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AAPT wrap up

August 17, 2012

Before too much time passes, I wanted to write a few final words reflecting on my attendance at AAPT. I also encourage you to take a look at Andy Rundquist’s comparison between the Global Physics Department and AAPT as well.

While AAPT is improving in its use of social media and technology (a few times I was able to tweet questions to the #AAPTSM12 hashtag and get a response from the AAPT twitter account, I spent most of the conference thinking about how many ways it could leverage the power of technology even more.

Here’s just a few ideas I came up with:

  • Make a cracker-barrel reference: one of the highlights of the meeting are the HS Share-a-thon cracker-barrel, where teachers get a few minutes to share a great lesson or demo they use in their classes. When I’ve attended these sessions in the past, I’ve come away with a number of great ideas to use in my classroom, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to attend this year. But I don’t know why AAPT couldn’t have every person presenting at the share-a-thon fill out a simple google form describing the thing they’re sharing with any relevant information & links, and then publicize that later. This would seem to be doubly easy for the video share-a-thin, where teachers shared YouTube clips they use in their classroom for video analysis. Why can’t I find all those videos in a single webpage from AAPT now?
  • Make a reference archive for talks: Likewise, emailing presenters for copies of their talks after the meeting is for the birds. Presenters who want to share their slides should be able to upload them to AAPT servers; that way anyone who wants them can download them. This would be a tremendously valuable service that I might even pay an extra fee to have access to. Until this happens, we’ve got to give huge props to people like Leah Segal, who organized a google doc of references herself.
  • Backchannels for every presentation: twitter does a great job of serving as a backchannel across the conference, but AAPT could do so much more by embracing the concept further. Why not have a backchannel for every talk and let the moderator choose the best questions to ask at the end of the talk? Then afterward, the presenter could go back to his/her backchannel and respond to comments individually. It would seem to encourage far more collaboration that 1-2 questions at the end of an 8 minute talk does.
  • A more open format: 90 minutes of 8 minute talks followed by 2 minutes of questions turns into a session jam packed with presentations but with very little learning and dialogue between presenter and audience. I greatly preferred the session on the good and the bad of video lectures moderated by Danny Caballero, where only 3 presenters spoke for 15 minutes each, and then there was an additional 45 minutes devoted to conversation. This is a format that should be adopted far more widely. I also think the model of flipping some presentations, and having presenters upload videos of their talk and then using their presentation time for discussion has a lot of potential and should be explored further.
  • More live streaming, videoconferencing, and recording: I’ve got to give huge props to AAPT for recording and live streaming most of the main conference talks. We also experimented a bit with videoconferencing in a session I hosted on computational modeling for introductory students by having Phil Wagner from Google deliver an invited talk via Google+. But we’re still a quite a ways from some truly connected conferences like EduCon, where every single session is videoconferences live, and there’s a backchannel chat to allow remote participants to participate in the discussion. If AAPT wants to reach out and show its membership how valuable attending a national AAPT meeting could be, really embracing remote participation would be a great way to do it.
  • A directory: This isn’t a conference thing, but I would love to see AAPT create an opt in directory for physics teachers where we could list our content information, location, and areas of expertise, and other teachers could search the directory to find us and get in touch via email or twitter. Every physics teacher should be able to move to a new town, and without much trouble find other physics teachers who are interested in collaboration, and AAPT can be the vehicle to make this possible.

I realize that AAPT has got its hands full just planning the national conferences as it does now. Before this year, I had no idea that sessions and workshops for the 2013 summer meeting are planned a year in advance in the summer meeting, and did not understand the tremendous amount of work all of the various committees must do to make these happen. It’s my hope that somehow by better leveraging the community of physics teachers through social media, we could spread this workload out a bit more. I’m certainly willing to do all I can to help.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist permalink
    August 18, 2012 8:32 am

    Thanks, John, these are all excellent points. Having sat in on one of the committee’s planning sessions for 2013, it seems that there’s a lot of interest in change, but the inertia of the institution makes it hard. It sounds like they’re willing to try a lot of your ideas in small doses, though, so let’s hope to see a few of these ideas in place next year!

  2. August 20, 2012 11:55 am

    I would like to see AAPT incorporate the un-conference model, maybe on the Sunday afternoon or perhaps one evening, when there are two or three 50-minute slots and people can walk into one of six or so options for each time slot. This could give space for people to talk more informally on a topic with discussion, and can be more flexible with topics than the year-in-advance-planned sessions.

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