Mission 4

At this point in the game the villain has escaped to his orbiting space station. The agents will need to infiltrate the space station and arrest the villain. The agency has been working on a new rocket propulsion system. The agents will use this new rocket to get themselves into orbit. Before this can happen the agents will need to evaluate the efficiency of the rocket engine so that in a later mission the correct amount of rocket fuel can be calculated.

Mission training will include the work, energy, power, conservation of energy and of course efficiency. There will be a couple of lab opportunities for the students to investigate these principles. Maybe a pendulum investigation, masses sliding down an incline, or even determining the efficiency of a small electric motor.

What if?

One of my favorite online web comics, xkcd, has started a new physics blog called “What if?” where he answers the physics/math questions submitted from readers. So far there are three posts: what happens if you pitch a baseball at 0.9c?, what are the odds of getting a perfect SAT score by guessing? and what is the power output of Yoda?

Turns out switching to Yoda power is not practical but the analysis performed by Randall is easily understood with high school physics.

Moodle Grades

I have been spending the past few days learning how to use grades in Moodle. The grading feature is quite complex and I have to say a little cumbersome to use. I think I am starting to get the hang of it however and think I know how to implement my standards based grading scheme. Although I may edit my list of standards based on what I have learned.

If you watch Paul’s video in my previous post or read the Multiplayer Classroom by Lee Sheldon you’ll see that they take a slightly different approach to grading. They stick to their gaming theme and have the student gain points and level up based on the number of points they’ve received. While I like this idea I think it will be too much like the regular grading scheme where students are just chasing a score and not really interested in learning. Maybe SBG will turn out to be the same but I hope that it will put more emphasis on learning  and mastering a concept rather than their grade. That being said I still have to assign a grade for each student. So, how am I going to do that?

What I’ve done in Moodle is create a Category  for each standard. Then individual grade items (assessment opportunities) for each category. Each category is then graded based on the highest score from the list of items. The overall grade is then calculated as the average of these scores. In the screen capture below you can see how this will look for the standard “Write a formal lab report based on experimental data”. There will be a number of opportunities for a student to submit a report for assessment (I’ve added the first three for testing purposes) and while the first submission won’t be perfect it should be treated as a learning opportunity. A later report will hopefully have a better grade and this will become the grade for that standard.

The same will hold true for tests. On each test the student can choose which standards they wish to attempt. So that by the fifth or sixth test they will have shown mastery of some standards but will still have the opportunity to attempt others that they have previously struggled with.

I also like the feedback feature and I see myself using it a lot. For each standard or item in Moodle you can add text feedback letting the student know what aspects they should focus on learning. Although the text is a little small to read on my screen (oddly this is not the case when viewed from the iPhone).

The other fantastic feature is the rubric which allows for much finer detail in the grading scheme. I’ve started a rubric for the lab reports in the screen capture below.

The student sees the rubric itself and the score assigned for each section is highlighted. As well there is a section for my written feedback below. There is still some issue in the example above as I have to figure out why this example results in a score of 60% instead of 50%. Still a lot to learn about how these features work!

Mission 2

Over the weekend I managed to get mission 2 laid out:

Same basic layout, mission documents, agent manual and a couple of labs. One new feature of Moodle I’ve used is the Choice module. In this instance I ask the students to predict which will hit the ground first; a bullet fired from a handgun or a bullet dropped straight down. Once they’ve entered their prediction they’ll be able to see the results of all the other students answers. Then there is a link to a youtube video showing the Mythbusters performing this actual experiment.

At first I wanted to use the Lesson module to create this. It seems like better choice as it would only create one link for the student to click on initially. Then I could create a question that sends them to the youtube video after they enter their response.  However the Lesson module always seems to end on a page displaying their grade and since I don’t want this to be a graded activity it seems like this would be confusing to the student.

Mission Structure

I think I have the basic layout for the first mission:

The first thing the student will see is the mission description. I see this as being the Mission Impossible style “Your mission, should your choose to accept it” description. In this case the mission for the agents will read something like:

The military has reported a cargo plane containing an EMP Bomb has been hijacked and they need your team of agents to retrieve the plane and the bomb and apprehend the thieves. We suspect that the villain known as Vector is involved.

Using the heading of the cargo plane and the current wind speed and direction from Environment Canada you will need to plot an intercept course.

Then I’ve created a folder for all the mission documents. These will include handouts, answer keys to the text book practice questions and any other relevant documents that they can download and print.

After that I have a page titled “Agent Manual”. Here I’ll list the suggested readings from the text book as well as the practice problems.

Then we get into the guts of the content. First there is a lab in which the students will investigate uniform motion. I have some Tumble Buggies that I have been using the last few semesters. The students will determine the speed of the buggy first with a metrestick and stopwatch, then a second time by video analysis and the Tracker software. This will get the students used to using Tracker as well as comparing the two methods of data collection.

Then there is an “Investigation”. These aren’t labs but quick activities that the student can complete and perhaps answer some quick questions. This particular one is an online game that introduces them to motion graphs.

Then there is an “Instruction” page. This is the heading I’ll use for video lectures. In this case I will create a lesson on adding and subtracting vectors. I’ll upload these to youtube and then embed the video in this page.

The last section is another “Investigation” which will have some youtube videos of relative motion; planes landing in crosswinds, the Mythbusters trying to fire a ball from an air cannon from the back of a moving truck, etc.

Finally there is the mission itself. For this I’ll use a Moodle quiz. I plan on creating a question bank for each mission and having the quiz choose a random question for each attempt. The question will be the same format but with different numbers. This will prevent  students from passing on the answer to their classmates.

Carbonless Lab Notebooks

On Friday I received my free sample of a carbonless student lab notebook:

It’s an interesting concept. I like the idea of the students having a laboratory notebook. In university I remember having to hand in my notebook with each lab and the TA would assign a grade. With these carbonless notebooks the student could hand in just one copy attached to their lab report. In the past few years I’ve handed out a single sheet of paper with “Lab Title, Date, Name, Partner” in the header for the student to fill in. The cost is fairly cheap but I’m sure that continuing education would pass the cost on to the student as part  of their registration fee.

What do other science teachers use?