Tag Archives: modeling

Electronic Whiteboards

Yesterday, I finally had the opportunity to try something that I have been wanting to do for over a year: electronic whiteboards.

Last year, we were the fortunate recipients an an HP Innovation in Education grant which included a classroom set of tablets (we never had tablets before). I immediately thought of having students prepare traditional Modeling whiteboards on the tablets and project their “whiteboards” on a screen as they present them. I encountered two roadblocks. One, my classroom has a front “lecture” area with individual student desks and a screen and LCD projector and a back “lab” area with lab tables. We prepare and present whiteboards in the lab area and hang the whiteboards from two S-hooks tied to the ceiling. I wanted to continue to prepare and present electronic whiteboards in this lab area which would require obtaining a new projector. We found an extra projector which was installed near the end of last year. The second roadblock was that I didn’t want to incur the overhead of students physically connecting a VGA cable to their group’s tablet in order to present. I wanted to seamlessly be able to switch between laptops. This just recently become a reality as the projector was connected to the network.

Electronic whiteboards were fantastic. Especially considering that we had never attempted them before and the process was new to the students and me. We noted several advantages to electronic whiteboards over traditional whiteboards:

* We’re not as tempted to rush through presentations as we near the end of class. If we don’t get to a whiteboard in one class, we can display it the next day. Today, we quickly picked up where we left off at the end of class yesterday. This is significant since I only have ten whiteboards in my classroom in which eight classes are taught every day. It is not always feasible to save a whiteboard from one day to the next. (Yes, the irony of having a classroom set of tablets but not a whiteboard per group is not lost on me.)
* Whiteboards are exported as PDF files and uploaded to the class website on [Schoology](http://schoology.com/). Students can view whiteboards outside of class if they are absent or if they want to review them again. Students can also comment on whiteboards posted on the website so the conversation can extend beyond the classroom. Students commented on this advantage much more than the others.
* Whiteboards appear to have more detail and yet are easier to read than traditional whiteboards. If more room is required, OneNote (which is the application in which we’re drawing our whiteboards) simply grows the page. This encourages groups not to artificially limit themselves to a 2’x3′ whiteboard. Furthermore, the whiteboard is projected on a large screen. If a group writes too small, they can zoom in and scroll around during the presentation. In addition, none of the lines look like they are drawn with dried out whiteboard markers!


I’ve only noticed one potential disadvantage. The physical tablet screen is smaller than a physical whiteboard. Groups still huddled around the tablet like they would a whiteboard, but it is not as large an object around which to gather. Also, only one student can write on the tablet at a time while occasionally two students will be writing on the same whiteboard at the same time. So, I’ll have to keep an eye on this and make sure that the group collaboration during whiteboard preparation doesn’t suffer.

We’ll definitely try this again. I expect that it will even go smoother since students are now familiar with the tablets, OneNote, and how to connect wirelessly to the projector. If anyone has tried something similar and can offer some tips, please share!

Letting Students Teach

I’m really making an effort this year to have a much greater percentage of class time spent with students learning together in small groups as they solve physics problems rather than me solving problems on the board. I’ll still model how to solve certain types of problem to demonstrate problem solving best practices, but I’ve observed much more effective learning when students are working through problems with a small group of peers rather than copying what I’m writing. However, what I don’t want to happen is for one student in a group to understand how to solve the problem and simply tell everyone else in the group the solution such that they just copy what she writes.

I realized that this was an opportunity for some coaching. I requested that, while groups work on solutions to the problems, they refrain from simply telling each other the answers. Since we were working on drawing graphs of motion (position vs. time and velocity vs. time) from descriptions, I asked that the students confident of their answers instead describe the motion graphed by the other students. When the students hears the description of the motion that doesn’t match their intended descriptions, how to correct the graph may be clear. It wasn’t too much of a stretch to have students facilitate their group’s discussion in this manner since students are slowly becoming familiar with the socratic questioning during whiteboarding and are already used to the fact that I respond to almost every question with one or more questions of my own.

As I walked around the room, I witnessed a dozen teachers effectively giving individual attention and support to a dozen students.

No one asked me question.

General Physics Syllabus

I’ve been intending to share my syllabi for my classes and finally made the time to do so for my General (regular) Physics class:


If you trying to implement standards-based grading (SBG) in your classroom, you may find the approach taken by my team interesting. The structure that we created is based on how my colleague and I organized our Enriched (honors) Physics class last year when we first implemented SBG.

When communicating our SBG methodology to students, parents, and other teachers; I’ve found the categorization of activities into the two buckets of learning activities and summative assessments very effective. It helps make very clear the difference between learning and demonstrating understanding.

One more note, the conversion of the 1-4 grading scale to percentages is only done to work with the severely limited grading software that we have to use. I’m looking forward to a new software system next year that can support SBG. Hopefully, it works as well as SnapGrades, which I used last year.

(If the idea of homework as a learning activity and summative assessment nauseates you, I [share your feeling](https://pedagoguepadawan.net/11/igradehomework/) and am trying to make it better.)