Thursday, July 19, 2012


Hello ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...physics is my business!
In past posts on this topic, I have referred many times to "practice". Why do we create and design lab experiences that are devoid of this component, which is almost self-evidently critical! The reasons for NOT including it amount to common laments: lack of time and lack of materials. Are these valid reasons, and are they consistent with 21st century learning?

Lack of time and materials, or rather, limits imposed by time and materials, are always a challenge. To return to the basketball analogy, a basketball "learner" has only a certain amount of time to be on the court, and even then, must practice alone until other resources (other people or bodies) are available. Other time might be spent training the body for the sport in the form of conditioning, weightlifting and pleiometrics. How does that compare to the science student's lab experience?

Their "court" is the lab itself. People or not, a multitude of apparatti and chemicals are needed to perform complex labs. While many basketball practices are 2 hours in length, most lab periods are less than an hour. So far, the lack of time and materials seems apparent. Add to this that outside of the lab, there is little apparent "training" that the student can undertake.

However, over the past 15 years we have seen the dawning of a new day in this regard. Technology has helped us with the problems above, and if properly implemented, can continue to create wildly brilliant opportunities for students. How many different ways can a student do a lab today are new in the past 20 - 30 years? Video with video analysis of data is now possible and was not back when the mad Dr. Julius Sumner Miller was starring in his classic science lab videos. Online applets and simulations have appeared that allow students to do experiments over and over again. And this is the beginning of the list.

Please add to it. How can a person experience a lab today that allows for greater practice, or even allows them to do a lab that they could not have before. To stimulate your thinking, consider telescopes that are controllable at great disctances over the internet! I would propose that there is no shortage of answers! As to how this is best implemented, we will leave that until my next post.

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