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Report on our “conquest of cold” experiment

January 12, 2011

So last night I went to bed having not received a single email from my students regarding my invitation to participate in our experiment in online learning today.

This morning I got the following email from one of my students.

Mr. Burk,
Can I do this?

To which I replied, ABSOLUTELY.

And so, at 11am, I started watching the PBS conquest of cold, and typing on Today’s Meet.

The whole experiment went beautifully, I had a total of TWO, count em, TWO students turn out for a completely optional film and discussion about absolute zero. In addition, throughout the discussion, something like 4 other faculty, and my wonderful father in law showed up to participate as well, so at one point, our teacher to student ratio was hitting 4-1.

I’d say my first experiment at trying this was a success, and here are a couple of thoughts I have afterward:

  • Backchannels are awesome. It would be totally simple to set one up when watching a video in class, and project it using a second borrowed projector. I think it would greatly add to what students are able to get out of watching a video, and take a make a fairly passive form of education far more interactive.
  • All of this was very easy to do. My total time spent planning and setting this up was less than 10 minutes. It occurs to me that part of the power of the internet right now isn’t just that things are becoming powerful, they’re becoming easier to use. Just check out Frank Noschese’s post on how he was able to edit and assemble an awesome picture-in-picture video for free, using the web based video editor, Jaycut. If the last time you tried to do something on the web you found it to be frustrating and tedious, try again. You’ll likely be very surprised.

Now I’m thinking about how I can create more opportunities like this for my students. Could we have weekly sessions like this to learn about cool stuff in physics on the weekend for interested students? And how could I use this technology to go one step further and have students doing science remotely? We’ve got another snow day tomorrow, so maybe I’ll put something else together.

Since the Today’s Meet Transcript will expire in a week, I’ve posted the transcript below, if you’re interested in checking it out.

View this document on Scribd

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna Moore permalink
    January 13, 2011 7:46 pm

    This was very inspiring. As someone who “sat in” on the video and back channel conversation, I was so impressed (plus, I learned a few things about absolute zero that I did not know before). Given day 5 of the so named Snowcation, I’m going to try this tomorrow. Not sure I’ll have any students respond b/c I did not give very much notice, but here’s hoping. Even if no one joins this time, I really like the idea of using this technology in a classroom while showing videos. Great way to help get students engaged and encourage question asking and observation.

    • January 13, 2011 10:26 pm

      Thanks for participating. I’ll try to return the favor tomorrow. I’m finding that most students aren’t bothering to check their email over the snow break. This reminds me to find a better way to communicate with them other than school email.


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