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Some updates to Physics Coach, we’re ready for beta testers

May 27, 2019

Note 2 (May 28): I think I’ve fixed the bug, but if you encounter an error loading the site, I’d greatly appreciate you reaching out via twitter, this blog, or email. 

Note: it seems like the site has a bug I missed and isn’t loading in production. I’m traveling now, but will try to take a look at it tonight and fix it.

When I announced Physics Coach a couple of months ago, I thought I was just a few edits from being done. Of course, I’d totally forgotten the lessons I’d learned from reading The Mythical Man Month back in college. But with two more months of tweaking, I’m ready to share a beta version of Physics Coach complete with a few new features. Also, I again have to send big thanks to my former students, Holly, Yousaf, and Leo who were amazing pair programming companions for much of the development, and tremendous earth shattering thanks to Jason, a totally random reader of my blog who offered to help with the project, implemented a bunch of features and guided me through countless challenges.


New Features:

  • Support for multiple courses: it’s now possible for teachers and students to be enrolled in multiple courses. Practices completed for a course also only appear in that course.
  • Streamlined interface: Rather than ask three different questions at the end of each practice, Physics Coach just asks students to rate how well they accomplished their goal, notes on their practice, and write a question they thought of during their work.
  • More data: Practice cards now show show more information, including the practice time, and emojis to indicate how well you accomplished your goal (🔥🔥 = accomplished much more than your goal). The question mark icon in the corner also indicates whether you have an open question associated with this practice (red= open question, green = closed question).
  • Open and Closed Questions: after each practice, practice coach asks you to write a question that you still have. By default, this question is considered unanswered or open, until you go into the practice card and mark it is answered, which will change the color of the outline of the textbook, and the question icon on the practice card.


  • Push Protocol: Back when I assigned homework consisting of a number of problems for students to solve, it often happened that students would come in the next day talking about how they struggled on a particular problem and spent an hour or more without making any progress. This sort of frustrated practice is a major detriment to student learning—it causes great frustration, decreases student self confidence, and can quickly lead to the student hating physics. To prevent this, I took some inspiration from Cal Newport, and asked students to recognize when they hadn’t made progress on a problem for 5 minutes, and in these moments, to write everything they’d tried to solve the problem, a question that would help them to get unstuck, share this with their teacher and then to move on completely from physics and start working on something else.I’ve created something similar in Physics Coach—once 5 minutes passes, the “I’m stuck” button becomes active, and if a student finds that they can’t make any progress on a problem for 5 minutes, they should press this button and will be asked to document their work, and write a question that would help them to make progress again.
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Possible future directions:

  • Creating summary page: this might show your recent practices, or a graph of your feeling of accomplishment over your most recent practices.
  • Push protocol alerts: I’d like to create setting where the teacher would get sent an email when a student submits a push protocol practice, so that the teacher could respond with help.
  • Comments: I’d like to add in the ability for teachers and students to add comments to their practices and questions.
  • A question tracker page: I’m thinking it might be helpful to pull all of the questions from practices into their own page so that students might be able to browse and review those questions.
  • Practice sharing: It might be useful for students to be able share their practices, especially push protocol practices, with other students in their class so that they can get feedback from their peers.

At this point, I really need some feedback from users to decide where to go with this app, so I think I’m ready to turn it over for beta testing. You can begin using the app right away. Here’s how:

  1. Go to and login with your Google account (at the moment, only users with Google accounts can use Physics Coach).
  2. To experience the student side of the app, enroll in the test course by following this link, and clicking the request to join button.
  3. To get set up as a teacher, please complete this short beta test request form, and I’ll convert your account to a teacher, which will then let you create your own course, and enroll students by sending them the link to your course.

That’s it. I’m a bit bummed I wasn’t able to get this app out earlier in the spring so that we might be able to get some real student testing. But I appreciate any testing and feedback you might be willing to share over the summer.

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