A Different Kind of Computer Science Literacy: Reading, Writing, Debate

I want my AP Computer Science course to be more than a programming class. I want my students to read, think, write, and debate issues at the intersection of technology, society, and ethics. I suppose this aligns with the AP Computer Science course goal of “understand the ethical and social implications of computer use,” and “Computing in Context” topics (“An awareness of the ethical and social implications of computing systems is necessary for the study of computer science. These topics need not be covered in detail, but should be considered throughout the course.”). I’ve never seen a question related to these topics on the AP Exam, and I wonder how much these topics are addressed in classes throughout the world. Regardless, students should explore these topics. In addition, practicing reading, writing, analyzing, and debating these topics incorporates various Common Core literacy standards.

The first standard for my course is: “Standard 1 – Analyze, evaluate, and debate examples combining technology, society, and ethics.” Last year, students completed five discussion assignments associated with this standard; three the first semester and two the second. In preparation for next year, I revised these assignments. I kept the ones that resulted in the most engagement and discussion relatively unchanged. I combined a couple into a richer collection of articles in hopes of generating a stronger discussion. I created a couple of new assignments to expose students to topics I felt were important. Next year, I plan to have students complete three discussion assignments in the fall semester and three in the spring.

In hopes that other computer science educators will find these assignments useful in their classrooms, I’ve copied the six from Canvas into this blog post.

What is Computer Science? Who should learn it? When should they start?

In the past couple of years, there have been efforts to promote computer science to the public and primary and secondary students in particular. Last December, Code.org hosted the Hour of Code. On January 1, 2012, Codeacedemy declared that 2012 would be “Code Year.” Audrey Waters wrote an article about “Code Year,” the press it generated, and if it is a good idea. The controversy erupted when Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Overflow, published his response: “Please Don’t Learn to Code.” In the Association of Computing Machinery journal, Esther Shein wrote an excellent article on the subject. In February, National Public Radio did a piece on these efforts. What complicates all of these efforts is the general lack of agreement about what is computer science. Jonah Kagan raises this point in his article “Computer science isn’t a science and it isn’t about computers“.

Requirements:

  • Read all five articles (Waters, Atwood, Shein, NPR, Kagan) and any others related to the topic that you find interesting.
  • Post a response to these articles. Your response must:
    • Provide a brief overview of each of the four articles.
    • Answer multiple prompts (potential, not exclusive, prompts are enumerated below) in detail.
    • Cite specifics from each of the four articles to support your response and demonstrate that you carefully read and analyzed each article.
    • Connect the articles to your personal experience (past, present, or future).
  • Comment in a civil and respectful manner on other’s responses or comments. (You must post before you can see others’ responses or comments.)

Some potential (but not exclusive) prompts:

  • Do you strongly agree with one side or the other in the everyone should learn to code debate? Why?
  • Does your decision to take AP Computer Science support or refute any of these claims?
  • What is the most important thing to learn in AP Computer Science? Java? Writing programs? What?
  • How is Kagan’s description of computer science consistent or inconsistent with your understanding of computer science?
  • How does this Kagan’s essay support (or doesn’t support) your expectations for this computer science course?
  • Do you agree that society in general and even technically sophisticated people are unsure exactly what computer science is? Does this matter?
  • Is this class a math class, a business class, a science class, an engineering class, or something else? Why?

Net Neutrality

Vi Hart’s video Net Neutrality in the US: Now What? is the best explanation of what Net Neutrality is and the history of the issue. In Forbes, Joshua Steimle, wrote a piece about his opposition to Net Neutrality: Am I The Only Techie Against Net Neutrality?.

Requirements:

  • Watch Vi Hart’s video, read Steimle’s article, and watch or read at least two other videos or articles linked in the description of the video.
  • Post a response to these videos and articles. Your response must:
    • Provide a brief overview of each of the four videos/articles (clearly state which other two videos or articles you watched or read).
    • Answer multiple prompts (potential, not exclusive, prompts are enumerated below) in detail.
    • Cite specifics from each of the four articles to support your response and demonstrate that you carefully read and analyzed each article.
    • Connect the articles to your personal experience (past, present, or future).
  • Comment in a civil and respectful manner on other’s responses or comments. (You must post before you can see others’ responses or comments.)

Some potential (but not exclusive) prompts:

  • Do you support Net Neutrality? Why or why not? Defend your position with evidence.
  • Will the FCC ruling on this topic actually affect you in any significant way?
  • What, if anything, do you plan to do after analyzing this issue as a result of this assignment?

Diversity in Computer Science

As a group, Computer Science students are one of the least diverse. What needs to be done to increase the participation of women and underrepresented minorities? In this interview, Dr. Maria Klawe, president of of Harvey Mudd College in California, addresses this question on PBS Newshour. In her article, Want More Women in Tech? Fix Misperceptions of Computer Science, Shuchi Grover focuses on the image problem of computer science. The last two sections of Tasneem Raja’s recent article Is Coding the New Literacy? summarizes the challenges and various efforts underway. Philip Guo writes about his Silent Technical Privilege as an Asian male.

Requirements:

  • Read or watch all four pieces (Klawe, Grover, Raja, Guo) and any others related to the topic that you find interesting.
  • Post a response to these articles. Your response must:
    • Provide a brief overview of each of the four articles.
    • Answer multiple prompts (potential, not exclusive, prompts are enumerated below) in detail.
    • Cite specifics from each of the four articles to support your response and demonstrate that you carefully read and analyzed each article.
    • Connect the articles to your personal experience (past, present, or future).
  • Comment in a civil and respectful manner on other’s responses or comments. (You must post before you can see others’ responses or comments.)

Some potential (but not exclusive) prompts:

  • Is it feasible to address the gender and underrepresented minority gap in computer science in high school?
  • Do you agree that the lack of diversity is due to a misperception of computer science?
  • What can high school students do to address this gender gap? What about teachers (computer science and others)? What about the school as a whole? What about parents? What about society?
  • Do you have a personal experience that either encouraged or discouraged you to take this or previous computer science courses?

Stuxnet

“Three years after it was discovered, Stuxnet, the first publicly disclosed cyberweapon, continues to baffle military strategists, computer security experts, political decision-makers, and the general public. A comfortable narrative has formed around the weapon: how it attacked the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz, how it was designed to be undiscoverable, how it escaped from Natanz against its creators’ wishes. Major elements of that story are either incorrect or incomplete.”

Requirements:

  • Read this article about Stuxnet and the cyberattack on Iran’s centrifuges. Also browse this detailed report for more information.
  • Post a response to these articles. Your response must:
    • Provide a brief overview of the two variants of the virus. Compare and contrast them to each other .
    • Answer multiple prompts (potential, not exclusive, prompts are enumerated below) in detail.
    • Cite specifics from the article and report to support your response and demonstrate that you carefully read and analyzed the article and report.
    • Connect the articles to your personal experience (past, present, or future).
  • Comment in a civil and respectful manner on other’s responses or comments. (You must post before you can see others’ responses or comments.)

Some potential (but not exclusive) prompts:

  • What security vulnerabilities were exposed?
  • Did the attack work as designed?
  • What does this attack on Iran’s centrifuges mean for the security of critical technologies within the United States?
  • What types of defenses would be effective? What types of defenses are not?

Data, Privacy, and the Future of Ed-Tech

Requirements:

  • Read the following excerpt. Choose two or more of the questions presented to explore further, either by following the links or doing additional research.
  • Post a response to these articles. Your response must:
    • Provide a brief overview of the articles related to the two questions that you chose to explore.
    • Cite specifics from each of the articles related to the two questions that you chose to explore to support your response and demonstrate that you carefully read and analyzed each article.
    • Connect the articles to your personal experience (past, present, or future). For example:
      • How do the issues of data and privacy affect you personally?
      • What personal behaviors are influenced by your understanding of data and privacy?
      • Will you change your behavior after researching this topic?
  • Comment in a civil and respectful manner on other’s responses or comments. (You must post before you can see others’ responses or comments.)

Data, Privacy, and the Future of Ed-Tech

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg famously declared privacy “dead” back in 2010. This year, incidentally, he bought the four houses adjacent to his after hearing that a developer had plans to market a neighboring property as being “next door to Mark Zuckerberg.”

Nevertheless, you hear it a lot in technology circles – “privacy is dead” – often uttered by those with a stake in our handing over increasing amounts of personal data without question.

To see privacy as something will inevitably “die,” to view it as a monolithic notion is quite ahistorical. To do so ignores the varied cultural and social expectations we have about privacy today. It ignores how power relations have always shaped who has rights and access to autonomy, self-determination, solitude. It ignores the ongoing resistance (by teens, for example, by activists, and by librarians) to surveillance.

Nonetheless, as the adoption of ed-tech continues (and with it, the increasing amount of data created – intentionally or unintentionally, as content or as “exhaust“), there are incredibly important discussions to be had about data and privacy:

  • What role will predictive modeling and predictive policing have in education? Who will be marked as “deviant”? Why? Against whom will data discriminate?
  • What role does privacy play – or phrase differently: what role does a respite from surveillance play – in a child’s development?
  • How can we foster agency and experimentation in a world of algorithms?
  • What assumptions go into our algorithms and models? Who builds them? Are they transparent? (After all, data is not objective.)
  • What can we really learn from big data in education? Bill Gates says big data will “save American schools.” Really? Save from what? For whom? Or is all this data hype just bullshit?
  • Who owns education data?
  • What happens to our democracy if we give up our privacy and surrender our data to tech companies and to the federal government? What role will education play in resisting or acquiescing to these institutions’ demands?

The above is a portion of the article Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2013: Data vs Privacy by Audrey Waters who blogs at Hack Education.

Aaron Swartz

From Wikipedia: Aaron Swartz (November 8, 1986 – January 11, 2013) was an American computer programmer, writer, political organizer and Internet Hacktivist.

Swartz was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS,[3] the organization Creative Commons,[4] the website framework web.py[5] and the social news site, Reddit, in which he became a partner after its merger with his company, Infogami.[[i]][410]

Swartz’s work also focused on sociology, civic awareness and activism.[6][7] He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism. In 2010 he became a research fellow at Harvard University‘s Safra Research Lab on Institutional Corruption, directed by Lawrence Lessig.[8][9] He founded the online group Demand Progress, known for its campaign against the Stop Online Piracy Act.

On January 6, 2011, Swartz was arrested by MIT police on state breaking-and-entering charges, after systematically downloading academic journal articles from JSTOR.[10][11]Federal prosecutors later charged him with two counts of wire fraud and 11 violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act,[12] carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of $1 million in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution and supervised release.[13]

Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would serve six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead in his Brooklyn, New York apartment, where he had hanged himself.[14][15]

In June 2013, Swartz was posthumously inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.[16][17]

Boston Magazine published an article titled, “Losing Aaron, Bob Swartz on MIT’s Role in His Son’s Death“.

In January 2013, Aaron’s Law was authored in Congress. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has been leading efforts to reform CFAA and pass Aaron’s Law and similar initiatives.

Lawrence Lessig used the occasion of his Chair Lecture at Harvard to speak about Aaron Swartz: “Aaron’s Laws: Law and Justice in a Digital Age“.

Requirements:

  • Read the articles from Boston Magazine, WIRED, and EFF. (Watch Lessig’s video, if interested; it is excellent.)
  • Post a response to these articles. Your response must:
    • Provide a brief overview of Aaron Swartz, CFAA, and Aaron’s Law.
    • Answer multiple prompts (potential, not exclusive, prompts are enumerated below) in detail.
    • Cite specifics from each of the three articles to support your response and demonstrate that you carefully read and analyzed each article.
    • Connect the articles to your personal experience (past, present, or future).
  • Comment in a civil and respectful manner on other’s responses or comments. (You must post before you can see others’ responses or comments.)

Some potential (but not exclusive) prompts:

  • Is it accurate to compare Aaron’s actions to that of civil disobedience?
  • Did Aaron’s downloading of JSTOR archive cause harm?
  • What role and responsibility does MIT have in this case?
  • What reforms, if any, are needed? Does Aaron’s Law go far enough?
  • What can you do? What should you do?

2013-2014 in Numbers

The 2013-2014 school year by the numbers:

  • 88 students in the fall; 86 students in the spring
  • 71 recommendation letters for 36 different students
  • 30 standards in AP Physics B; 80, in Honors Physics; 20 in AP Computer Science
  • 596 tweets
  • 16 blog posts
  • 186 180 posts
  • 9288 school e-mails received; 4820 sent
  • 23 partial or full days missed; none due to illness
  • 0.55 FCI gain (n=18)
  • 4.484 average AP Physics B score; 4.407 average AP Computer Science score

Standards for AP Physics 2

I floated this idea on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and have decided to give it a try. Historically, I’ve grouped my assessment standards into unit-centric categories. In an attempt to emphasize the big ideas and science practices more strongly, I’m going to group standards by the Big Ideas defined by the College Board for AP Physics 2. My assessment standards are the Enduring Understanding defined for each Big Idea. The Essential Knowledge items and Learning Objectives are too fine grained for my style of standards-based assessment and reporting, especially for an AP class where I want students to focus on the combination of multiple concepts.

There will be multiple assessments (labs and exam questions) for each standard. A given assessment will focus on a subset of learning objectives for that standard. As a result, there will be multiple scores for each standard in the grade book. I hope this will give students more insight into their strengths and areas for improvement as they progress throughout the course. I’ll still have reassessments.

The weights for each Big Idea category will not be the same, but I’m going to do more planning before assigning them. I also need to see how these standards are split between the fall and spring semesters.

If you think I’m courting disaster with this plan, please let me know. If you adopt a similar approach for your AP Physics class, please remember I’ve never tried this before!

  • 1: Objects and systems have properties such as mass and charge. Systems may have internal structure.
    • 1.A: The internal structure of a system determines many properties of the system.
    • 1.B: Electric charge is a property of an object or system that affects its interactions with other objects or systems containing charge.
    • 1.C: Objects and systems have properties of inertial mass and gravitational mass that are experimentally verified to be the same and that satisfy conservation principles.
    • 1.D: Classical mechanics cannot describe all properties of objects.
    • 1.E: Materials have many macroscopic properties that result from the arrangement and interactions of the atoms and molecules that make up the material.
  • 2: Fields existing in space can be used to explain interactions.
    • 2.A: A field associates a value of some physical quantity with every point in space. Field models are useful for describing interactions that occur at a distance (long-range forces) as well as a variety of other physical phenomena.
    • 2.C: An electric field is caused by an object with electric charge.
    • 2.D: A magnetic field is caused by a magnet or a moving electrically charged object. Magnetic fields observed in nature always seem to be produced either by moving charged objects or by magnetic dipoles or combinations of dipoles and never by single poles.
    • 2.E: Physicists often construct a map of isolines connecting points of equal value for some quantity related to a field and use these maps to help visualize the field.
  • 3: The interactions of an object with other objects can be described by forces.
    • 3.A: All forces share certain common characteristics when considered by observers in inertial reference frames.
    • 3.B: Classically, the acceleration of an object interacting with other objects can be predicted by using Newton’s Second Law.
    • 3.C: At the macroscopic level, forces can be categorized as either long-range (action-at-a-distance) forces or contact forces.
    • 3.G: Certain types of forces are considered fundamental.
  • 4: Interactions between systems can result in changes in those systems.
    • 4.C: Interactions with other objects or systems can change the total energy of a system.
    • 4.E: The electric and magnetic properties of a system can change in response to the presence of, or changes in, other objects or systems.
  • 5: Changes that occur as a result of interactions are constrained by conservation laws.
    • 5.B: The energy of a system is conserved.
    • 5.C: The electric charge of a system is conserved.
    • 5.D: The linear momentum of a system is conserved.
    • 5.F: Classically, the mass of a system is conserved.
  • 6: Waves can transfer energy and momentum from one location to another without the permanent transfer of mass and serve as a mathematical model for the description of other phenomena.
    • 6.A: A wave is a traveling disturbance that transfers energy and momentum.
    • 6.B: A periodic wave is one that repeats as a function of both time and position and can be described by its amplitude, frequency, wavelength, speed, and energy.
    • 6.C: Only waves exhibit interference and diffraction.
    • 6.E: The direction of propagation of a wave such as light may be changed when the wave encounters an interface between two media.
    • 6.F: Electromagnetic radiation can be modeled as waves or as fundamental particles.
    • 6.G: All matter can be modeled as waves or as particles.
  • 7: The mathematics of probability can be used to describe the behavior of complex systems and to interpret the behavior of quantum mechanical systems.
    • 7.A: The properties of an ideal gas can be explained in terms of a small number of macroscopic variables including temperature and pressure.
    • 7.B: The tendency of isolated systems to move toward states with higher disorder is described by probability.
    • 7.C: At the quantum scale, matter is described by a wave function, which leads to a probabilistic description of the microscopic world.

AP Physics B End-of-Year Survey Results

Before I start planning for the new AP Physics 2 class in detail, I first reviewed the end-of-year feedback from my AP Physics B students. I made very few changes in this course last year since two years ago went well and this is the last year for the course. In the following charts, a “1” represents strongly agree and a “5” represents strongly disagree.

A majority of the students didn’t read the textbook much. I’m not surprised by this since I don’t push the textbook very much. It is dated and doesn’t align much with my pedagogy. Students rely on other resources from class much more. However, I do think it is important that students learn to read a college-level text. I’m extremely pleased that next year we will have Knight’s College Physics text which I will incorporate much more strongly into the new AP Physics 2 course.

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I assigned conceptual questions from the textbook. Again, most students didn’t answer these. However, those that did, found them valuable. The conceptual questions assigned from the text were different than those I used for peer instruction. I may make use Knight’s conceptual questions as some of the peer instruction questions next year, which I expect will motivate students to answer them.

Screen Shot 2014 06 24 at 10 25 12 AM

Many students did not solve the homework problems. Those that did, found them helpful. Honestly, with few exceptions, I’m fine with this. I don’t grade homework and want students to learn to determine if they need the additional practice or not. Most of my students learn to self assess and make good choices in this area.

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Lab activities and practice quizzes are all about learning and not graded. Students found the quizzes (old AP free response questions) particularly useful. I’m really going to miss having a huge collection of old free response questions next year in AP Physics 2.

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I wanted to highlight peer instruction specifically. I was surprised last year how valuable students found peer instruction focused on conceptual questions. This year’s feedback was just as strong. In the free-form comments in the section “What are some things that I should keep doing next year?” peer instruction was mentioned more than anything else. I think focusing on conceptual questions through peer instruction will be even more important in the new AP Physics 1/2 courses which emphasize a deep, conceptual understanding. Perhaps, since this has been a focus of my class for the past two years, is why I’m freaking out much less than other AP physics teachers after taking the AP practice exams.

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Strong positive feedback on the summative labs for the course. I plan to incorporate those that are relevant into the AP Physics 2 course next year. We’ve already incorporated some of them into the AP Physics 1 course. The choices for the “I found the summative labs:” question ranged from too challenging (1) to too easy (5). In similar fashion to my AP Computer Science students’ feedback, students found the written feedback provided via Canvas helpful in developing their understanding of the material.

Screen Shot 2014 06 25 at 9 44 16 AM

A couple of surprises in terms of which labs students marked as their favorites. The Simple Harmonic Motion lab has students develop a mathematical model by modifying various physical characteristics of a mass on a vertical spring. I was surprised it wasn’t more popular. We also did this lab in Honors Physics (AP Physics 1) this year. I was surprised that the diffraction and interference lab was in the top 5. I don’t feel that it is one of my strongest labs, yet students disagree. No surprise that the capstone project was the run-away favorite. I will keep that in the AP Physics 2 class. I’m planning to continue to do the CMS Masterclass, which focuses on particle physics, in AP Physics 2 as well. Hopefully, we can do this as part of a field trip to Fermilab next year. We didn’t have a field trip to Fermilab this year. The most common suggestion in the section “What are some things that I should try next year?” was to have a field trip to Fermilab. I hate to lose the Projectile Motion lab. The only way it would be part of AP Physics 2 is if I use it as a lab for an introductory unit on computational modeling. It is too advanced for AP Physics 1 in the projectile motion unit.

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Pleased that so many students are considering pursuing STEM-related fields, but not too surprised since this is a second-year physics course.

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Strong positive feedback on standards-based assessment and reporting. Summative labs and exams were scored on a 1-5 scale. Each unit that consisted of one exam and one lab. I’m considering changing this next year and having a standard for each AP Physics 2 Essential Knowledge item grouped into categories based on each AP Physics 2 Big Ideas. I feel this will emphasize science practices and connections between concepts rather than my traditional approach focused on units and content.

Screen Shot 2014 06 24 at 10 26 35 AM

This summer I have a lot of work to do developing the new AP Physics 2 course which includes incorporating a new textbook and much more Modeling Instruction. I’ll take as much as possible from the AP Physics B course since most of it worked well the past two years. My AP Physics 2 students will also be piloting a 1:1 program (Chromebooks in the fall semester) which will require some additional preparation. AP Physics B is dead! Long live AP Physics 2!

AP Computer Science End-of-Year Survey Results

I recently reviewed the end-of-year feedback from my AP Computer Science students. This year we moved to a new textbook. Last summer, I focused on selecting new practice activities from the textbook and improving the summative labs that students complete at the end of each unit. I made the decision to invest most of my time in the development of the summative labs rather than the practice activities. My focus (and lack of focus) is evident in the feedback. In the following charts, a “1” represents strongly agree and a “5” represents strongly disagree.

I see practice activities as the aspect of the class most in need of improvement. While the feedback was largely positive, it was as positive as I would like. I believe the feedback on peer programming was a result of how I introduced, structured, and facilitated peer programming rather than a poor reflection on the methodology itself.

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The feedback on summative labs was much more positive, which is good because I put forth a lot of effort to improve those! I plan to retire the ActorBox lab which was an early introduction to GridWorld. I may do a turtle lab instead. I also need to re-evaluate the Word Search lab. The lack of popularity may be somewhat due to timing rather than the lab itself. I may look for a different lab for arrays and ArrayList. I would love to create something with more social relevance. The DrawingEditor was fairly well liked but was too much of a challenge for too many students. I may consider replacing it with the new AP Elevens lab.

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The chart is a shout out to Canvas’s Speed Grader. I sung its praises in an earlier post.

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I was surprised how many of my students were planning to major or minor in a computer-related field. I would expect about three-quarters of them would major in a STEM-related field, not solely computing related.

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I had a very simple standards-based assessment and reporting system for this class. Summative assessments were scored on a 1-5 scale. Each unit that consisted of one exam and one lab. I almost never had a conversation with students about scores or grades. Lots of conversations about computer science instead.

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My focus for this summer is to improve the practice activities by selecting fewer and selecting those that students will find more relevant. In addition, with the practice activities, I want to achieve a balance between instructor-led examples, individual development, and peer programming. I specifically want to improve my facilitation of peer programming. I also plan on developing my own slide decks instead of using those that are included with the textbook. Finally, we will be using GitHub next year and I want to move the summative labs into GitHub to provide necessary scaffolding for the students. Looking forward to next year!

iPad Resources for the Science Classroom

A colleague of mine will be the department chair at a 1:1 iPad school next year. While we don’t have a 1:1 program (yet), I have piloted iPads in my classroom. I wanted to share the apps that worked well in a science classroom and general deployment tips.

To start, there are some general apps for any classroom:

  • iWord (Pages, Keynote, Numbers)
  • iLife (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand)
  • iBooks
  • iTunes U
  • Dropbox (or another cloud-based file system)
  • Canvas (you are using Canvas, right?)

Labs are a critical part of any classroom. I’m a huge fan of Vernier’s LabQuest 2 devices which play particularly well with their Graphical Analysis app. A lot of great lab work can be done via video analysis through Vernier’s Video Physics app. I didn’t use an app for lab notebooks in my classroom, but I recently visited 4th and 5th grade classrooms where students were working through a STEM unit and were creating fantastic lab notebooks with data tables, graphs, videos, and written reflections using the Creative Book Builder app.

There are several other apps which I have found very useful:

  • For collaborative drawing and problem solving, I haven’t found an app that is better than a $2 whiteboard. For individual note taking and drawing, Notability is my favorite app.
  • For additional analysis, the Desmos app is a fantastic graphing application. The best calculator app is PCalc.
  • For formative assessment and peer instruction, I had a lot of success with Nearpod.
  • For project and screencast projects, Explain Everything is fantastic.
  • It isn’t released yet, but I’m looking forward to Computable which combines IPython and SciPy on the iPad.

These final two aren’t apps for the iPads, but enhance the utility of iPads.

  • An iPad easily (and cheaply) replaces a document camera. I use the first version of Justand, but Justand V2 looks even better.
  • To share whatever is on the teacher’s or any student’s iPad by projecting it so the entire class can see it, I run Reflector on my laptop which is connected to the projector.

You may have the best collection of apps on your iPads, but if you don’t have a strategy for device deployment and management, you’re in trouble. MDM is pretty much required these days and iOS 7 plays well with it. Fraser Speirs and Bradley Chambers have a lot of experience deploying and managing iPads. Their podcast Out of School has a series of episodes focusing on deployment.

AP Physics 1 Unofficial Pilot

This past school year, my colleagues and I restructured our Honors Physics course to unofficially pilot the AP Physics 1 course. This was motivated by several factors. We wanted to get a jump on the new AP Physics 1 course so that this summer we would only have to revise the course since we also have to create the new AP Physics 2 course. We wanted to create a pipeline of students prepared for the AP Physics 2 course. We also were dissatisfied with the current structure and emphasis of our existing Honors Physics course.

We’ve structured our course around Standards-Based Assessment and Reporting (a.k.a. Standards Based Grading) for many years, and we continued to do so this year. We did make some changes to the specifics. We transitioned from a binary mastery / developing mastery system to a 1-5 scoring system. All of the details are captured in my syllabus.

A vast majority of the units follow Modeling Instruction and leverage a combination of the official Modeling Instruction materials and derived versions. A notable exception is the electric circuits unit for which we leveraged a combination of Physics by Inquiry materials and the Modeling Instruction CASTLE materials. The current model is based on the Physics by Inquiry investigations and the electric pressure (voltage) model is based on the Modeling Instruction CASTLE materials.

Below are our AP Physics 1 standards for the 2013-2014 school year. Standards that we felt were more significant were weighted twice as much and are designated by the “B” suffix as opposed to the “A” suffix. We will certainly revise these somewhat for next year after reviewing the College Board materials, attending AP workshops, and integrating our new textbook.

Overall, I am extremely pleased with how the AP Physics 1 pilot class was and what our students learned. The incorporation of Modeling Instruction; focus on in-depth, guided inquiry-based experiments; peer instruction-style discussion and debate of conceptual questions; and a great team of teachers with which to collaborate were the keys for the successful year.