Sunday, September 27, 2015

My "Information for Parents" folder, 09/2015 additions

I've created an Information for Parents folder in my Schoology "ecosystem" ("edusystem"?).

In it, I placed the information discussed in the post below. And links to

"Leaning Physics is Tough. Get Used to It" by Rhett Allain in WIRED

Yes, students learn physics by working on problems and by failing to solve problems. It’s the journey to the solution that’s important, not the solution itself. Using a video solution would be like using a golf cart to run 5 miles. Sure, you end up in the same place if you run or ride—but they do not produce the same results.


"Declining Student Resilience: A Serious Problem for Colleges" by Peter Gray in Psychology Today

We have raised a generation of young people who have not been given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. They have not been given the opportunity to get into trouble and find their own way out, to experience failure and realize they can survive it, to be called bad names by others and learn how to respond without adult intervention. So now, here’s what we have. Young people,18 years and older, going to college still unable or unwilling to take responsibility for themselves, still feeling that if a problem arises they need an adult to solve it.

There may be a theme building here. And I may be overcome by the tide. But for now, I'm standing strong.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What I did for Back to School Night #30

We started the school year (with students) on August 13th this year. That's a record early start date. Who remembers when school didn't begin until after Labor Day. Such places still exist. Just not where I teach.

Our Back-to-School Night was September 9th. For the past many years, I eschewed any discussion of policies for the 10-minute talk to parents. Instead, I presented a shortened version of the presentation I give in my Physics, AP Physics 1, and AP Physics 2 courses: "Physics Begins With an M". It's good stuff. And it would often generate at least one spontaneous round of applause at the 10-minute mark.

This time around, I spoke to the parents about the content of the course, how grades are determined, and the importance of engagement. The talk was not devoid of humor, but it was certainly heavier than my previous presentation.

I also upped the page-count of the handout I give to parents at the session. The hope is that the handout I distribute to parents who come in tells them everything they could want to know. That takes the pressure off the 10-minute session we have together. That said, I never open the floor to parent questions. Time is short, and that tactic has a great potential for failure.

Here's the handout I provide.

Back to School Night Parent Information

I also give them this:

How Not to Get Stuck on Physics Homework / How to Succeed in Physics.

And yes, my very first Back to School Night was in September of 1986. Ronald Reagan was President and California Governor George Deukmejian had a daughter at my school. He was at that Back to School Night, too. So this edition of BTSN was my 30th.

Dipping a toe into Schoology

Back in the late 1990s, I was keen to establish a presence on the nascent World Wide Web. I created pages with Adobe's PageMill in hopes of creating in a WYSIWYG environment rather than get bogged down in the intricacies of HyperText Markup Language (HTML).

By 2000, I was creating and posting Portable Document Format (PDF) files of my curriculum materials. That process is intertwined with meeting and befriending Paul G. Hewitt. It was in the early 2000s that I registered the domain name. In 2006, I started The Blog of Phyz.

In the late 2000s, my school district began providing a website generation service (SchoolWorld). I already had a relative "palace" on the web. By comparison, the district's service allowed teachers to create quaint cottages. I wasn't interested.

The district has discontinued its relationship with SchoolWorld in favor of a new relationship with SchoolWires. It also has an enterprise account with Schoology.

I'm exploring the utility and capabilities of Schoology. I use it primarily as an organizational tool for the curriculum in my courses. It seems useful in that regard. But nothing's as useful as the palace I've built at

One bright spot is the fact that tests created with ExamView can be exported to Blackboard format. Tests in Blackboard format can be imported by Schoology at online tests. Schoology can be configured in terms of test administration and the results are posted in class roster lists. Pretty slick! (It would be nice if ExamView showed any signs of life since 2012.}

In a way, it appears the logistics of Schoology make it possible to violate copyright law without interference or consequence. Only students and parents of students enrolled in courses can see the Schoology pages (and links and materials) associated with the course. So the violations are small-scale, I suppose.

Anyway, we'll see how it all goes. 

We could be evolving from an era of world-wide curriculum sharing on the web to closing back in ourselves. We shall see.