Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shana Tova - Happy Jewish New Year to All

Source: Rosh Hashana

Teachers Diary - Week 2

The world continues to be on the up and up for me with respect to teaching. My Physics Grade 11 students delved more firmly into Kinematics with a non-traditional ticker tape run where they determined their own acceleration. They then worked on a computer simulation program designed to reinforce the difference between position, velocity and acceleration (kids for the most part love computer simulation labs) and I have made a concerted effort to encourage the teachers in the department to make better use of such resources. The Gizmo site, Halliday and Resnick and PHET are all worth looking at. The week ended with a quiz and their teacher attempting the classic coin and feather free fall experiment.

The Grade 10 Students seemed to master a basic understanding of the law of reflections however they now need to extend their understanding by applying these principles to concave and convex mirrors. Next week will be the true test. I am also moving toward organizing a building project for them - the design of a kaleidoscope or a physics magic show (smoke and mirrors) are both being considered.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Picture of the Week - Judge Dredd

Old Stone Face is one of my favourite Comic Book Characters

Source: Efavata

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Teachers Diary - Week 1

It was my first week at the new school and although this is my seventh year as a teacher, week one's are always a bit off putting. Perhaps its the awkwardness of facing a class of fresh faces (and not knowing what to expect)coupled with the unfamiliarity of a school culture that differs remarkably from what I have experienced in the last two years. Nevertheless I believe that I made a strong start and achieved my week`s goals. It hasn't been easy as I have had to complement my teaching with the added responsibility of being Curriculum Leader (Head of the Department). This is demanding but challenging and it is this challenge that I relish (whether I will feel like this at the end of the school year is still up in the aether of uncertainty but for the present time all is well on the admin front...for now).

I have three classes this semester - A grade 10 Academic Science Class and two Grade 11 Physics Sections.
In Science I `threw`the students very early into the Curriculum. We are working on the newly formulated Optics Section and my lesson plans this week dealt with the human eye and its comparison to the camera, the electromagnetic spectrum and methodologies for the production of light. I am more aware than ever of the need to diversify my lessons and Fridays co-operative assignment on making posters to describe various types of light production (with the followup of a crossword) seemed to work well. The demo of producing light through the electric discharge of a gas source (with a Tesla coi)l was well appreciated by the students as was the use of Slinky's to illustrate the wave nature of light. My challenge with the Grade 10s is to incorporate more computer simulations in my pedagogy, a phenomenon that has been made more difficult by the lack of Internet access in the class. However I have initiated an action,as Curriculum Leader, with the board`s computer help desk to rectify the situation ASAP.

In Physics I have been stressing critical thinking. I opened up with a Fermi problem where I asked the students to estimate the number of marbles that could be packed into the room. This caused some initial confusion as many were not used to making assumptions (viz. diameter of the marble, voidage space, dimensions of the room etc) but after the dust it settled the solutions began to flow. Most attempts were valid but several students erred in making the correct conversion from cubic meters to cubic centimeters. Fermi problems are incredible devices for stressing the importance not only of reasonable assumptions but of order of magnitude approximation. This is a foreign concept for many students schooled in the hard philosophy of the exact answer.

Once the logistics of unit conversion and significant numbers were addressed (its amazing how many students have no idea why significant digits are so important), we spent time, via the mechanism of the faithful Socratic in discussing the importance of the three critical entities: mass, length and time. I then did a review of some key concepts from Grade 10 Kinematics (position, distance, velocity types - instantaneous, average, uniform, displacement and acceleration). Early diagnostics indicate that the students have strong mathematical skills and we really enjoyed breaking down the dynamics of the Usain Bolt Olympic run and the Donovan Bailey-Michael Johnson fastest man scenario.

My conclusion is that this will be a fun year. I can push these students to excel and we can really entertain the curriculum at its fullest.

Friday, September 04, 2009

In the News LXII

Healthcare takes a toll on Obama approval rating
Looks like the gloss is coming off the 'enlightened one' - about bloody time.

Anti-Chavez marchers take to the street
Relations continue to deteriorate between Colombia and Venezuela...Colombians are correct not to trust the growing influence of Chavez in Latin America (especially in light of his suppression of media criticism and opposition voices in Venezuela).

Iran places a terrorist in its new cabinet
No surprise here...Ahmadinejad is solidifying his lock in government....He knows for one that an US Administration will not call him on this one...Obama didn't even back up the protests from two months ago.

Canada's Hate Crime Law unconstitutional
On the surface it looks like a victory for Freedom of Speech but we will have to wait and see.

Web of complexity around Afghani election grows
Karzai is untrustworthy but the alternatives seem worse.

Netanyahu faces challenge from his own cabinet regarding concessions
Its the same story all over again...I personally support the right of Jews to live anywhere in the Jerusalem vicinity but I am not in favour of added settlements in the West Bank. I do detest the involvement of a busy body such as Desmond Tutu who by their comments, as outlined in the Australian article cited, appear to only have a rudimentary understanding of the issues at hand.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Twenty Annoyances

1. The whole Jon and Kate break up
2. Whitewashed Ted Kennedy Eulogies and Obituaries
3. Manchester United winning another EPL title
4. The Michael Jackson 'Homicides' debacle
5. Michael Ignatieff and yet another 'call' for an election
6. Lindsey Lohan
7. Obama's relentless criticism of Israel
8. Jon Stewart's ego
9. Letterman trying to sound intelligent
10. Hugo Chavez and the growing dictatorship in Venezuela
11. Another rant by the New Atheists
12. Conservatives turning a blind eye to the many faults of Robert Novack
13. David Miller's tenure as mayor of Toronto
14. Jimmy Carter - International bungler and meddler
15. Contracts for Professional Sportsmen
16. The Steroid Saga in Baseball
17. Ap0logists on the Left/Paleo Right for Islamist radicalism.
18. Keynesian economic proponents
19. There should be 'no debate about Global Warming crowd'
20. Politicians who oppose school vouchers and then send their own kids to private schools (Barack Obama)