Spring Section Conference at Foothill College: April 26-27, 2013

Join us at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA (just 16 miles NW of San Jose, 40 miles south of San Francisco) for the spring conference of the Northern California/Nevada Section of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Starting with a social and physics show, and observatory tour Friday evening, followed by a full day of physics education speakers and workshops on Saturday.

Foothill entrance


  • Registration (encouraged, but not required)
  • Parking, directions, and other logistics (coming soon)

Friday, April 26

6:30PM No-Host Dining

First & Main Restaurant; 397 Main St, Los Altos 94022

Please for dinner RSVP at our website by April 25 so we have an accurate seat count

8 PM Physics Show

Foothill College – Room 5015

A presentation of Foothill’s Physics show, an event that has entertained

and educated tens of thousands of local elementary school-aged children since 2007.

9:30 PM See the Stars

Foothill College – Observatory

Our observatory is open for viewing on Friday nights, astronomy is looking up! The Peninsula Astronomical Society will host a night of telescopes, featuring our 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain.

Saturday, April 27

Morning Session Room 5015

8:00 Registration, Coffee, & Breakfast Food

8:45 Welcome and Announcements

8:55 Show & Tell

Share your favorite demonstration or teaching tip. Since new teachers and section members will be at this meeting, you are encouraged to dust off some of your oldies but goodies. If you have handouts, please bring 75 copies. Time limit is 5 minutes per person or you risk the dreaded GONG by referee David Kagan!

9:55 Break

10:00 Invited Talk: “Changes in the Teaching of Introductory Physics at Stanford”

Chaya Nanavati Stanford University, nanavati@stanford.edu

Five years ago the Physics department at Stanford decided to revamp the way its introductory Physics classes were taught. We decided to adopt strategies that focused on student learning and that had been tested by the Physics Education Research community. We went from a passive, instructor-at-the-whiteboard classroom to an active, student-centered classroom. I will discuss the challenges we faced and how we got buy-in from all the parties involved — instructors, teaching assistants, and students. I will specifically address our lab classes and changes in our philosophy on lab; and will also talk about specific changes that can be implemented in smaller classes (50 or fewer students) to build an interactive classroom.

10:55 Break

11:00 Invited Talk: “Maximizing Student and Teacher! – Success with Online Homework Systems”

Scott Hildreth Chabot College, shildreth@chabotcollege.edu

We know that online homework systems can save us grading time, and help some students by providing immediate feedback
for incorrect answers. But can we use those systems for more than just homework? How can we identify and deal with students copying rather than authentically doing the problems? Has using an online HW system resulted in measurable improvements in student learning, or retention? Scott will share tips and techniques, caveats and pitfalls, and discuss the future of online homework systems as multimedia content, tailored content delivery, and access platforms all continue to evolve.

11:55 Group Photo PSEC Quad

12:00 Lunch w/Topic Tables PSEC Quad

Sit with old friends, new friends or at a topic table. Possible topic tables: AP Physics, Physics First, Rookie Teachers, Two Year
Colleges, Next Generation Science Standards, and/or Labs.

1:00 Business Meeting / PSEC Tours

Attend the annual business meeting in Room 5015 or explore Foothill’s brand new Physical Sciences / Engineering complex!

1:35 Raffle in Room 5015

1:45 The Next Generation Science Standards: What’s Next?

Carolyn Holcroft (1) and Rick Pomeroy (2)

(1) Foothill College Biology, holcroftcarolyn@foothill.edu

(2) UC Davis School of Education, jrpomeroy@ucdavis.edu

In 2011, the National Research Council released the “Framework for K-12 Science Education,” which served as the guiding document for the recently released Next Generation Science Standards. Please join us for a very brief explanation of the development process and an overview of next steps as California and Nevada move towards implementation of new standards. We’ll talk about the philosophical underpinnings of the NGSS, how they might affect your physics classroom, and what you can do now to prepare for the transition.

2:40 Break

2:45 “The History of Physics Symbols”

James Lincoln Tarbut V’ Torah HS, LincolnPhysics@gmail.com

Why do we use h for Planck’s constant, or I for current? What does the “a” in ΣF=ma really stand for? Who decided, and when, to use c for the speed of light? I have done some historical research on several symbols and constants, tracking down when they first appeared in literature and what they actually stand for. The results have been enlightening and that they will help both teachers and students understand the meaning behind the choice for the symbols we use.School”

3:00 “Teaching physics to 7-8th graders in Middle School”

Ron Qian, Ralston Middle School, rqian@brssd.org

Prompted by an ABC news report on “Wake-up Call”, a proposal was made to Ralston Middle School Administrators to set up a pilot program for teaching physics, as they do in high-achieving countries such as Finland, Taiwan, China, and etc. This presentation addresses main challenges in teaching physics to middle school students. It also shares special ways to overcome those challenges (making no-assumption, concept clustering, just-in time math crash course, modeling instructions, multiple approaches in problem solving). At the end, students’ cognitive achievement and affective domain positioning will be presented.

3:15 “What Stanford Can Offer Physics Teachers”

Kaye Storm Stanford Office of Science Outreach, kstorm@stanford.edu

This informal presentation will discuss programs at Stanford for physics teachers and their students and suggest ways to link up with physics researchers to enhance your teaching and learning.

3:30 “EinsteinPlus”

Tom Woosnam Crystal Springs Upland School, twoos@csus.org

A report on the one week teachers’ workshop I did at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario. The resources I came away with were first class and I’ll show you where to download them.

3:45 Project-Based Learning

Foothill College Science & Engineering Association Foothill College, foothill.sea@gmail.com

One of the main goals of Foothill SEA is to help students gain deeper understanding of scientific principles through practical applications. We take advantage of the students’ natural curiosity and their desire to build things, and the projects we work on bring relevance to their study in science and technology. The 3D printer and the Quadropcopter the club built exposed students various subjects—such as microcontroller technology, programming, materials, design/manufacturing/fabrication, control theory, systems engineering, fluid dynamics—all leading to explain how the machines we build works and why those subjects matter.

4:00 “Some Statistics of Popping Corn”

Bernard Cleyet UCSC, retired, bernard@cleyet.org

Being physicists, many of us use apparatuses not in their intended manner. I will describe the use of a precision horological timer to collect statistical popping corn data and their subsequent analysis. My analysis will show that popping corn observes the Poisson interval distribution, as do the well known other events such as radio-active decay, falling rain drops, vehicle and photon arrivals, and horse kick deaths in the Prussian Army.

4:15 “Radical Physics: A Novel Online Introduction”

Tucker Hiatt, Wonderfest & Stanford University, thiatt@stanford.edu

According to the AIP, two-thirds of U.S. students never take a year-long physics course. Radical Physics offers the essence of an introductory course — online and for free — that will appeal to a sizable portion of the un-physicsed two-thirds. It will also help full-year students who want a second view of essential material. Radical Physics, created by the nonprofit WONDERFEST, offers several improvements over the Khan Academy model: (1) its principal instructor has 35 years of experience; (2) it promotes use of the PhET online laboratory simulations; (3) it references the free online “College Physics” text by OpenStax; (4) it has a look-you-in-the-eye “talking head” format that draws the viewer in — as television news has been able to do for over fifty years. Radical Physics viewers also benefit from on-screen demos with PASCO equipment, from occasional interviews with Stanford and UC Berkeley experts, and from critical analysis of compelling action movie scenes.

4:30 Close



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