Saturday, August 08, 2020

Phone app Phyphox looks promising

Like many, I've been trying to get a handle on potential distance learning tools over Summer Nocation. It seems there is a vast library of resources and web tools for instruction in general and physics instruction. 

I use PhET already. I'm working with my district to gain access to Pivot Interactives. My district's LMS is Google Classroom, while our SIS is Q (Aequitas).

I have never used Flipgrid, Padlet (or Wakelet), EdPuzzle, Quizizz, Socrative, Screencastify or Screencast-o-matic, Loom, Zoom, Peardeck, Jamboard, Desmos, Edulastic, Flippity, or any other must-have tool that is explained in a video that features a noodling xylophone over a strummed ukulele while a narrator announces, "This ... is <ProductName>. The tool that lets you <do the thing you didn't even know was critical to your instruction program, but is—especially now in distance learning>". If a personal favorite of yours is in that list, you may be tempted to cast me as a luddite. 

There is no shortage of webinars of experts who have been using these tools for years, where importance of Bitmoji is made unambiguous, as is the value of carefully curating of your virtual Zoom background.

At the virtual AAPT Summer Meeting 2020, the phone app, Phyphox, caught my eye (thanks to Susan Johnston's presentation). Like Google's Science Journal app, it leverages a phone's many sensors.

In addition to the activities available from Phyphox, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has prepared a series of physics distance learning lessons. I already had the app on my phone, but I was compelled to open it and play around on my own.

As with so many things in the realm of Distance Learning, there is a question as to whether it's appropriate to assume our students have access to a smartphone. 

I'm not going to be able to construct a new and better version of the curriculum I've been honing for over 30 years in the snap of a finger. Or at all. If things work out, we'll be back to face-to-face instruction by ... 2022 is my prognostication. Maybe even Fall, 2021. For now, we're going to do our best with the situation we're in.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Getting up to speed on airborne virus transmission

It's natural for us to harbor pride in our former students as they accomplish feats in the world. Of late, Dr. Linsey Marr, professor of environmental engineering at Virginia Tech has been filling my mainstream and social media feeds. Her insights into aerosol virus transmission are sought out by agencies and reporters. She's even smarter now than she was when she burned through my AP Physics B course once upon a time. So I'm beaming already.

When I tuned into this recorded webinar, I went from beaming too bursting. Because now she's the teacher and is doing a great job if it. In reality, she's been an excellent teacher for many years, but I've never managed to sit in on one of her classes.

In any case, it seems we all need to have a fundamental understanding of airborne virus transmission as we contemplate returning to classroom amid the pandemic. As always, knowledge is power. This is knowledge I had never hoped to be conversant in. But here we are.

This is not a brief lesson, but it is worth your time if you're a classroom teacher in the era of COVID-19.

SARS CoV 2 in Indoor Air: Principles and Scenarios

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Virtual Lab Reports

As we all embark on an uncertain journey of virtual learning, many science teachers are wondering what labs may look like in this virtual space. Most of us are familiar with PhET simulations and other resources to do a virtual lab, but how do students communicate their thinking? I was inspired by Lyndsay Schobel's tweet to write up a few quick thoughts. I'm no expert, but I thought I'd share things that I've tried.

Some Digital Lab Report Templates

Link to my template

In the past, I've used the template linked above with varying levels of success. I like that it prompts students what to do and gives examples of what is expected. This template is for a model development lab, where students are developing the mathematical model of a physical situation. This template is easily adapted to most model development labs, and it's easy to explicitly prompt linearization when that scaffold is needed.

By the way, the particular lab that is presented in that template is one designed by Marta Stoeckel. She wrote about it in her The Physics Teacher article Defining Electric Potential Difference by Moving a Multimeter’s Ground Probe. Which leads me to my next point.

Marta's lab template is better, and you can find it at the link below.

Link to Marta's lab template

It is designed for in-person instruction, but I think that it could be adapted pretty easily to virtual learning. It is more involved, but it also provides more scaffolding. I'll probably look at adapting it for my own curriculum this year.

Digital Graphs Tools

I have two tools I recommend: Desmos and Vernier's Graphical Analysis, and both are free! Tutorials on how to use them for graphing can be found here for Desmos and here for Graphical Analysis. A review of each follows.

Desmos wins as the the most intuitive math software that's ever been made. It also has the benefit of being a more universal tool, and your students will likely be familiar with it from math class. That sort of cross-curricular software support is great. It also runs in-browser, so you don't need to download anything. It's biggest drawback is that it is a math software first and a data analysis software second. As a result, sometimes data analysis things can slip through the cracks (like remembering to label your axes).

Graphical Analysis is made with graphing data in mind, which is its biggest benefit. It explicitly prompts students for axis labels and units. It also has linearization tools (tutorial here) built in as a feature. If your school has Vernier Equipment like ours does, you are also getting the students familiar with software with which their equipment can interface. The drawbacks are that Graphical Analysis requires a download (sometimes a pain for Chromebooks) and that it isn't a more widely used tool like Desmos.

Since Graphical Analysis is software and not a cloud-based solution, students also need to save their work as they are working. I've found that this is not common practice among many of my students who have grown up in the Google Suite age, so they need to be reminded of that.

If your students have access to a Windows or Mac computer and you want them to consider uncertainty, Kelly O'Shea has recommended LinReg in the past.

Where students need direct instruction

The biggest place students need direct instruction is in turning their graph into a readable image. Both Desmos and Graphical Analysis have options to export graphs as image files, but many students do not choose this option. Instead, they'll take screenshots of their work and then upload the screenshot. This often leads to a graph image with illegible axes.

Students also create graphs with a lot of white space instead of making their data fit the graph window. Again, this is not hard to fix, but you need to provide students with instruction on how to fix it.

I'd recommend just having students resubmit graphs without penalty until they get it right. If you're annoying enough, they'll only make the mistake once. This is one of the benefits of Google Doc based lab reports--they can always be updated!

Thursday, July 09, 2020

My Flexible Hybrid Learning Plan

Welcome to my debut Blog of Phyz post! I was encouraged by Dean Baird to write a bit about my current flexible hybrid learning plan for the 2020-2021 school year that I posted on Twitter. Great idea! I hope that it can be helpful to others as they try to plan in the face of uncertainty.

The Plan

Let's cut to the chase. Here is the outline for my plan. The rationale follows.

It is currently based on my typical pre-COVID schedule, where I teach a class two 105 minute blocks and one 50 minute class per week. It's likely that I will have to change the times, but I think the philosophy behind it is solid and adaptable.

Guiding Principles

There were three guiding principles in making this schedule: simplicity, consistency, and flexibility.

Simplicity. This structure allows me to make good use of many of the high-quality resources that already exist, such as TIPERS, Ranking Tasks, Flipping Physics videos, Interactive Lecture Demonstrations, and so on.

Consistency. The students will see the same general structure each week, and they will know what to expect if they have to miss class. There should never be any surprises. Hopefully this reduces the "Hey, Mr. Milliano! Did I miss anything? What did I miss?" type questions. They'll know to check the recorded videos and their independent module for the week.

Flexibility. Much of this plan is structured around helping students to self-study and manage their own time. Even if we start the school year in-person, I have a suspicion that we will be online at some point. Students will need to know how to self-study, so we should explicitly prepare them for that while we're together. The teacher-led parts of the plan are things that I'd likely be able to do over video or Zoom, allowing them to work for in-person or online classes.

Independent Modules

Each module would be one week long, starting on Wednesday and ending the following Tuesday.

A module would consist of seven 30-minute tasks, three to be completed in class and four to be completed at home. This could be adjusted to five 30-minute tasks and one 60-minute task, or so on.

These modules would each include at least one of each of the following.
  • An information transfer task. This will often be a student-choice between reading the textbook or watching Flipping Physics videos. For accountability, I will likely have students post pictures of their notes and respond to discussion board prompts in our LMS.
  • A virtual lab or activity. These will come from the usual suspects: PhET, The Physics Classroom, Pivot Interactives, etc.
  • Sense-making tasks. These will include traditional problems, non-traditional problems, making Flipgrid videos explaining a simulation, Google Meets with classmates to collaborate and discuss ideas, posting on discussion boards, writing activities, and more.
Students will be asked to plan their own schedule, with guidance from me and the help of a graphic organizer that I'll make. As an incentive to stick to the plan and as an accountability measure, I'll check in with each student during their independent work time and see if they've stuck to their plan. If so, I'll give them a stamp or a sticker. (I'll never cease to be amazed at how motivating stamps and stickers are to 15-18 year-old students.)


The grade will be almost entirely based on weekly quizzes, except for the occasional lab report. This means no long unit tests (to take or to grade)! I will use a version of the 10-8-6-5 flavor of Standards-Based Grading described by Kelly O'Shea on her blog.

The weekly quiz can assess any standard from throughout the whole year, and most standards will be assessed multiple times in class. The most recent standard grade will always replace an older one. Yes, even if it's worse. (Although that rarely happens.)

Student-initiated individual reassessment

Students will have the option to reassess any standard they want throughout the whole year, assuming they have put in the work to understand it better than they did previously. I will have several policies in place to make sure that these reassessments are (a) genuinely reflective for the student and (b) not an administrative nightmare for me.
  • Reassessments will be taken on Fridays in class during the typical self-study time. This gives me a specific time to focus on this reassessments, rather than try to do them in random spurts throughout the week.
  • The student must sign up to take a reassessment by the Tuesday of the week they want to reassess. This tells me that the student has put thought into what they want to reassess.
  • When signing up, the student must provide concrete evidence that they have done extra practice on that standard. This tells me that they have learned from their past mistakes and have put in the work to refine their thinking.
  • The student can only reassess two standards per week, and they must be from the same unit. This helps me write new assessments or find questions quickly and easily.
  • I will only write reassessments for two units and four standards per week. This means I'm not trying to write too many new assessments per week.
  • Only x number of students per class can reassess in a given week. I don't know what the optimal number for x is, but I know there needs to be a limit.
  • There is a definite final date to reassess. For me, that's Friday, December 4, 2020 for the first semester.

Why I like this plan

This plan provides flexibility. There is so much uncertainty surrounding school plans for next fall, and we all know anything could change at the drop of a hat. I believe that this structure could provide the flexibility needed to work fully in-person, fully online, or in a hybrid model. It also allows me to do both online and face-to-face with roughly the same lesson plan.

This plan is not complete. I teach in a St. Louis county school, and all county districts have agreed to release their plans together on July 20. So I don't really know what my schedule will look like yet. With this structure, though, I am confident that I can start working on building some independent study modules.

Some acknowledgements

This plan has been heavily influenced by several conversations that I've had recently with physics teachers on Twitter. I'd like to thank Wesley Morgan for encouraging me to keep things simple this year, Frank Noschese for talking about his plan to make one plan that works in any scenario, and Phillip Easton for sharing how his class has been structured in a similar way in the past.

Monday, July 06, 2020

My district's initial plan for 2020-21

My district plans to offer high school students three options as the 2020-21 academic year begins. 

1. On-site, face-to-face instruction (details TBD; may or may not involve physical distancing and a hybrid structure)
2. Distance Learning
3. Independent Study (K-8 students can also be homeschooled)

I sent this to my science department colleagues today:

As we consider returning to face-to-face, physically distanced instruction, let’s consider what has/hasn’t changed since the March 13 shutdown. Or things just worthy of consideration, period.

• There is no vaccine. The most optimistic estimates put vaccine implementation at late 2021. As in ... no vaccine throughout the entire 2020-21 school year. Seems cruel just to think about it, but not thinking about it may lead to poor decision-making.
• Predictions are difficult, especially when the future's involved. Experts seem to be convinced that a second wave will build in the fall. That presumes the first wave will subside prior to the fall. The first wave continues to escalate as of this writing.
• Therapeutics? Remdesivir (for those who can get it) may reduce hospitalization time by four days for those who pull through. That's not really much of a therapeutic. 
• We know transmission likelihood is increased when people congregate indoors.
• No school’s HVAC system was designed / can be easily modified to minimize virus transmission. Our HVAC doesn’t have HEPA filtration. I'd be surprised if we have any filtration at all. Some of us can endeavor to maintain a flow of fresh air by opening doors and window vents, but that’s case by case, and involves air temperatures that may not be conducive to learning, and it subject to day to day meteorological conditions. 
• What do we think about teenager discipline regarding mask-wearing and physical distancing? Every day they are on campus? Every period and during passing periods? Every student? 
• What do we think the consequences will be for students who violate safety protocols?
• The virus remains active in the region. People are infected with it every day. People die from it every day. Sacramento county is on the state’s watch list due its troubling C19 stats. We are in a viral hot spot.
• Parents are tired of providing daycare. They want their kids out of their house. They need day care to get back to their jobs. This factor seems to be trumping all other facts. 

Digging deeper into the ponderables and the realm of speculation ... and logistics that will eventually have concrete answers even if we don't know what they are now...

• Which students are most likely to be sent back to Face-to-Face schooling? And which ones will be kept away from school in Distance Learning? A purely academic / speculative question, but worth thinking about. 
• Will students in Distance Learning be able to maintain the course selections they made in the spring? I have a small AP Physics 2 class. What if half of them want F2F and half want DL? 
• If the DL requests reduce the F2F numbers on campus, will the district really maintain all the sections that were mapped out into the master schedule in the spring?
• Who has our best interests in mind is we navigate into the unknown: elected officials (or their health directors), the district, the union, who? I believe we are on our own here—even more than usual. And we know full well that policy-makers don't always make decisions based on science. 

The science seems clear on the virus: closing down suppresses infection rates and reopening leads to spikes. The virus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets and aerosols emitted when doing things like speaking. Enclosed spaces are conducive to transmission.

But human nature compels us to think we can get away with reopening if we simply engage in what seems like common-sense, general public health precautions: hand-washing, temperature checks, ask people maintain distance, don masks, and dole out copious squirts of hand sanitizer. 

The first schools to open will be the canaries in the coal mine. SJSUD is intent on being an early-opening district in a viral hot spot. 

Who sees this going well? In such a way that we magically dodge the well-established realities of viral transmission? If anyone has a case study to point to, kindly send me a link. 

I find it hard to disagree with this opinion/analysis:

[Parent surveys reportedly include a considerable bloc of advocates for students attending five days/week with no physical distancing or mask requirements: pre-COVID practices.]

We have until July 10 to request a voluntary transfer to Distance Learning for 2020-21. The details would be a post of its own. Not all requests will be honored. 

UPDATE: Concerns about aerosol transmission is emerging. If you want to keep up with the aerosol/virus science, follow Dr. Linsey Marr, Professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech on Twitter. She's also a Rio Americano PhyzMaster (1991). I am as proud as can be when I think of the work she's doing and I might "squee!" a little bit when she pops up in news articles and media interviews. I am nothing but confident of her abilities, and she's handling the attention with characteristic aplomb. But I regret the circumstances that have thrust her into the spotlight.

So, what is your district doing and what is your thinking about it?

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by.

When the pandemic closed schools in mid-March, one of the myriad question marks that loomed was if or how the Advance Placement Exams would proceed. As it became clear that schools would not reconvene for the remainder of the year, that question mark loomed larger. I teach AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2.

The College Board decided to proceed with the exams, albeit in a highly modified format. Exam content was pruned. College Board offered online lessons intended to prepare students for the content and format of the exams.

From what I gathered via Twitter, most instructors jumped on board on did what they could to coach their students for the exam via distance instruction. From what I could tell, there was considerable highly admirable and herculean distance learning being implemented in the AP Physics realm.

I chose a different path. It was never clear to me that many of my students were aiming to take the exam. At my school, students are free to enroll in AP courses without being required to purchase the exam. Survey results of whether students were going to take the exam in light of the pandemic, most of my students chose neither "yes" nor "no". They chose "maybe".

In AP Physics 1, I continued teaching the course content: Waves, Electricity, and Circuits.

It seemed wrong to allow AP Physics 1 students to be allowed to go out into the world not knowing what waves were.

So I puttered along with my non-onerous, asynchronous lessons delivered and collected via Google Classroom, making my way through waves, then electrostatics, and electric circuits.

What about my students who intended to take the exam? I instructed them to join the College Board's online course webinars. I unlocked the practice items available to them in AP Classroom.
The point is that all of us who teach the College Board's Advanced Placement had to make a choice of what to prioritize: exam preparation or course content.
I chose course content. From what I could glean, I was alone in this choice. That didn't bother me. I didn't blog about it then because I wasn't looking to win converts or initiate a spirited debate. I trusted everyone to make the choice best suited to their situation.

The presumption of the College Board was clearly that we would jump on board with exam prep in these challenging times. From what I could tell from their communications, The Exam wasn't everything, it was The Only Thing.

In a normal, face-to-face year, I would have completed those topics prior to the exam and would have ended the year (post-exam) with what I call "Light Desserts". That unit covers plane mirrors, prisms, rainbows, double rainbows across the sky, mirages, why the sky is blue, and polarization. Not this year.

In AP Physics 2, I had completed virtually all principal instruction. We were ready to go into exam prep mode, for the Exam That Was. I directed AP2 students intent on taking the exam to join the College Board's webinars, too. And assigned the others a few enrichment activities.

It is not clear that my choice "has made all the difference", but it was the choice that I made. And it still seems like it was the right choice for me and my students.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

A summer of miracles has been scheduled

And then a miracle occurs.I'm posting this as a documentation of the moment we are in here in the depths of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

School districts have closed out the quarantine-crippled Spring 2020 semester and with it, an unprecedented school year.

Now comes decisions on what to do for the rapidly-approaching start of the 2020-2021 school year. Tax revenues have been decimated and school budgets stand to be slashed. But families are weary of quarantine and eager to get children back in schools. It turns out the economy of the nation cannot reopen unless children are back in schools.

But the pandemic continues, claiming over 1000 lives each day as of this writing. Packing bodies into close quarters on school campuses, where social distancing among school-age children is operationally impossible is a coronavirus's paradise.

Most district's are just now entering into deliberations on how to handle the beginning of the school year. My district hasn't announced the logistics, other than to confirm that the school year will start in accordance with the negotiated calendar date of August 13.

Full in-class face-to-face instruction lies at one extreme; full distance learning lies at the other. A hybrid model of physically-distanced small groups of students attending each class perhaps once a week is being considered, despite its minimal value as day-care.

Such a model would have the instructor deliver one in-class lesson per week while also providing four more days of distance learning, preferably asynchronous instruction. But what—exactly—to teach, and how? Across the entirety of a large, suburban unified school district?

That's what brings us to this. I see it as my district's call for miracle work to be done over the summer. Full disclosure: I do not work miracles, so I did not apply. I anticipate putting in many hours of uncompensated work over the summer to prepare curriculum on my own.

But if I were keen to collect $4000, all I would need to do is

• Attend 4-6 hours of pre-training
Develop 45 physics lessons to be utilized within the first four months of the school year that
· provide background information and introduce new content to prepare students for in class or synchronous learning.
build skills associated with the essential standards, allowing the teacher of record discretion on how to integrate the lessons with their distance learning environment.
· Also, these 45 lessons will include implementation recommendations, supplemental and supporting resources, formative and summative assessments.

For our nine high school district, there will be one physics practitioner responsible for the design of these 45 lessons. I wish that person well.


Summer 2020 Work to Prepare Lessons Aligned to Essential Standards 

In any typical year, we may face challenges of getting all students to reach mastery of all standards. Given this unprecedented time, we believe that it will be even more challenging to cover all of the standards in 2020-2021 as we would during a typical school year. In an attempt to reduce stress and address this reality, while still trusting professionals and believing in professional autonomy, we have recently convened joint teams of practitioners and administrators to draft guidelines for ‘Essential Standards’ for each grade level and core academic content area. Within this work, essential standards represent the minimum a student must learn to reach higher levels of learning. In order for a standard to be identified as “essential” it would either be a power standard or building block standard that is necessary for students to master in order to be:
❖ successful later in the year
❖ successful in the next grade or course level
❖ successful across other domains or content areas

● To utilize the expertise of San Juan practitioners and support their colleagues by creating, developing and providing a bank of lessons that are accessible online so that in-person or synchronous learning can focus on differentiation, relationship building, assessing learning, etc.
○ The bank of lessons will be available for practitioners to supplement and support their focus on the essential standards guidelines.
○ These lessons may be used to help practitioners use alternative methods of instruction (for example flipping the classroom).

Scope of work (Elementary):
The goal of each practitioner or team of practitioners is to curate content and create lessons to support the implementation of essential standards guidelines up to winter break.

Scope of work (Secondary):
The goal of each practitioner or team of practitioners is to curate content and create lessons to support the implementation of essential standards guidelines for the first semester.

Expected deliverables for essential standards include:
● A fully prepared unit of study ​which can be delivered in an asynchronous manner
○ Lesson plans housed in the San Juan Google drive (each practitioner/team will develop 45 lessons in total, by content and grade level, to be utilized within the first four months of the school year).
■ The focus of each lesson in a unit of study is to:
● provide background information, and introduce new
content to prepare students for in class or synchronous learning. (The in-class or synchronous learning is where the classroom teacher can differentiate for individual or small group practice, collaboration or extention of the concepts being taught.)
● build skills associated with the essential standards, allowing the teacher of record discretion on how to integrate the lessons with their distance learning environment.
○ Implementation recommendations
○ Supplemental and supporting resources
○ Formative and summative assessments

Practitioners selected will:
● participate in pre-training (4-6 hours in total, dates and times TBD)
○ Technology and platform integration
○ Review lesson exemplars/templates
○ Calibration of deliverables
● collaborate weekly with the district's professional learning support teams to ensure coordination of efforts and deliverables

Selection Assignments
Both parties value all subject matters that are taught in San Juan Unified and believe that a comprehensive education includes music, art, physical education, health, and electives. Unfortunately, during this crisis both funds and time are limited. The parties realize regrettably that the assignments below do not reflect all subject matter, courses and grade levels. These grades and subjects were identified because they align with the implementation of core content within the essential standards guidelines. As funding and time allows, other grade levels and content areas may be added in the future.

The parties agree that eighty-two (82) practitioners will be hired from the SJTA bargaining unit for the purpose of facilitating the implementation of Essential Standards Guidelines.

A. Elementary - Grade level and subject teams are set as follows:

i. English Language Arts ( 2 practitioners per grade level K-5)
ii. Math (2 practitioners per grade level K-5)
iii. ELA and Math (2 practitioners from TK :1 for ELA and 1 for math)
iv. Social studies (3 practitioners- 1 per grade for grades 3, 4 and 5)
v. Science (3 practitioners - 1 per grade for grades 3, 4 and 5)
vi. ELD (2 practitioners supporting K-2 and 3-5)
vii. Special Education Support (2 practitioners supporting K-2 and 3-5)
viii. Dual Immersion (4 practitioners covering K-8)

B. Middle School - Grade level and subject teams are set as follows:

a. Grades 6:
i. English Language Arts (1 Practitioner)
ii. Math (2 Practitioners)
iii. Social Studies / History (1 Practitioner)
iv. Science (1 Practitioner)

b. Grade 7:
i. English Language Arts (1 Practitioner)
ii. Math (2 Practitioners)
iii. Social Studies / History (1 Practitioner)
iv. Science (1 Practitioner)

c. Grade 8:
i. English Language Arts (1 Practitioner)
ii. Math (2 Practitioners)
iii. Social Studies / History (1 Practitioner)
iv. Science (1 Practitioner)

C. High School

a. English:
i. Grade 9 - ELA (2 Practitioners)
ii. Grade 10 - ELA (2 Practitioners)
iii. Grade 11 - ELA (2 Practitioners)

b. Math:
i. Integrated Math 1 (2 Practitioners)
ii. Integrated Math 2 (2 Practitioners)
iii. Integrated Math 3 (2 Practitioners)

c. Social Studies / History
i. World History (2 Practitioners)
ii. US History (2 Practitioners)
iii. US Government (1 Practitioner)
iv. Economics (1 Practitioner)

d. Science:
i. Biology (2 Practitioners)
ii. Chemistry (2 Practitioners)
iii. Physics (1 Practitioner)

e. World Language:
i. Spanish1 and 2 (2 Practitioners)
ii. French 1 and 2 (2 Practitioners)

Specific Responsibilities
Create and curate resources for essential standards guidelines for instructional staff:
● A fully prepared unit of study ​which can be delivered in an asynchronous manner
○ Lesson plans housed in the San Juan Google drive ○ Implementation recommendations
○ Supplemental and supporting resources
○ Formative and summative assessments

The term shall be June - July 2020.

The deliverables noted above are due based on the timeline below:
o Fully prepared units of study for August - September are due no later than July 22, 2020
o Fully prepared units of study for October - December are due no later than July 31, 2020

● Be a credentialed teacher with permanent status.
● Must have ‘met’ standards in two most recent evaluations.
● Understanding of unit and assessment design aligned to standards.
● Ability to collaborate with colleagues and work effectively in a team environment.
● Demonstrate exemplary teaching ability, as indicated by, among other things, effective
interpersonal communication skills, subject matter knowledge, and mastery of a range of
teaching strategies necessary to meet the needs of pupils in different contexts.
● Current school year assignment (2019-20) involves providing direct instruction to
students (​preferred, not required​).
A member interested in being considered for the Essential Standards Guidelines Summer 2020
work shall:
● Submit a completed letter of interest to ​​ by Friday June 12, 2020 which shall include:
o Relevant experience
o A list of references including at least one administrator and one colleague
o A sample distance learning lesson that has been taught sometime between March 13, 2020 and June 5, 2020.

● $4,000.00 stipend to be paid no later than September 30, 2020 
This SLA will sunset on July 31, 2020.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Gendered Mind—another myth that will not die

I am much more mellow now than I used to be. Sure I'm willing to fight when I think a fight is called for. But I think I was much more of an intellectual pugilist when I was, say, age 16 to 21.

While at The University of Michigan, I found a place for that energy. In a response to the then-new Moral Majority, a statewide grass-roots response was organized: The Voice of Reason (later to become a national organization called Americans for Religious Liberty—not a name I was excited about).

Since my interests and aptitudes lay in science, my "beat" within the organization gravitated toward the creationism debate. Among my first credited by-lines was the article I wrote for the campus publication, Consider. It was a simple, single-sheet (11"x17" brochure folded to 8.5" x 11") that featured one-page essays on the inside facing pages. A topic was identified, and authors were found for pro and con pieces. But I digress.

I was heartened by the the Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court decision that was argued months into my first year of teaching and handed down a few months later. It wasn't unanimous, but it was 7-2. I naïvely thought the issue was settled. But of course, it wasn't.

Years later in Pennsylvania, creationism newer iteration, "intelligent design" had to be put down by the courts in The Dover Case (Kitzmiller v. Dover). You would be naïve to imagine that that will be the end of the debate over maintaining the integrity of biology instruction in public schools. Judicial precedent doesn't seem to stick on this debate.

When I authored my master's thesis on gender equity in physics instruction, I came across the notion of the gendered mind. Boys were supposedly better with spatial geometry and mathematics while girls were better with language and communication. But the research supporting these "common sense" notions was weak. It seemed to be born from age-old gender bias, and the differences found by researchers were tenuous at best.

But they floated effortlessly in the updraft of societal and cultural gender norms. The supposed science presented a story that was "too good to be verified." And so it persists. To this day, it persists.

All of that to introduce a story I came across on Audm. The abridged title was "Of Two Minds".

The Discredited Science Behind the Rise of Single-Sex Public Schools

There are many important take-aways in this thorough investigation. One of them is that as an instructor, there's a good chance you will be subjected to these notions in a school or district-sanctioned in-service professional development session. You will be frowning in disapproval, but colleagues will be nodding in agreement. And it has to be legit, right? It was approved by administrators and district personnel.

It will fall upon you to rise up and put a stop to it. The cavalry isn't coming. You—and it may be you, alone—can shut this nonsense down before it goes any further. Arm yourself with articles like this so that you will have the strength that comes from knowing. And do the right thing.

Wednesday, May 06, 2020

Plandemic: What a conspiracy theory looks like when it's a baby [u]

Some critters are totally adorable when they're babies. Conspiracy theories do not. Maybe you came of age in science, reasoning, skepticism, and critical thinking after the "truthers" of 9/11 ran their course.

But given the magnitude of the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, the ground was fertile for new brand new conspiracy theories. Nonsense was sure to arise. And arise it did.


A 26-minute "trailer" for a promised documentary has exploded on YouTube. The video violates YouTube's Terms of Service, so they take it down. But it pops up with a different video address soon enough.

Watched in a vacuum of ignorance, it might seem appealing. A plucky scientist, hounded by the omnipotent "they" tells her story of oppression and betrayal. You might know "they" from such hits as "they don't want you to know" and "they have been keeping X secret from the public" and so on. There is nothing worse than "they". Nuh Thing!

The video is in a perpetual out of control spin which continues into the manifesto that is the video description. But again, it's an appealing narrative for the uninitiated. Such unfairness; such corruption.

When it bubbled up to a YouTube doctor (ZDogg), he was dumbfounded by the pure dumbosity of the video's production and claims.

A Doctor Reacts to Plandemic

I know he seems brief in his dismissal. And annoyed.

A more rigorous debunk of Plandemic can be found in the link below. It's a long read, but worth it.
Judy Mikovits in Plandemic: An antivax conspiracy theorist becomes a COVID-19 grifter

If you need something a bit more concise, try Big Think's "The anti-vaxx agenda of The Plandemic". There's even an audio version with the print article.

Since Plandemic, itself, violates YouTube's terms of service, I must leave it to you to use your Google skills to find it. Any link I provide will likely go dark before you get to click on it.

I am not a fan of censorship, and YouTube knocking this video down plays into the hands of the conspiracists who claim oppression. On the other hand, it's YouTube's platform: of you don't want to play by their rules, host your video on your own platform. It's not rocket science. The promulgators enjoy the censorship, so they won't host it, themselves.

If you are predisposed to accept conspiracy theories, you are probably already a Plandemist, admonishing the sheeple to wake up!

In any case, the baby conspiracy theory of Plandemic has been born. Where it goes from here depends on all of us.

Why is this disingenuous hot mess dangerous? Because it's attempting to plant the shopworn anti-vcxx message relative to the hoped-for coronavirus vaccine. The Plandemists will claim (without evidence) that a COVID-19 cure will be the product of the shadowy "they" in a money-grubbing, power-hungry. another evil-hyphenation-goes-here cabal set to control the world population. A population made docile by, of course, the vaccine.

I'd say the best response is "Cool story, bro, but eh ... hard pass." But the story really isn't all that cool.

UPDATE: Dr. Steven Novella is Skeptical of Plandemic


Here's a Google Docs compendium of the claims laid out in Plandemic. h/t Jamy Ian Swiss

UPDATE: From a friend of a friend on Facebook (before you ad hominem me on this, tell me the name and professional history of the person who produced Plandemic.) (Exactly!)

So...this video is now circulating widely on social media. This woman is titled as a Molecular Biologist/Medical Researcher. The guy interviewing her claims to be a 'Father/Filmaker'. The last I looked 'Filmmaker' has two 'M's in it. Anyway...this video's defenders seem so drawn into it...I took some time to evaluate, and fact check this.

00-3:00 - nothing corroborated that 'they wrecked her life'

2:07 - footage of police raid is file footage, and not her supposed 'raid'

4:10 - Fauci directed cover up. Proof? No proof given, no contrary voices to her

5:45 - paper she wrote contradicting Fauci. Where is this paper? That should be easy to show, and physically have excerpts of paper for the video

7:35 - Fauci and CDC director Redfield own patents. Proof? A look at the patent office should be indication. They don't do this easy check. So, no proof

8:15 - Who is this 'expert'? No graphic I.D., so we can check his credentials

9:26 - Bill Gates accusations...Proof? None offered

9:48 - 'Vaccines kill millions'...Proof? None offered

10:23 - she says 'I can't say it was man made, but'...what exactly is she saying? This is intentionally vague

10:34 in - Quick length of time proves virus was manipulated. Proof that this is always the case?

10:54 in - she says 'Virus didn't occur at a market'. Proof?

11:26 in - article is from, which is a British conservative tabloid...hardly objective

11:31 in - footage from CGTN, which is China State-Run TV, and who is the 'reporter'? Could be anyone speaking over the footage. Could be friend of the 'filmmaker' or 'fimmaker'...we don't know

11:38 in - article from, rated as an 'Extreme Right-Wing conspiracy site

13:55 in - Bakersfield doctors, that have been widely discredited. They get a lot of time in this video

14:50 in - Host says that he 'talked to many doctors' that incentivize Covid-19. Where is the footage of ANY of them being talked to? That would be what a 'filmmaker' or ummm 'Filmmaker' does.

15:08 in - Doctor on clip says that hospitals are paid '$13,000 for Covid diagnosis, and $39,000 for a Covid ventilator'. Snopes link below widely weakens that claim

15:29 in - person in clip has medical scrubs on, but who is he? could be an average person with a medical shirt on. We never see his name or title.

15:40 in - proof of Italy vaccine?

16:40 in - from 'WashingtonTimes' - a conservative daily newspaper...and who is 'reporter' narrating? Could be anyone

17:12 in - Mikovits says 'thousands of documents on hydroxychloroquine'...well, where are ANY of these documents? None offered

18:55 in - She says flu vaccine makes a person more susceptible to Coronavirus. That is disproven in link below

21:02 in - host says 'You're not the first person to tell me that we are doing the exact opposite of what we should be doing'...well, 'filmmaker' us ANY of these other people

22:55 in - who is this doctor? No I.D. to check his credentials

24:55 in - she says 'every medical person who has learned about this has turned their opinion around'. Show us ONE person that has changed their views? None offered.

Below, and in the comments, I will post a bunch of links that debunk some of the claims made in this video, and I will also cut and paste them here.

Snopes: Was a Scientist Jailed After Discovering a Deadly Virus Delivered Through Vaccines?

Snopes: Is Medicare Paying Hospitals $13K for Patients Diagnosed with COVID-19, $39K for Those on Ventilators?

USA Today: Fact check: Getting flu shot doesn't make you more (or less) likely to get the coronavirus

23ABCNews Bakersfield: Kern County Public Health does "not concur" with statements made by Accelerated Urgent Care doctors

Reddit r/Moronavirus: Where can I find a good rebuttal to "Plandemic"?

For those of you looking at this post, and saying 'geez'...I spent about an hour and a half on this. It doesn't take much time to scrutinize/fact check a 26 minute video, especially this one.

She is selling a book on this literally drums up interest in her book. Who is the host? A family member? A good friend? We don't we...

Actual journalism always backs up statements. This does nothing to back up claims. This has no one on to debunk her, and it also has no one on to back her claims. Yet, somehow, many people have attached themselves to a doctor, whom they know only from a YouTube video, who has questionable credentials, and is questioned about her repeated attempts to create conspiracy theories...maybe to sell more books. If you click to watch the video...enjoy the marketing attempt.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Grade Inflation Pandemic of 2020, Part 2: The Solution

Call me Physics Oprah. Because everyone on my roster gets an A this semester. Everyone.

If you didn't read Part 1 (below), you won't realize why I have adopted this grading solution.

After you read Part 1, you may not like this solution. I do not like this solution. But Part 1 details how all the teachers in the San Juan Unified School District were needlessly and deliberately thrown into a no-win scenario. And there are no good solutions to a no-win scenario.

The object lesson provided by the highest-paid district leadership and the dues-collecting union officials couldn't be clearer:
Angry, misguided, vocal minorities operating on incorrect information are to be respected and appeased. 
You could start with a well-reasoned, correct and deliberative position. But abandon it without a fight when any opposition is mounted. Ill-informed? Misguided? It doesn't matter. It's opposition, so capitulation is the expedient response.

I don't like it. It's a policy that comforts the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. But it wasn't my call. I argued against it to no avail.

But the call has been made and I must roll with it.

It's clear that none of the decision-makers have ever been classroom teachers. If they had, they would realize that they were asking teachers to keep a double set of gradebooks: one set for students happy with the default C/NC and a second for students who were petitioning for letter grades. My god.

I am sure that after throwing teachers under the bus, district and union leadership imagined energetic and innovative teachers would find some way to thread the eyeless needle and develop a second set of online/distance learning policies that would keep students fully engaged with powerful teaching and learning.

And they may be onto something. A colleague compared his Unit 5 and Unit 6 test scores. The Unit 5 test was administered in a secure classroom setting. The average score was under 40%. His Unit 6 test administered online. The average was over 100%. He had clearly made a successful transition to online learning and his students were shining in this new environment. Only a hardened cynic would so much as suggest that elevated Unit 6 scores may have been influenced by cheating of any kind.

So yes, I'm giving all my students A's. Because I have no idea what each of them is up against, but I do know exactly what I'm up against. I will share the news of this obvious grade inflation as far and wide as I can. Admissions officers at colleges and universities need to know: I'm giving all my students A's for Spring 2020. And I'm not the only one. Check out this news from San Francisco. The angry, misguided petitioners' victory is entirely pyrrhic.

I'm giving all my students A's. Because when everyone gets an A, no one gets and A.

But doesn't that hurt students who could have distinguished themselves from their classmates with a performance-based A supported by documentary evidence? Yes it does. But in Spring 2020, we do not possess the means to assemble that performance-based documentary evidence.

That's why Credit / No Credit was the sole correct solution to the circumstances. Those are the only honest grades that can be earned this semester. But the district abandoned honesty. And so will I.

Do colleges and universities need to populate their freshman classes with appropriately capable students? Yes they do. But the Spring 2020 grades in your course (and many courses across the country) may not be an honest reflection of students' capabilities. True. Somehow, colleges will need to overcome The Grade Inflation Pandemic of 2020. I have confidence in their abilities to do so.

Primary source documentation available in the comments.