To follow up on my last post these are the standards that I have come up with so far. I’ll revise them over the summer.

  1. Collect data and analyze data
  2. Express the uncertainty in a measurement
  3. Write a formal lab report based on experimental data
  4. Add and subtract two or more vectors
  5. Apply vector analysis to solve practical navigation problems (relative motion)
  6. Apply vector analysis to solve projectile motion problems
  7. Apply Newton’s laws of motion to solve 1-dimensional problems
  8. Apply Newton’s laws of motion to solve 2-dimensional problems
  9. Solve problems using the conditions for equilibrium
  10. Solve problems using the law of conservation of energy
  11. Apply the law of conservation of momentum to 1-dimensional problems
  12. Apply the law of conservation of momentum to 2-dimensional problems
  13. Apply the concept of impulse to solve problems
  14. Analyze situations involving an object travelling in uniform horizontal circular motion
  15. Analyze situations involving an object travelling in uniform vertical circular motion
  16. Analyze the gravitational attraction between two masses
  17. Analyze the energy (potential, kinetic and total) of a satellite in orbit
  18. Apply Coulomb’s law to a system of charged objects
  19. Analyze electric fields and their effects on charged objects
  20. Apply the concept of electric potential to a system of charged objects
  21. Apply the concept of electric potential energy to a system of charged objects
  22. Apply Ohm’s law and Kirchoff’s laws to direct current circuits
  23. Solve electric circuit problems taking into account the internal resistance of a battery
  24. Analyze the effect of a magnetic field on a moving electric charge
  25. Analyze the effect of a magnetic field on a current carrying wire
  26. Solve problems involving a solenoid
  27. Analyze the effect of a magnetic field on a moving conductor
  28. Apply Faraday’s law and Lenz’s law to situations involving electromagnetic induction
  29. Apply the concept of back emf to a DC motor
  30. Solve problems that deal with an ideal transformer

The students can get one of the following grades on each standard:

  • 0 – Not attempted – each standard starts at this level
  • 1 – Needs Improvement
  • 2 – Adequate
  • 3 – Master

Standards-Based Grading

One other change I want to implement in my classroom for next year is Standards-Based Grading (SBG). What is SBG? It is grading a student on their understanding of the standards they are expected to master during the course. A standard could be; Collect and Analyze Data, or Apply Vector Analysis to Solve Projectile Motion Problems. Clearly seeing a grade for each of these is more informative to both the student and teacher than a grade of 84% on Quiz#4. Students still demonstrate mastery of these standards through traditional exams, projects, and labs but the teacher can also record direct observations of student understanding. Each standard will be graded on a scale:

  • 0 – Not attempted (each standard will start at this level)
  • 1 – Needs improvement
  • 2 – Adequate
  • 3 – Mastery

Another key concept in SBG is that the student can show mastery of a standard at any time in the course. This means that if a student has yet to master projectile motion by the last month of the course they are still given the opportunity to demonstrate their level of understanding. Obviously this means more work for the teacher in developing these re-assessments. It also means that I will have to provide constant feedback to the students so that they know what they need to work on to demonstrate mastery.

This concept is rather timely…an Edmonton physics teacher was recently suspended for assigning zeros to assignments and tests missed by students. I know when I first started teaching I had the same attitude towards missed work and struggled with the concept of assigning and I (Incomplete) prior to giving a failing grade. Then one day I remembered that I had missed the last three months of grade eleven due to an opportunity offered to me by the cadet movement (I was a sea cadet and was offered a placement on board a Canadian destroyer as it sailed down the west coast of North America all the way to Ecuador and back). My teachers at the time basically gave me a free pass on the remainder of the year. How can I justify giving zeros to students when I wasn’t?

I also think the way we grade now only encourages students to chase points rather than to actually learn the subject matter. I don’t know if SBG will change this behavior but it will be an interesting experiment.

Shawn Cornally has an excellent collection of posts on SBG if you are looking for more information.

The Multiplayer Classroom

Another source of inspiration is this book which I bought of Amazon a few weeks ago.

Author: Lee Sheldon

Lee Sheldon is a professor at Indiana University where he teaches game design and screenwriting. His book is a guide to developing your course material as a game. He gives examples of his experience in using this concept in his courses as well as case studies from other teachers that have followed his example.

Heroes vs Villains

James Bond/Mission Impossible meets high school physics. This is the basic idea of the game. A villain named Vector has stolen a nuclear bomb and is heading towards the city. The secret agents (played by the students) need to thwart his evil plans.
They will have to complete a series of missions based on a section of the curriculum. For relative motion they will have to plan a flight path to intercept the villains plane. For projectile motion they’ll have to determine where the bomb lands when dropped from the plane. Use their knowledge of electric circuits to disable the bomb. They’ll have to read through the mission documents (course notes) and train on simulations (labs and practice problems) to learn the skills needed to complete each mission. When they feel ready to complete the mission they can complete an online quiz on the Moodle site.

Today however I started to think, could the students also choose to play as the villain? Most games these days allow you to choose a side, why not this one? The villain would still complete missions (schemes?) but obviously they will be slightly different: determine the release point to drop the bomb, determine the energy required to place a spy satellite in orbit, etc

I’m not sure how to set this up on the Moodle site. Two separate courses? However I could keep track of each side (heroes vs villains) and have a leader board to see which side is winning based on accumulated points.

Moodle Site


The first step in the redesign was to get approval from Continuing Education. Not only did they say go ahead but they were enthusiastic about the project and wanted to know what resources I would need. So I made a list:

Tool Used For Cost
Macbook Pro Creating screencast video lectures.
In class students will use it for data collection. Video analysis. Lab write ups.
(could be new versions of the Macbooks this June?)
iWork Apple equivalent of MS Office
Pages – word processor
Numbers – spreadsheet (used by students for data analysis and graphing data)
Keynote – used for presentations in the screencasts. Also by students for presenting to class?
Omnidazzle Software which allows you to write on the screen. Used in screencast for doing example problems Free!
Screenflow Screen capture software. Used for creating screencast lectures $100
Graphics Tablet Used for writing on the screen legibly $100
Tracker Video analysis software used for analyzing the motion of an object Free!
Moodle Learning management system. Students login to the classroom, take online quizzes. Online grades? Student discussion forums? Could be used by other teachers for online classes as well. Students can access using app for iPhone or iPad. Free!
Web Hosting To host the Moodle software Free from school district?
$50/year for commercial hosting and domain registry

I’m not entirely sure why but the only hiccup seems to be the web-hosting but the rest of the requirements have been ordered! In the meantime I went ahead and found a local web hosting company (CanadianWebHosting) and set up this blog as well as a Moodle site for the course. I decided to go with Canadian Web Hosting because they had installers for both WordPress and Moodle which made setting up both a breeze.

So for the next little while I’ll be teaching myself how to use Moodle and trying to determine the best way to set up the class.


Welcome to my blog. I’ll be using this to document my journey as I redesign my physics class. The idea for this was inspired by Paul Andersons TED talk.

I have been teaching physics 12 two nights a week through continuing education (first in New Westminster and more recently Richmond) for the past 10 years. As a continuing education class I struggle with a number of issues;

  1. Many of the students are adults who have been out of school for a number of years. It takes them a while to get up to speed on the basic skills that their younger classmates have been using on a regular basis.
  2. Attendance. As I said the class is only twice per week for 34 sessions. It is very common for students to miss an entire week of class leaving them to struggle to catch up when they return.
  3. ESL students. One semester, when the class was working on a lab, I remember thinking to myself “I am the only person that speaks English as my primary language in this room”. Obviously a traditional lecture style classroom doesn’t help students that struggle with the English language.

When I first saw Paul’s talk I knew that I wanted to redesign my class. This “flipped” classroom format along with a standards-based grading scheme will be perfect for my situation. Students will have to take ownership of their own learning. Class time will be focused on mastering learning objectives rather than listening to lecture content. By moving the content to an online learning environment students will be able to learn at their own pace and students that struggle with English can take the time to interpret the material.

It will be a lot of work for me over the summer but I think it will create a much better learning environment for the students.