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Start a physics teacher meetup in your backyard

September 14, 2010

Ever since I’ve started teaching, I thought it would be awesome to get all the area physics teachers together once a month or so just to talk shop. Unfortunately, it took me almost 10 years and 2 moves to make this happen.

Finally, when we moved to Atlanta, a city where I didn’t know any physics teachers, I decided last year to give this a shot. My basic thought was “email all the physics teachers in the Atlanta area, and try to get them together to meet.” This turned out to be easier than I thought—our athletic director had contact information for all of the local high schools, and then I was able to get in touch with the science curriculum coordinators of nearby counties who promoted it even further to their teachers. In addition a number of retired teachers got word of the meetings, and are now regular participants, and fantastic resources for us. I also made contact with a couple of the local college/university physics departments that turned out to be quite helpful. About the only group that wasn’t helpful was the AAPT, surprisingly.

This network of teachers has turned out to be incredibly valuable. Not only was I able to use it to find both of my long term subs, I’ve gotten tons of great ideas from our many share-a-thons and discussions (including the Livescribe smartpen, which I’ve been playing with recently). Along the way, we’ve had cool lectures about the how Georgia Tech is reforming their intro physics program to use Matter and Interactions (the greatest college text in the world….), and the black hole a the center of the universe. We even ended up putting together a 1 day workshop where teachers taught small workshops on topics ranging from using video in the classroom to making a Van de Graff from a soda can.

Anyway, thanks to the internet, putting this together has been surprisingly easy, and it confirms my faith that there are great teachers everywhere around us, and we all get better when we come together to share ideas.

Here are a couple of resources that made the set up process much easier:

  • Doodle: This is the best way to schedule a meeting I’ve found. Put together a short, calendar based survey of available meetings, and have people fill our their availability.
  • Google Groups: this is the backbone of our group. It combines a mailing list and a website in one. It isn’t pretty, but it’s easy to use and suits our needs.
  • Google Docs Forms: Want to put together a list of all the area physics teachers? Just make up a spreadsheet in gdocs, create a form, and email it to any contact you know at every neighboring school, asking them to type in the name of the physics teacher. Also a great way to take attendance at meetings, and countless other classroom uses.

You might try other technologies like meetup, as well.

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