that they will simply respond to the email and see how a little bit of practice can yield tremendous results.

You can succeed with small steps SAS


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Day 31: Electronics project

A student sent me the following idea out of the blue today:

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I’m not sure what has caused this shift, but we’ve definitely got a core of students who are increasingly interested in computer programming and electronics hacking. It’s awesome to see.


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Day 34: Successful post-its

I’ve managed to successfully print on post-it notes using our laser printer, and it works incredibly well. Here’s my latest formative assessment tool. Students put their posit on the color corresponding to their level of understanding on their way out the door.

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Day 33: Honey!

Some friends invited us over to their farm this weekend to help make honey, and I never knew a centrifuge was part of the process. Once you cut off the top of the honeycomb, you extract all the honey by spinning the wooden frame in a centrifuge. Sweet physics, indeed.

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Day 32: Heat transfer experiment

I’m learning that heat transfer experiments are hard to do. Here’s one we created that is marginally successful. We placed two aluminum rods of the same length and different thincknesses between an ice bath and a hot water bath. We then measured the temperature on the ends of the rods just above the bath, and found that the thicker rod had a smaller temperature difference, leading us to conclude that the rate of energy transfer must be greater.

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Day 30: Comment Follow up

I often wonder if writing close to 400 words per student in a comment has any use at all. This year, I decided to check into this, so I created a quick text-expander snippet to allow me to fairly quickly send a slightly personalized form letter to each of my students with their comments and some questions I’m curious about:

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This email started some great conversations, and a few of the responses, like this one below, left me with a strong sense that this is a pretty good way to spend some time.

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Day 29: Parallel and Normal Force

We got out the 2 axis force plate to take on this free body diagram:

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Many students wanted to say that the normal force was equal to the gravitational force. It was pretty easy to put a bloc loaded with bricks on the plate, attach a string and pull diagonally upward with a spring scale, and we could easily see the normal and frictional force changes as the student pulled harder on the scale.

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Day 28: the power of the sun

One of the next units we are going to work on in Intro Physics will be radiation and convection. For a demo/experiment, we took a large parabolic mirror our to measure by how much we can increase the temperature of a can of water using sunlight, and we got some good results. I think it will be nice for the kids to build an energy scale that consists of a battery, a peanut, a dynamics cart rolling at low speed, and now, 5 minutes of sunlight collected from a 0.5m^2 mirror.

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