Category Archives: Learning Environments

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To What Extent Should a Course Be Student Designed?

This post about my Physics/Phunsics class has been rattling around in my head for more than half a year now, and its a tough one. The reason it is tough is that it involves failure, and I don’t really enjoy writing about failures. Semi-clever ideas and things that work, yes. Failure, no. Let me come right out and say it: the Phunsics class just didn’t Read More →

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A Refugee From Science Packet Land

Last semester I had to say goodbye to a student who had to move out of town with his family. It happens, but its never fun when a student has to pick up and leave in the middle of a school year. This kid, we’ll call him Beathan, was pretty upset about the whole move and not terribly happy about going to a new school Read More →

Testing the quadrotor motors

Student-designed physics class 2: the return of Phunsics

I’m happy to announce the return of my student-designed Phunsics class for the 2013-2014 school year. If you’ve followed our previous work, you might want to skip ahead to phunsics2013.wordpress.com or the pics below to see what we’re doing at the moment. For some discussion of how I set up the class this year, read on. As in my experiment a couple years ago, I’m running my Read More →

Documenting Black Widow Behavior

Inquiry in AP Biology: Live It. Love It. Assess It?

In my last post I described how I might try to conduct my AP Biology class a lot like I conducted the (in)famous Phunsics Class of 2011-2012. (Phunsics side note: I saw one of the graduated seniors from that class recently. He told me the story of how over the summer he and another member of the phunsics class were at the local grocery store Read More →

THIS is why I love digital portfolios: what do my classes look like?

I’ve been asked a few questions lately about what my classes look like: Are your classes “flipped?” What kind of assignments do you give? How much lecturing do you do? I thought about writing a post answering these, but then today I was evaluating this portfolio and thought that I would just post a link to it instead. If you spend some time with this Read More →

Convergent classroom (standards-based grading) meets divergent class (phunsics): separate styles for separate courses

Scott McLeod recently asked this question in his post Reconciling Convergence and Divergence: How do you reconcile… principles of standards-based grading; “begin with the end in mind and work backwards;” understanding by design; and other more convergent learning ideas with… project-, problem-, challenge-, and/or inquiry-based learning; creativity; innovation; collaboration; and our need for more divergent thinkers? My answer: I don’t reconcile the two, nor am I Read More →

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A shift in focus: “about us” becomes “about them” in a student-designed physics class

What do you do with a physics class full of bright, independent, high school kids? Well of course you march through the physics textbook so they can learn how to plug and chug all the right equations turn the class over to them so they can do the experiments that they want to do. At least that’s the way I thought we’d try it this Read More →

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A fine balance

It’s been another phenomenal week in my physics class. We’ve got a definite groove going on in there that is about as student-centered as I can make it. We’ve got several different projects going on at once, still, but this week saw the successful completion and testing of our potato launcher (“its not a potato gun, its a potato accelerator”). Let’s just say that at Read More →

On Developing (or not) a Student-Designed Physics Course

I’ve been putting off this post for a while, even though some of these ideas have been kicking around in my head all summer. I suppose I haven’t wanted to have one of my pet ideas shot down by wiser heads. But now that the school year is almost upon us, and I’m looking over yet another Edge, it feels like time to throw this Read More →

Virtual Conference on Core Values: An open letter to my colleagues

What follows is my submission to the Virtual Conference on Core Values. I write this in the hope that it will lead to thoughtful discussions with my colleagues, wherever they may be. How do I help transform our school from a collection of glassy-eyed, bored teenagers to a community of learners? This is the question I’ve asked myself lately, and it shouts out my core Read More →

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