Friday, January 17, 2020

Another call you don't need to return

Jeff Lind at 888-227-8212 navigated his way into my school voicemail box to request a call back. He is not a parent of any of my students. He is not someone I have elected to do business with. No, it seems he's on a cold-call campaign from WorldStrides, an educational travel company from North Carolina.

Nope. I blasted a mass email to all my colleagues at school to ignore any call-back requests from him.

I reported a similar cold-call telemarketer in a previous post. I can only imagine these will become more common. Apparently school voicemail systems are not protected by "Do Not Call" lists.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

My Mechanical Universe Sagrada Família

I've been enjoying moving my Mechanical Universe curriculum out of the classroom and into the realm of YouTube homework this year. Posting the high school adaptations to YouTube and having a one-stop index webpage that links to every episode makes it easy. And they wouldn't be a part of my curriculum if I didn't have question sets to accompany them.

Every once in a while, I prefer to use a full college edition during a unit. So I decided to jump down the rabbit hole and begin developing Lessons of Phyz question sets for the college edition episodes. So far, I've been able to put together 12 sets.

[12/7/19 Update: 17 sets]

So that means there are only 40 35 episodes left to go. And writing a question set for a Mechanical Universe episode is a heavy lift compared to writing them for more straight-forward science documentaries. So I don't foresee completing all 52 episodes any time before 2022.

I have divided the series into six groups that make sense to me. In the event that I complete any of those groups, a TpT bundle will be assembled. When the whole series is completed, a megabundle will be prepared. 2022 will be a great time to be alive! Until then, I'll add question sets as I make them. One at a time. Unhurried.

For now, take a look and see if there's anything you can use before we get to that 2022 paradise, college or high school.

The Mechanical Universe of Phyz page (with links to every episode, college and high school)

Basilica de la Sagrada Família is the famous Barcelona church designed by Antoni Gaudí to be constructed on a 100-year+ timetable. The last true Alan Parsons Project album was all about Gaudí, and the opening track was La Sagrada Faília.

The Heat Playlist of Phyz

I fear I might be the last high school physics instructor around still teaching heat and temperature. I don't get any sense that NGSS needs me to teach it. AP Physics doesn't need me to teach it. I teach it in AP Physics 2 before delving into the curious realm of thermodynamics. But that's because I think the topics and demonstrations are so groovy.

In any case, here's my playlist.

The Heat Playlist of Phyz
SONGARTISTYEAR
(Love Is Like A) Heat WaveMartha Reeves & the Vandellas1963
Burn Down the MissionElton John1970
Burnin' for YouBlue Öyster Cult1978
Burning Down the HouseTalking Heads1983
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)David Bowie1982
Cold as IceForeigner1977
Cold Cold HeartNorah Jones2002
Dark FireStrunz & Farah1994
Don't Stop Me NowQueen1978
Feels Like FireSantana (feat. Dido)2002
FireSara Bareilles2019
FireIngrid Michaelson2012
Fire And Fury (Fuego Y Furia)Oscar Lopez1997
Fire And RainJames Taylor1970
Fire LakeBob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band1980
FlamethrowerThe J. Geils Band1981
Gypsy FlameArmik1995
Heat of the MomentAsia1982
Heat of the SunStrunz & Farah1994
Heat On the StreetPhil Collins1989
His Latest FlameMary Lou Lord1998
Hot BloodedForeigner1978
I'm On FireBruce Springsteen1982
Ice CreamSarah McLachlan1995
Long Hot SummerStyle Council1983
Paper in FireJohn Cougar Mellencamp1987
Rattle And BurnJesse Cook2005
Set Fire to the RainAdele2010
She's So ColdThe Rolling Stones1980
Some Like It HotThe Power Station1985
SteamPeter Gabriel1992
Still On FireAztec Camera1984
Strange FireIndigo Girls1987
The Fire Down BelowBob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band1976
The Fire InsideBob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band1991
The Rhythm of the HeatPeter Gabriel1982
The Warmth of the SunThe Beach Boys1965
This House Is On FireNatalie Merchant2001
Warm SoundZero72001
Warm WaysFleetwood Mac1975
We Didn't Start The FireBilly Joel1989
World On FireSarah McLachlan2003
You're My FlameZero72006

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Slow your roll

If you're not following Frank Noschese (@fnoschese) on Twitter, why even be a physics teacher with a Twitter account?

And if you get useful mileage out of constant velocity buggies (such as these from Arbor Scientific) but wish you had a convenient, reliable way to curb their enthusiasm, Frank tweets this:



Monday, October 07, 2019

Doggies on a waxed floor



Where will you use it: inertia, friction, centripetal force? I don't think students will mind if you use it for all of those.

Can you stretch it into conservation laws? Of course you can! Low stopping force requires longer stopping time. Impulse/momentum: check. That wee force will need to act across a large distance to change the kinetic energy of those goggies! Work-energy: check.

Want to take it a step further? How did those doggos get up to speed to begin with? Hmmm...

And fear not: it all ends well.



Hat tip to Wendy A. (Rio Phyz ’88). Old physics teacher flex? Why, yes!

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Whiplash Model

As I'm starting Forces and Newton's Laws of Motion in my Conceptual Physics class I am bringing out every demo I've got on inertia. I've got viral videos like the Target Shopping Cart Fail, stuffed animals on toy cars to run into walls, etc. As I was going through my list I realized that I didn't have a whiplash demo. I have plenty of images from physics textbooks and medical journals (Wikipedia version below) but I didn't have a physical representation of one to have in my classroom. And you know what happens when I decide I need a physical model ...
Whiplash.png
By BruceBlaus - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link


Trying to start with what I had I found the biggest stiffest spring in my cabinet, something that I picked up at the hardware store because, why not? I usually can't get this thing to move much when I hang weights from it unless I'm adding over 2 kg so its a very stiff spring. It is similar to this one from Home Depot, about an inch diameter and almost a foot long.

While a heavy human head analog is best, I was in a pinch so I grabbed a used styrofoam head from our Chemistry department. They usually do a demo using the styrofoam heads about safety goggles and they end up half melting them with an acid (I think). A quick Amazon search shows they are fairly inexpensive. I used a piece of 1/2" PVC that hadn't been cut squarely so it had a crooked sharp end to start cutting a circular hole in the bottom of the foam head base. I kept driving the PVC in, occasionally having to empty the styrofoam core that was forming inside by shoving a smaller dowel through it. Once I had a hole through the base of the head into the main part of the head I tried to enlarge the hole using larger diameter PVC and a hacksaw blade.

Once I thought I had the hole big enough I sliced the head at the neck as if I was decapitating it. I inserted one end of the spring as far into the head as I felt it needed to be to be secure. The other end had to be pulled through the base of the neck. Since I wanted the spring to fit snuggly and a spring that can twist is not rigid enough to push through a hole it took some doing. I found pulling the spring through with a pair of pliers while twisting to work the best.

One end of the spring does stick through the base but I don't think it would have enough of a hold on this base if I made it flush. Since my head has a bit of a base beyond the neck you have to hold on to that part rather than just the portion of the spring that sticks out the bottom to get the right effect. But in the end it worked great!

This is my colleague demonstrating it in real time and then in slow motion because of course you have to:






My future plans are to get another similar spring and redo it with a more realistic head like a hair dresser's practice head. I'd like to secure it to a flat base perhaps with casters under it, so that it is easier to roll along my desk to simulate the crash. But still, I now have a real whiplash model I made with what I had in less than half an hour, it will work for this year!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Forces Playlist of Phyz

The Forces Playlist of Phyz
SONGARTISTYEAR
Carry That WeightThe Beatles1969
First PushDeVotcKa2005
Force of Nature (Bonus Track)Lenka2008
Force TenRush1987
Forces ... Darling (Featuring Earl Zinger)Koop2006
FrictionImagine Dragons2014
FrictionMorcheeba1998
FrictionShame2018
FrictionTauk2014
FrictionTelevision1977
The Girl With the Weight of the World in Her HandsIndigo Girls1990
Grace In GravityThe Story1991
GravityAgainst The Current2015
GravityDaughtry2018
GravityJesse Cook2005
GravityJohn Mayer2006
GravityA Perfect Circle2003
GravitySara Bareilles2008
GravityWith Confidence2017
Gravity (feat. JMR)Jai Wolf2016
Gravity (Stripped)Wage War2017
Please Push No MoreGary Numan1980
PullBlind Melon1996
PullMicrowave2019
Pull ShapesThe Pipettes2007
Pulling Mussels (From The Shell)Squeeze1980
PushMatchbox Twenty1996
PushSarah McLachlan2003
Push on for the DawnCorinne Bailey Rae2016
Stop Draggin' My Heart AroundTom Petty & The Heartbreakers1981
Tension Is A Passing NoteSixpence None The Richer2002
WeightlessAdam French2017
WeightlessBlondfire2004
WeightlessBrina Eno and Daniel Lanois1989
WeightlessChris Burkich2016
WeightlessCity And Colour2011
WeightlessThird Eye Blind2016
WeightlessWashed Out2013
Weightless3112011
Weightless (feat. Shungudzo)Hayden James2019

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Where we are with phones in the classroom

Students being distracted by phones at school began registering in the early 2010s. By the late 2010s, the problem was full-blown.

Teachers and administrators were somewhat flat-footed in their response. They didn't understand the depth of the phone addiction epidemic because they hadn't ever suffered from it. That was a mistake.

Amid the generational gap in understanding, teachers were overrun. Many wearied of pleading and admonishing and bribing and punishing students to keep them from using their phones in class. 

As in any profession, teachers populate a spectrum of professionalism. And at one end of the spectrum, some teachers were delighted to discover that they could produce a silent classroom of happy students by letting them "phone out" (zone out on their phones). Teacher effort required: zero. A perfect pacifier. 

There were also the "treat-em-like-adults" optimists who felt that given free anytime access, 14 year-olds in class would exercise  only use their phones if they truly needed to. They were shocked by the ubiquity of that need. 

There were also jerks like me. I never harbored any patience for unauthorized phone use in class. And my authorizations were few and far between. Very few. The "No Phone Zone" policy is displayed and repeatedly announced. But there were always students who were undeterred. 

Those students were accustomed to teachers begging and pleading. They'd often make an attempt at discretion by hiding their phone behind books or a backpack on the desk. They were in complete disbelief when I assigned them Saturday school upon their very first phone infraction. But that tended to keep subsequent infractions in check to some extent.

Two years ago I cleared out part of my room to make space for a backpack cubbies. Thirty-two: one for each seating location in the classroom. And I authored an accompanying limerick:

The phone goes into the pack
The pack goes into the rack
Kindly observe
That the parking's reserved
In an hour you'll get it all back

The backpack rack is reasonably effective. But phone addiction is strong among teenagers. And getting stronger. Some keep their phone in a pocket rather than surrendering it to the pack which will lie feet away from them for the duration of the period. And, as mentioned previously, my zero tolerance casts me as an intolerant jerk who just doesn't "get it". Some colleagues would suggest I'm not meeting the students where they are.

In 2019, we have sporadic tales of schoolwide attempts to minimize phone distraction in class. My own school flirted with Pocket Points. It required no expenditure and was simple to defeat. Other schools are trying magnetically locked phone bags. The logistics seem cumbersome and, again, teenagers know how to defeat these measures. The addiction is strong.



There is no research that I'm aware of that touts the benefits of student phone use in class. Research to the contrary doesn't seem hard to find. For example:


France has banned phones from classrooms. I don't foresee this happening anywhere in the US. Because
1. many parents delight in having immediate access to their children throughout the school day.
2. classroom teachers, many of whom have all but surrendered on the phone issue, strive to find positive uses for the phones they know will be up and running during class.
3. administrators fall behind in assigning phone-violation discipline as it is. That only stands to get worse with an all-out ban

I will continue to be a No Phone Zone jerk in my own classroom, allowing phone-friendly colleagues to appear "chill" in comparison. Some will argue that students won't be able to concentrate, anxious from having been separated from their phones.

I plan to retire in 2023.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The threat of gun violence at schools

When I began teaching in 1986, all the doors on my school's sprawling 64-acre campus opened via doorknobs. And those doorknobs locked from the outside. All classrooms open to the great outdoors. We had emergency procedures for fires and earthquakes.

Since Columbine, the doors were retrofitted with exterior pull handles and interior crash bars. The doors can be locked from the inside. Emergency procedures of lockdown and shelter-in-place were added.

In recent years, a predictable pattern has emerged. Whenever an unscheduled lockdown or shelter-in-place occurs (and they are rare), the principal will get messages from concerned parents worried that the school had not taken the threat seriously enough. The verdict of disappointment will be shared, and further drills are scheduled.

We were recently placed on lockdown during our half-hour lunch period. I hustled nearby students (none of whom I knew) into my classroom and locked the room down. I was impressed how quickly the bustling outdoor lunch crowd of 1900+ students cleared into classrooms. The lockdown was eventually downgraded to a shelter in place. An administrator checked my classroom to provide an update.

(We later learned that a proximate shooting threat to a nearby school was made on social media. Nothing came of it other than that the recently expelled student from that school who made the threat was taken into custody in another part of town.)

As far as I could tell, the whole episode went to plan. My room of strangers behaved well and emerged unscathed.

But dissatisfaction was phoned in in the aftermath, so staff underwent additional training, and a followup drill was scheduled.

There is an assumption and expectation that schools (including open-air, indefensible campuses) stand ready to protect students from any attack at any time. No such expectation existed in 1986.

In any case, one thing faculty were warned against was any discussion that would do anything to diminish the fear of a potential mass shooting at the school. Stating the real statistics on mass shootings at school was cast as a no-no.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that the unfettered access to military-grade assault weaponry designed specifically to kill humans on the battlefield is a problem. Mass shootings at schools are a problem. But I'm not keen to put a spin on facts and reality. I listened to this just days after our emergency emergency training session.

On the Media: How to Report on Gun Violence in America


I'm fairly confident that every lockdown incident on campus, no matter how well executed by students and staff, will result in complaints of perceived shortcomings sent in by people who were not present during the incident. This will result in further emergency emergency training sessions and drills.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Mechanical Universe all episode access page

If you want a single page with easy-to-find links to every episode of The Mechanical Universe, we have something in common.

I made such a page and posted it to my phyz.org domain.

College (half-hour) episode links are on the top table, High School Adaptations are listed on the bottom table. I arranged the episodes into groups that make sense to me. I hope they make sense to you, too.

I use the high school version with question sets in my classes. Links to the question sets on my Teachers Pay Teachers site, The Lessons of Phyz, can also be found on the page.

With all episodes of The Mechanical Universe (college and high school) streaming for free, I'm moving these video presentations away from class time to "YouTube homework."

Since I couldn't find anyone selling or streaming the high school adaptations of The Mechanical Universe, I posted them, myself. I wrote about that in a previous post.

Here's the page: The Mechanical Universe of Phyz.