A New Model for Academics I

TL;DR It is time for academics, particularly those in a community college environment, to define a brand new model for teaching and learning that has the same status as private practice for medicine, law, art, healthcare, consulting, and numerous other occupations. The community college environment has become so disorganized and complicated due to mission creep […]

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Oral Interviews as Assessment

TL;DR I have begun using oral interviews as a replacement for traditional written tests and quizzes. There are many advantages for faculty and students, including elimination of paperwork, better chances for understanding students’ state of comprehension, a more relaxed environment, and no possibility for gaming for points. The ongoing pandemic has amplified many questions I […]

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A Response to Physics Today’s Article on the Benefits of a Master’s Degree in Physics

I have submitted the following comments to Physics Today in response to Toni Feder’s article “A physics master’s degree opens doors to myriad careers” published in the April 2019 issue, pp. 22-25. I must add two cautions to Toni Feder’s piece on the benefits of a physics master’s degree. After I completed my MS in […]

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Almanacs in Astronomy Classes

In memory of my maternal grandmother Dorothy Marie Blalock Clark (1912-1997) TL;DR: Ubiquitous farmers’ almanacs are an inexpensive printed source of accurate astronomical information despite being mostly advertising vehicles. This information can be used in the classroom to generate questions and learning about not only astronomy, but also history, mathematics, and computation.  Thanks to my […]

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Two Different Obsevers, Same Class

I’m going to present two observers’ accounts of a classroom observation that took place on April 24, 2018 beginning at 9:30 am. The class was an introductory astronomy class with eight students on the roster, five of which stopped attending without withdrawing (faculty are now forbidden “by law” from withdrawing students) and three of which […]

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Proving the Absence of Length Contraction Perpendicular to Velocity

When teaching conceptual physics, students almost always ask why length contraction only occurs parallel to velocity and not perpendicular to it. That’s a meaty conceptual question and one that always leaves me looking for a convincing, non mathematical explanation. Earlier this semester, I finally found what I think is the best one I’ve ever heard […]

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Musical Thoughts On Teaching Physics

TL;DR There are many lessons physics teachers can learn from music teachers about teaching one’s discipline. Many, and perhaps most (all?), concepts in music have analogs in physics and mathematics. I have a background in music, spefically percussion. Marching band was my life in high school and that carried over into my college years. I […]

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Angular Quantities II

In this post, I will address the first question on the list in the previous post. What exactly does it mean for something to be a vector? In almost every introductory physics course, vectors are introduced as “quantities having magnitude and direction” and are eventually equated to graphical arrows. A vector is neither of these, […]

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Giving Students a Blank Check

Yesterday in my first semester astronomy class, I did something I’d previously threatened to do. I walked in, tossed my personal checkbook onto the floor in the middle of the room, and told students to write checks for any amount they felt appropriate in exchange for them becoming more engaged both in and out of […]

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Matter & Interactions II, Week 4

This week was entirely flipped in that class time was devoted to letting students do whatever they needed to do to practice with the material in chapters 13 and 14. Until now, no one has touched the WebAssign problem sets or much programming. In an administrative environment where “teaching” is defined as lecturing from a […]

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