Saturday, November 2, 2013

Geometry of Number Lines Makes Uncertainties Visible


Uncertainties tend to give students a hard time. So, I decided to approach this vital concept of Physics a bit differently this year by emphasizing the use of number lines as visual aids. This, would enable students, to not deal with uncertainties as pure abstract numbers only, rather they would graph them on number lines to reach better conclusions regarding uncertainties. 

The Nuts & Bolts:

In this experiment, a precursor to the actual Free Fall lab, the students dropped rulers to determine their respective reaction times and then, using their group's collective uncertainty number line (see images below) they decided (as a group) which student should be their stopwatch timer for the subsequent main lab activity. In addition, the students had to provide at least one complete sentence detailing their justification as to why they picked their respective group's timing person.

Following is a sample of my students' initial rough dabbling with such new approach. I am proud of them and the genuine effort they devoted to the activity!

This is Group 3's take on the matter & it is so easy for students to see unusual outcomes this way! Coolism! :-)
This is Group 4's take on the matter. The language is a bit more precise (pun intended) than I have ever had in previous years. The potential of this method is promising! Coolism! :-)


Of course, this visual approach may not be earth shattering but the beauty of it is in the following touches:
1) It makes the invisible, visible! Pedagogically speaking, this should improve understanding.
2) The connection this approach establishes with a math concept (number line) that students would rarely see/use outside of their math class. Physics adds Coolism to math!
3) This approach already seems to offer students a better and slightly more sophisticated way of expressing their thoughts vis-a-vis terms they need to learn to use carefully in their lab analyses such as accuracy, precision, uncertainty.

Coolism Request:

Please, add to the Coolism, by commenting on this approach and suggesting adjustments you would make to allow it to be more useful to our students conceptually speaking. 

In addition, share your own successful approaches so that together we enrich our respective students' experience with the concpet of uncertainties. 

Thank you 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cool Physix & Astronomy Apps to Consider

I thought starting the academic semester/year with a bunch of Physix Apps and strategies for acquiring them might be the best gift I give my fellow Physix teachers and instructors the world over.

So, within this PDF file I listed all the Apps I currently own, which I hope you can acquire as many of them as possible to make your educational experience with your students a richer experience at least as far as mobile devices technology is concerned.

Please, keep in mind that most of the apps were free when I first got them but some either were removed from the App store or a price was added to them.

Mr. Le Nadj! suggestions regarding app acquirement:

1) Check the app store every two weeks or so and search for new apps dealing with specific topics you are interested in.

2) Sift through the junk by setting the search criteria to be Free & the display to be based on Ratings so that you get the free apps that got the best ratings.

3) Download the chosen app(s) even if you may not think you would need it right away because they may either disappear or become pricy. You still can delete them if need be.

Happy Educational App Year! :-)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Physics Reading Quizzes that Tap into Students' Creative Power & Show & Tell

Believing in the importance of reading in Physics and science in general and in the vitality of writing creatively and clearly, I devised a few reading quizzes that enable my students to (a) demonstrate that they have indeed read some of their assigned chapters and (b) allow them to express themselves creatively within a Physics context. 

Following are samples of students' creative outputs in such reading quizzes.

Sample 01: Notice the citations

Sample 02: Use of Dialogue

Sample 03: Notice the depth of thinking even prior to coverage of the topics at hand!

Considering the fact that these are reading quizzes that precede the eventual coverage of the featured Physics concepts, the students have done such a superb job with the concepts and I am very proud of them for their creativity, their reading effort, and above all their willingness to move their learning process to such unchartered territories!

Please, share similar assessment tools or activities you employ in your Physics curriculum to foster the reading and writing skills of your students on one hand and enable them to express themselves creatively on the other hand. Thank you

Friday, June 28, 2013

Cool Students' Physix Projects

It has been a tradition of our Physix class to end the year with a major project that involves the students selecting one of three possible projects to complete.

Catapult Project: This involves the students building a catapult that meets specific criteria and tosses a medium egg as far as possible and over a one-meter high wall.

Instrument Project: The students who chose this project would build an instrument that meets certain criteria such as craftsmanship, variety of tone generation, etc. Below are some of this year's cool productions.

The ends are pennies!

Believe it or not, this is an organ (see the picture below). 

The organ does work well! :-)

Cigar Box Guitar 1

Percussion Instrument 1

Cigar Box Guitar 2


Percussion Instrument 2

PhysArt Project: This project entails the students to select any art area of their choice and put together and art piece that connect the arts with Physix. Below is a sample of such cool PhysArt projects from this year's collection.

PhysArt Project [Original Student Composition 1]

PhysArt Project [Original Student Composition 2]

PhysArt Project [Kaleidoscope]

PhysArt Project [LHC]

PhysArt Project [Physix meets Fabric 1]

PhysArt Project [Physix meets Fabric 2]

PhysArt Project [Figure Drawing with Einstein Quotes]

Please, share some project ideas you do in your Physix classes. Thank you

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Art & Physix, what a powerful educational pair!

I have been fortunate to be an avid lover of the Arts. And, thanks to David Perkins and his highly recommended book "The Intelligent Eye: Learning to Think by Looking at Art", I was able to see the value of combining the Arts and Physix in my approach to teaching/learning Physix and to assist my students to grow as critical and careful thinkers.
The following activity is an illustration of such a nice marriage of the Arts & Physix. It involves a writing prompt (another way of connecting the students' learning in Physix with other areas of learning, English writing in this case) that introduces students to Scientific Methods, sharpens their critical thinking, and strengthens their listening and writing skills. 

*** Start of Activity ***

a) I hand students a little piece of paper each.
b) I display the two questions "Murder or Suicide? & What is your Physix-Based Evidence?" and ask students to use one side of the sheet of paper to   write their names, the date, and their responses to these two questions.  
c) In addition, I ask the students to use clues from the art piece itself (no Googling or Wikiing is allowed then) to guesstimate the general period of the art piece and the nationality of the artist.
d) I then display the following art piece, ask the students to use their clickers to pick one of the two choices (murder or suicide?) to collect data of their responses, and then give them the signal to start the thinking and writing processes. 

e) Once they are done, they stand so that I pair each student up with another student in class (think-pair-share) to discuss their respective responses and commit them to the other side of the same sheet of paper while making sure they write the names of their respective partners (to encourage listening, collaboration, staging an argument, and the value of citation.)
f) The papers are collected and then the students use their clickers once again to select an answer choice to gauge how much change in opinion did occur from pre to post discussion.
g) The class is shown the histogram distribution of their answers to the prompt but the actual answer is not shown (to build up some suspense) for it will be displayed in my reference/citation slide and long after all the slides that introduce and elaborate upon the concepts related to scientific methods.
h) The lively discussions, the intelligent arguments raised, and the preliminary Physix concepts used are the highlight of the activity!

*** End of Activity ***

Now, it is your turn!

1) Without looking up the source code of this web page, assume the role of one of my students, have a partner do the same, and go through the motions of the activity to test it.
2) In the comments area, share the results of your experience, your guesstimates, and the Physix of course!
3) Also comment on how you would use other art pieces to help your students appreciate art on one hand and connect Physix with art on the other hand?
4) I use other art areas in other contexts of coverage of Physix material (which I will share in future posts ISA), share what you do with your students.

Thank you and keep the Arts in mind while doing Physix for they are indeed a powerful educational pair! 


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Are Simulations Effective?

Simulations programs such as Interactive Physics, PhET, Physlets , iDevices Apps help students either generate animations such as my Gravity Animation or manipulate physical quantities to generate what if situations regarding various Physix phenomena. 

What is your experience with such educational tools and how effective you think they are in advancing your students' understanding of Physix concepts?  

Saturday, June 1, 2013

New AP Physics Offerings, Good or Bad?

The much-talked about redesign of the AP Physics B program has finally materialized. I got an email from the College Board that started with "The 2014-15 school year marks the launch of the redesigned AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 courses (formerly AP Physics B).

My initial reaction is "Well, it is about time!" for I always thought that the AP Physics B exam was more about quantity than quality of content. 

I hope the changes are for the good and the initial reading seems to suggest so but I would have to reserve judgment until I complete reading all the material that the College Board is providing. 

If you already delved into the material or have been part of the group that drafted the changes, please, share your ideas, opinion, or suggestions in the comments area. Thank you

Monday, May 27, 2013

End of School Year Reflections

Well, school is over and following are a few reflections.

1) Results of pre/post diagnostic tests were not earth chattering but they were very encouraging and satisfying in that they confirmed that my students on average have grasped core concepts of Kinematics and Dynamics. What remains to see is how the two genders faired and how the various majors faired as well for I like to keep track of both of these statistical results to fine tune the pedagogy. 

2) Informal surveys of students seem to show they were satisfied with their year of Physics overall but they seem to all find the Clickerisms (multiple choice conceptual questions that are answered using clickers and employing think-pair-share or peer instruction as advanced by Eric Mazur and other PER instructors) useful from an educational point of view. This is very encouraging for it implies that the majority of the students are sharing one of my views regarding the efficacy of the approaches advanced by the PER community. 

3) Two unexpected heartwarming occurrences in the last days of the year confirmed that I must have had a positive impact on at least two students. Interestingly, both students dropped Physics at the conclusion of first semester yet were kind enough to show their appreciation at the end of the school year. One of them brought me a bag of cookies with a thank you note and the other sent me an email with kind words of praise and topped it off by stating "That was the uncoolest thing I have ever done." in reference to the dropping of my Physix class. Thank you to both for their kindness, their classy acts, and the time they took to make not just my day but my whole year.   

4) This year's batch of Physix projects were of high quality and hopefully I will feature some of them in future posts (ISA!)

After reading the above, please share on the comments heartwarming things you experienced in your last days of classes and what reflections you may have drawn from your eventful year of Physix. Thank you

Sunday, May 26, 2013

iDevice Physix App of the Month

In my article "iPad & weightlessness" in Volume 50, Issue 5, May 2012 I mentioned that I used the free app AccelGraph to take the acceleration measurements. Unfortunately, that cool app (which I still have and enjoy) has since been removed from the App Store for unstated reasons.

So, here is an alternate app that should do the job equally well and it is my choice for the Physix App of the Month.


My students and I used this app on numerous occasions with iPhones and iPad and it operated quite well each time. One of its strongest features is the ability to set it to do delayed recordings that start any time in the future. In an upcoming blog (ISA) I will share examples of how my students and I used the app to extend and deepen our understanding of motion and its properties.

If you have used another app that accomplishes the same tasks, share its name and how you and your students used it to further your investigation of the Physix of motion. Thank you

Sunday, May 19, 2013


In a talk that Punya Mishra gave at Interlochen Arts Academy back in April of this year, he stated "Only repurposing makes technology educational." I fell in love with the word repurposing for I think it allows the use of technology to be malleable enough to fit each educator's pedagogical immediate objectives and long term goals.

Here is an example of repurposing in action [Note: I used this repurposing scheme long before Dr. Mishra's presentation and this is why the terminology resonated with me.]

Eye Chart Pro for iPad on the iTunes App Store is a cool app that eye doctors may use and so would laymen as a an eye chart for what it was set for. But, here is how I used it in my Physix classes. 

Students doubt that the image of an object is behind a plan mirror at a distance equal to the distance of the object from the mirror. So, I fire the app, ask volunteers to read the chart that is set at the same level as the mirror and keep moving away until a certain line of letters is barely discernible to the volunteer. I then set the iPad next to the volunteer's face and turn the iPad to face the mirror, randomize the letters (a nifty function of the said app), engage the mirror mode of the app (cool feature also), and then ask the volunteer who is still standing at the same distance away from the mirror to read the most recent and barely discernible row of letters displayed by the app. The reaction has always been cool to say the least. Repurposing in this case made a medical app a Physix app! How cool is that?

Share your repurposing Coolisms in the comments. Thank you

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My students have been working on a series of four experiments that are part of a major lab "Wave-O-Rama" that is trying to weave a common thread amongst all of them; what happens to waves when they interfere or diffract?

One of the experiments, Nothing Beats Fourier, introduces students to the concept of synthesis of waveforms from basic sine functions through the use of WolftamAlpha and the iDevice apps that are listed below according to the level of Coolism.

Coolism: Fourier Synthesizer
Cool: Sound Uncovered
Semi Cool: Fourier Touch

Give these apps a try in your classroom and share how your experience went. In addition, if you wish to have a copy of my lab sheet, please fire me an email.    

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Visit the following YouTube clip, read my post comments therein and then come back here to share your thoughts. How would we use this to enrich our Physix students' learning experience?

Baltimore Orioles Physix

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nothing Beats Expert Presentations

Whenever possible, invite experts in their respective fields to present about the latest in their Physix research for that always leaves indelible marks on the students.

My students and I were fortunate to enjoy a presentation by Dr. Brian McNamara about supermassive black holes and the origin of galaxies. The timing was perfect for it came at the heels of covering Universal Law of Gravity of Sir Isaac Newton. Thank you, Dr. McNamara!