Sunday, May 30, 2010

Conceptual Physics PhET-based Tech Labs

There are some awkward time slots that arise at my school this time of year. We schedule final exams in a semi-staggered manner so that seniors are done with their final exams two days before undeclassmen.

So we have a senior finals schedule and an underclassmen finals schedule. They intersect on one day. Two of the three senior finals days are block days in which morning block senior classes have final exams, but afternoon blocks do not. Add to this the fact that physics and AP Physics are mixed-year classes, and you've got some good times!

I schedule the final exams in physics on the senior finals schedule. But that leaves me with two non-final block periods with all students and three non-final block periods with underclassmen only. All of this, of course, at the end of the school year, when students are focused on academics and performing at their best!

One solution to these "empty periods" is classroom cinema. But I don't like that idea so much. Still it's like pulling teeth to get some students engaged in robust, challenging physics work.

This year, I'm going to try the "Conceptual Physics PhET Variety Pack". I put together a collection of PhET-based Tech Labs for Pearson Addison Wesley's Conceptual Physics Laboratory Manual: Activities · Experiments · Demonstrations · Tech Labs. There are some we never got to try in class. So I ran copies of each, and will let students choose which ones they'd like to try. They'll count as lab points toward students' grades.

I posted a page with links to PDFs of the student labs, and to the corresponding PhET simulations.

Conceptual Physics PhET-based Tech Labs

There are tech labs for every part of Conceptual Physics: Mechanics, Properties of Matter, Heat, Sound, Electricity and Magnetism, Light, and Atomic and Nuclear Physics. And many PhET simulations are leveraged: Moving Man, My Solar System, Masses and Springs, Gas Properties, Electric Field Hockey, John Travoltage, Wave Interference, and Radioactive Dating Game. I'm working on one for The Photoelectric Effect, but I doubt it will see the light of day (!) before the school year is out.

Is that Alice Cooper I see waiting in the wings?

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