Introduction to Physics

Physics at BUA

In the traditional physics class, the Sage on the Stage would give dynamics lectures filled with riveting demonstrations.  Although exciting and effective for a certain number of students, educational research has shown this is as a whole one of the least effective methods for students to learn and retain a thorough understanding of physics.  All students will have different learning styles.

New Media, Collaboration, and Mentorship

The future of education lies on using the New Media in combination with collaboration and mentorship.  New Media Implies a combination of online videos integrated into interactive digital ‘texts.’   In your spare time, you can watch Woody Flower’s great ‘introduction’ on this topic.  Gary Garber and Travis Bain are the mentors to help you explore the physical universe.   You are entering a student-centric classroom.  You will work together in collaborative group sense making to understand the universe.  We are your Guides on the Side to help you learn.  Our classes will be discussion and inquiry based.  You are probably used to there being only one right answer in science.  In this class we will focus on the evolution of your thinking about the physical universe and not on “knowing the right answer.”  Often in our explorations there will not be a “right answer.”  You might be asked to design the experiment to test an idea.  Although this is easy to accomplish in the literature and history classroom, this is non-standard in a science classroom.   However, when read scientists work, they collaborate, discuss, explore, and engage in a variety of scientific processes to expand their understanding of world.  They are not following a recipe, and often they do not know the answers in advance.  If a scientist knew the right answer, there would be nothing to explore!

Visual Classrooms

To enable this model, educational researchers at the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach have pioneered an innovative technology called Visual Classrooms. Every small group of 2-3 students will have a laptop. We will pose questions to which you will have the opportunity to respond (or pose your own questions). You will be able to respond or comment on each other’s postings. Sometimes our discussions will take unexpected turns.  Some previous physics students have made the observation that we are combining learning with a Social Network such as Facebook. When investigating new scientific ideas through complex experiments and modeling, each group in the Social Network might approach from a different point of view. Some groups might use computer simulations or models.  Some groups will employ various technologies from stopwatches to ultrasonic motion sensors to video image analysis to help you probe the depths of the physical world.  By collaborating to understand the universe using different techniques and methodologies, we will gain a powerful understanding which I hope you will retain for the rest of your lives.

Learning at home and in class

We will be making extensive use of the New Media in this course.  Some of you may have teacher’s who have “Flipped” the classroom.  In the common usage, this means the teacher puts their lectures onto YouTube and the students spend their in-school doing “homework” assignments (sans discussion).  Since Visual Classrooms does slow the pace of content absorption down, you will be responsible for learning a certain amount of content outside of the classroom.   Given the different learning styles for students, you will have a choice of reading the textbook, surfing hypertext physics web pages, or watching videos from YouTUBE.  Whichever method you choose, you should learn, take notes, write down questions you have, or points you disagree with.   You can discuss these points in class. Visual Classrooms will be used as a tool for your online discussions as homework and in the classroom.   The way you learn the presented content is up to you, and you may need to experiment as to which method works best for you.  There may come times when only one of these methods is available.

Please review the following materials you will need for this class.

Also review the following types of assignments you will complete and will be evaluated on in this class.

There is also a description of additional resources. This link has information on extra credit, the Science Team, the Robotics Team, and other science related contests.