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Dec. 16th, 2013

paper birds

More videos

I know I promised six videos in my OLT application but time and cost have dictated that there only be four, and, for your enjoyment, instruction and discussion I present the final two.
This video probably should be the first of the series - Textbook, your personal trainer

And the video which probably should be last is this one - Design an experiment

Both videos made me think a lot about why we do the things that we do when we are teaching, and how a great deal of what we do is aimed at improving the learning experience for students. Hope these videos help to throw a little light on the ubiquitous student question of "Why?".

Dec. 7th, 2013

paper birds

ALTF Forum and working day

9:59am Brisbane airport on my way home
I got a limo back to the airport (didn't cost any more than a taxi) and that sums up what this trip has been - utilitarian cost comparable luxury. The hotel that I stayed in was not new and I have stayed in bigger rooms but these ones were well maintained and the attention to detail was very satisfying. The same goes for the buffet breakfast (cost included) which was diverse while being moderate and simple. The hotel adjoined the botanical gardens which in-turn flowed into the university where the forum was housed in well thought out learning spaces. The whole experience has been informative and relaxing at the same time.

The first day of the Forum was open to all and well attended. I managed to find a few physics types and we pulled out our iPads so they could check out my WIO website as I was telling them about it. I was also able to e-mail a DVCA details of my website, there and then, so she could forward the information to her people. One of the speakers, Patrick Crookes, was talking about a new initiative of the OLT, facilitating change management, and gave his e-mail address for details. So there and then in the talk I wizzed off an e-mail and by the time I got back to the hotel that evening and checked my e-mail his secretary had replied with all the details. These were immediately forwarded to my DVCA who thought they were a good idea and forwarded them on to out L&T people. Wow I am so Web 2! *grins* One reason that I can stay connect is that I have organised EduRoam which works on just about any university campus and I also purchased a PocketWiFi and 12m access so anywhere any time I can do what needs to be done.

Day 2 was a work day for the Fellows and we gave our opinions on where things should go next as well as presenting our work to each other. Wouldn't you know it that Dawn Bennett at Curtin may have the answer to my problem of getting students to take ownership of their learning at the beginning of first year instead of half way through second year. She is going to come over and give a tutorial at the beginning of next semester and I am looking forward to working with her.

At the end of the day many of my Perth based Fellows caught the red eye home. Our university still allows a day of travel to conferences and another day to get home so I stayed the night. This gave me time to take another walk around and I found the Welcome Bridge and South Bank. People of Perth if you want to know what to do with the walk along the river check out South Bank. If you want to try out some fantastic learning spaces visit QUT. 

Nov. 29th, 2013

paper birds

Another week zooms by

Ah! So it is Friday again and I sloped off early from the STAWA Future Science Conference to come back to work and catch-up on my e-mails! You would think I could be a bit more creative than that! I had intended to stay to the end and have drinks but my bag, with all the presentation materials in it, was so heavy that I decided to take it back to the car and yes, the force had weakened with distance and I never got back to the conference.

I did enjoy the presentations that I went to though. There are some very keen and dedicated teachers in our schools and I am not saying that just because they thought my presentation was useful. Although it is nice to do things that people find useful. Even the Biology people thought they could use the teaching strategy as evidenced by a very loud, collective, “Yes” when the question was put. I still have to check the feedback sheets to find out exactly what they thought though.

This means I have to get all the teaching materials for the first two videos up onto the website before the beginning of next year so people can use them. Which should just be doable in-between; creating websites for two units, writing my mid-term Fellowship report, taking some holidays, marking some sup exams and keeping an eye on an OUA unit. Once more unto the breach dear friends! (Shakespeare, 1598)

So what else has happened this week? Well…I found myself looking my Dean squarely in the eye the other day and saying “No I do not want to be classified as a teaching-scholar, I want to be a teaching-research academic, and my real and important research is physics education”. I don’t think I had realised until then how impassioned I was about discipline specific education research, being given the same consideration as research within the discipline. It takes just as much time and thought and rigour, why should education research, done by a physicist into physics education, be seen as an also-ran to teaching? From his point of view he was just trying to point me in the right direction to help me maximise my chances of promotion, but he could see my point, so we are just going to leave things the way they are for the moment.

On another matter I gave a small presentation to one of the people who are developing our transition and breadth units early this week and there may be a spark of interest there – perhaps when the “Textbook: your personal trainer” video gets onto YouTube they may find something more useful.

Well that’s about it – I had better sort out the materials from the conference and check the feedback sheets.

Nov. 15th, 2013

paper birds

Forethought and Organisation


A bit of forethought and some solid organisation got me through the last 2 weeks. The Gantt chart is always useful as a prompt when I run out of ideas for what to do next but somewhere those ideas have to be made into practicalities. I am a very physical person so if something is “in the computer” it tends to be forgotten about therefore the magnetic whiteboard holds the paperwork for all of my “engagements” and the desk has the files and equipment lined up in order of date (see picture). Of course the diary tells me where I have to be and when so it is just a matter of checking the diary, grabbing the event paperwork, scooping up the props and away we go.

What have I been so busy doing I can hear you ask? Last week Tuesday and Friday mornings were spent reviewing papers for a publication. I have only just put my hand up for this sort of thing but I seem to be ok at it and luckily the papers were in an area that I actually knew something. Tuesday afternoon was spent on writing a paper of my own, still unfinished and sitting on the left of my keyboard waiting with puppy-dog eyes for me to pick it up and finish it off (writing wise). So I guess that is another of my organisational prompts.

Wednesday I gave a seminar about my work at Curtin Uni. and also gave them a quick demo of how I use the RealTime relativity simulation of Craig Savage at ANU. There was a quick bit of networking and then back to Murdoch to meet my new Dean of School. He seems like a good guy and he asked me to do some things I have wanted to do for a while which is always nice. So I have promised to get the prize boards and graduation boards up-to-date as well as restart the Physics Club and do some statistical analysis to find out what is happening to our physics students during their time at Murdoch i.e. so many students start, not so many finish, “Why is it so?” (Julius Sumner Miller).

IMG_1334Thursday we shot two videos and I was exhausted by the time we had finished.

Monday this week I was still recovering from the cold that attacked me on the weekend so I stayed at home. Tuesday and Wednesday I spent catching up, proofing my PhD students abstract which was due that day and preparing for a presentation on Thursday. I was also doing background organisation for the Australian Institute of Physics history booklet I promised I would create for the AGM next week. Thursday morning was spent at the WAND sharing day and I talked to a few people about what a Fellowship means as well as being invited to be involved with an OLT extension grant just because of my Fellowshipness! Perhaps this is what being famous means :P Anyway a good morning was had by all and as it finished earlier than I thought it would it gave me time to catch up with my daughter for lunch and then proof my other PhD student’s response to the review of a paper he is submitting for publication.

Today is Friday and I have printed 30 booklets containing information from meetings and AGMs of 50 years ago along with some old pictures of now well respected physicists and a couple of stories to orientate the reader. Then packaged those with a flyer for a talk that dates from when Murdoch Uni opened it’s doors and a “Study Physics” promotional flyer. I have also organised the receipt book for taking the money for the dinner at the AGM, put together the history display (books and institute ties), tizzyed up the financial report, PD report, WiP report and history report. Then there is this post and hopefully an hour cracking student enrolment and graduations numbers.

Next week at this stage there is the PG conference on Tuesday followed by a resin workshop in the evening, we are on strike for a couple of hours on Wednesday morning with the AGM dinner in the evening and a meeting about that OLT application on Thursday. The rest of the time will be spent preparing for the Science teachers conference the following week and trying to finish my paper which is only the first of many! Oh and somewhere over this week I updated the website for my students so that it can go live on Monday. Thank goodness for the me of the past that had a bit of forethought and was well organised   J

Oct. 21st, 2013

paper birds


Well it is week 13 of the semester and I have just ordered the website for the first year physics unit in study period 4 which means my glorious semester of thinking and being creative is coming to an end.

Yes that is right we are teaching over the summer break. Hopefully there will not be too many students enrolled because I have not got a tutor and so I will have to do everything myself. I can here you now saying “Well isn’t that what you are paid for?”, actually no. In theory for this coming year I should be spending 55% of my time teaching, 30% doing research and 15% doing committee and service work in the university and community. This means that we co-ordinate more units than we can completely teach ourselves and depend on tutors and demonstrators to help out. You can’t just pop down to the shopping centre and get a new one when they move on to more lucrative and secure positions so sometimes things get a bit tricky.

I am guessing the OLT work will be in the research area i.e. 1.5 days a week with 3 days a week teaching and half a day a week doing service/ committee work but it never works out that way does it? Teaching expands to fill all the time available just like housework and now that the website has been ordered it will have to be tidied up and improved.

I will have to isolate myself in some way from the universities incessant needs starting on 11th November 2013. Three half days a week at least until the end of September 2014! Luckily all the conferences, workshops and talks are booked in. Most of the material I need to be able to give them is organised or mapped out. Two videos are done and two are well organised. The last two videos, who knows, maybe January. Anyway forewarned is forearmed and from 11th November I will not be answering e-mails before lunch time.

So what have I been doing since last we spoke? I took some video of Rebbeca talking about why we need textbooks so we can pretend she is Skyping into our next video conversation. I have done the first draft of the WIO teaching strategy paper and sent it out for proof reading and review. We have a meeting about the website – I played the “DVC signature on this piece of paper which says the university will support my work” card to good effect. I don’t want to do that too often – with great power comes great responsibility. The school is thinking about Honours so I have thrown my hat into the ring to take on honours students interested in research on learning & teaching in physics / science. We have a lot of secondary education students in science so this may be of interest to them. I am sure there is more but out of time again!

Oct. 10th, 2013

paper birds

Wash-up from the formula tutorial

Forces tutorial completed according to my door

Yesterday I obtained usable material from only 20 students in the tutorial for interrogating formula. There was 4 tables worth of material I could not use this time but with less students in the tutorial the actual amount of feedback I have to work with is less. However the formula flower on my door which represents the testing of the video has bloomed.

The impression I got from the student material as I sorted through to find the permission slips was mostly positive in the groups that I am able to use the data from and of course I cannot say anything about what is in the four groups of material that I cannot use. I can use it to inform my teaching practices and will do so once the analysis of the material I can use is complete and written up.

What else have I been up to? The “Textbook your personal trainer” video script has been written and the “Designing experiments” one is still being worked on. A date has been set for shooting them and I have engaged some of the actors. The Wandering Whiteboard is quietly confident of playing an important role so we just need to keep doing what promised I would and writing it up along the way.

Talking about writing I have also been trying to put the underlying Learning & Teaching information into a paper that can be published and I will be writing up the results from the tutorials. It would be really nice if I could get someone else to trial them as well so we could rule out the “tutor effect” in the results but it is early days yet. There is also the question of where do I send my paper for publishing. Do I try for a leading journal or do I publish in one that I like. One that I know the readers of will have some understanding of where I am coming from with this research, on the material I am producing for dissemination, as part of the OLT Fellowship? Decisions decisions…..

Note to self - go and sit on desks tomorrow until something happens about the website.....

Sep. 24th, 2013

paper birds

Interrogating Formulas

So here is the second vid in the series. It is suppose to be what it is - me talking about F=ma with one of my tutors. Hope you like it. For those of you who are teachers there is a whole teaching strategy that goes with the vids - will be available as soon as I can get the website up.

Sep. 23rd, 2013

paper birds

Throw away the PowerPoint

Today's seminar went extremely well. People were engaged and several people took ideas away with them. The only problem was that I could not find the seminar feedback sheets so I will have to send everyone an e-mail to see what they got out of it.

So what did I do in the end - I didn't give a PowerPoint presentation.

We rearranged the room so they had to work in smallish groups of 2, 3 or 4. There was coffee and cake provided for people to help themselves during the seminar. I had the videos ready to go on the projector and diagrams about the OLT Fellowship ready on the whiteboard. I had explained the background thinking and what I was going to do to Jamie and he would act as a Dorothy Dix if it was not coming through clearly enough.

I started the seminar by explaining the  OLT diagram and the WIO strategy along with what each step was trying to work on from a learning and teaching perspective. Along with the steps of the strategy I indicated how many students would be working together at any one time. The reason for continuously changing the arrangement of students is so they mix and build an inclusive community further engaging them. I then pointed out that I had not mentioned content which indicated that the strategy was transferable to other subject matter.

Also on the whiteboard was "student, teacher, developer, researcher" to remind the staff to keep changing between their 4 thinking caps and I made reference to the different points of view as we went through the rest of the seminar.

Next we did the tutorial as I had done it with my students the week before and as things went along I pointed out the pedagogy to small groups as they were working. It went well and they were as engaged as the students had been in the test tutorial at home. I have to send the participants the answers to the diagrams / picture mapping exercise.

I asked them to return to their seats and instead of finishing the tutorial we talked about where to get the ideas from for a Fellowship, what a Fellowship is like, polishing the draft, finding a mentor, getting different people to read your draft, ethics approval and generally answering questions.

Points of note
1) There were people who had no idea what a free-body-force diagram was at the beginning but were comfortable with the concept by the end of the activities. This was achieved with peer learning as well as the materials I had provided.

2) The engineer and the physicist used the constructing-a-diagram activity to find a common language so that they could discuss the diagram construction.They also missed some initial information in the picture which showed which way was up and found that trying to draw the free-body-force diagram for the picture in that way was not only difficult but did not make sense. They worked out the right way up and thought this then might be a way of drawing out the students understanding by giving them something with the cues to which way up removed and seeing what the students made of it. I also think it would also be a good activity and if I have time will make some resources.

3) There were a few ideas about alternate ways the video could be used. Firstly for tutor training or secondly for students in a stop-start mode so that each bit could be discussed and things could be pointed out.

4) Perhaps the students need to understand the "words" before throwing them at sentences. i.e. arrows are forces, objects may have certain shapes or they may not and other conventions.

5) One participant felt that the tutorial highlighted the importance of tutor training which included concepts and depth of understanding.

6) I wish I had recorded what I was saying as it would give a better story.

Sep. 21st, 2013

paper birds

The loneliness of a long distance OLT Fellow

Well the conference is over and I don't think my presentation went as well as it could have. I had 15min and 6min of that was taken up with the video on diagrams. I should have drawn a diagram to show how everything fit together because I don't think they got it.
The audience contained academics who do research on teaching as well as teaching in science and maths, there were people who study and teach education and there were also people who have Learning and Teaching support roles. There were also students doing education research on learning in science and maths. There was one person who had been at the OLT induction with me who was nodding during my presentation so she understood what was going on. I don't think the others did.
Some thought I was very brave putting myself in a video that way - completely missed the point of the video but indicative of the patriarchal society we live in, however that is a feminist rant for another day. Another candidly told me that it came across as two experts talking as though that was a bad thing, which means I did not get the message across that the video was supposed to be two experts talking. A few found it interesting and the following plenary speaker made reference to the video in a positive way but indicated that there was more I could do to build a fame-work for the video to sit in. And while I know there is a framework within my head I think I will have a look at his work so I can make this framework more explicit.
So how am I going to present this material at Flinders Uni on Monday. For a start I think I will be given more than 15min for the presentation. I will begin with a venn diagram where the outer ring is the OLT Fellowship which focuses on dissemination. Wholly within that will be the WIO strategy for teaching: edge-of-ability student activity, video of experts and video-watching worksheet, analysis of video, focus student activity, completion of initial edge-of-ability student activity and final student presentation. This is probably also why people did not get what I was on about, there are too many steps for them to remember without a picture that chunks them together. As you can now see from the above the video is only a small part of the whole and this is what needs to be emphasised as well.
What also needs to be emphasised is that this is a generic process not limited to teaching about diagrams and formula and that this process is founded on solid learning and teaching pedagogy. Another thing to emphasise is that I used all of my knowledge and background about teaching while creating the videos and there are reasons for starting with diagrams and even more reasons for having two female experts.
So while I was somewhat sad that I had not got my message across in the large session there were other one-on-one opportunities where I was able to explain myself and several people have given me their card and want to continue the conversation.

Sep. 17th, 2013

paper birds

Put the kettle on Canberra

Well tomorrow I fly out to Canberra to give my fist two videos an airing at a conference. The Diagrams one went well in the tutorial last week. Of the feedback I was allowed to use (some students did not fill out the permission sheets – ethics then says I cannot use the material they produced for research - sad) the majority (14 yes, 3 some, 5 no) said that the activities in the tutorial helped them to understand why diagrams are used in physics. Of the 5 no, four said they already knew what we were telling them. So, along with the other questions in the feedback sheets I think the video and associated activity of matching pictures and diagrams was a qualified success. Qualified in that I could only us the feedback from 23 students and these students were the ones where the whole table had answered, yes it is ok to use our stuff. So there was a degree of bias in the sample in that I did not get feedback from students who were late and did not catch up or couldn’t be bothered catching up or could not be bothered filling out forms...

Anyway I think I am just about ready. The talk is on a thumb drive and in DropBox and on my iPad. The video links are in the talks, on a spreadsheet (in DropBox on my iPad), on YouTube, and I have a pocket wifi so access to the net anywhere any time. Fingers crossed. I guess I should go home and pack some cloths now!

I also downloaded an e-book about e-learning to read on the plane. It was a b…. to download and copy to the iPad. I had to download readers and get permissions and everything was going to my home e-mail address for some reason or other. And the on-line bookshop gave me misinformation so I had to e-mail their help person and it took ages to get a reply so I hunted the info I needed down on the inter-webs. What a day. What a growth curve!

I still haven’t figured out the logic of Physics Vids and YouTube and finding my favourites so I can show them to people when I am talking about the videos but I am getting there.

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