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More than a blogroll

I’m going to try to go a bit beyond the typical blogroll and put together a list of blogs and recommended posts that I think are good examples of that blogger’s insight and perspective on teaching.

This list is a work in progress, and will take me some time to compile. But I’m going to try to commit to adding one blogger per day.

Physics Teachers

Frank Noschese: Action-Reaction,Nochese180 (@fnoschese)

Frank is the glue that connects so many physics teachers on the internet. You’ll find him on every blog, listserv, and tweet stream having to do with physics teaching. He teaches introductory physics using the Modeling Curriculum, and second year physics using Matter and Interactions at a public school. He’s also a National Board Certified Teacher.
Here are a few of Frank’s posts that have gotten me thinking most:

  • The $2 Interactive Whiteboard: When SMART’s stockprice tanks as users decide these $2000 devices aren’t worth it, you’ll know Frank’s post is what started it all.
  • Pseudoteaching[PT]: Frank and I coined this term to describe teaching that looks initially like good teaching, but when reflected upon, turns out to lead to very little learning. Frank’s work on this led to dozens of teachers posting their own Pseudoteaching reflections, and it’s still growing.
  • Khan Academy is an Indictment of Education: Frank was one of the first teachers on the internet to see that KA isn’t really the problem—the problem is that the world sees KA as the solution to our problems in education.
  • Lesson Progression: Projectile Motion Frank clearly lays out how his own teaching has evolved and improved over time, and in so doing, serves as an example for us all.

Brian Frank: Teach Brian Teach (@brianwfrank)

Brian just completed a postdoc in Physics Education Research at the University of Maine and is now headed off Middle Tennessee State University. Brian has transformed how I think about student dialouge and misconceptions, and convinced me to spend much less time worrying about the mistakes they are making in explaining phenomena, and instead to work on helping them grow the many good ideas they have into rich, connected understandings.

Here are a few of Brian’s posts that helped to shape my thinking

  • Worrying about Misconceptions This post really got me to reconsider some of the cringes I feel when I hear a student repeating a misconception they picked up from a lower level science class.
  • Sorting out Inconsistencies. You’ll see that around half of the 24 comments on this post are mine, which chronicles my journey to sort out some of my own misconceptions about pressure and the molecular world. This really models the type of questioning and learning I want my students to be doing.
  • Light and Water: Post 5 In this sublime post, Brian uses a whiteboard and a blue marker to experiment and uncover some subtle ideas about light and reflection. The entire 10+ part series is a great example of how to stay curious about science.
  • I guess I do want to talk about misconceptions. One of Brian’s signature posts, IMO, where he explains exactly why we shouldn’t think of all those common misconceptions (like students thinking inanimate objects can’t exert forces). Also check out the previous post, I said I don’t want to talk about misconceptions.

Kelly O’Shea: Physics! Blog! (@kellyoshea)

Kelly O’Shea teachers honors and introductory physics at my former boarding school in Delaware. In fact, I was fortunate enough to interview her back when I was leaving and she was applying for my job. Back then Kelly has just completed her Masters degree, and spoke with an contagious enthusiasm for science that told me she would be phenomenal teacher. Last year, Kelly almost single handedly re-wrote the modeling physics curriculum I use in my classroom, and I find myself constantly turning to her for advice on things big and small—from how best to teach a particular concept, to moving away from homework entirely. Kelly is one of the hardest working and most dedicated teachers I know.

Here are a few of Kelly’s posts that have provoked and shaped my thinking

  • The No Homework Experiment: Kelly describes a wonderful experiment she tried in the second semester of this year where she stopped assigning homework. Kelly does a great job of laying out the problems of physics homework for student learning and describing a number of fantastic tweaks she is going to try next year.
  • Failure is not optional This was a breakthrough post for me that re-conceptualized the purpose of assessments in my class: Show me what you don’t know.
  • Goal-less problems. If you want to see the amazing things an outstanding physics teacher can get her students to do check out this post, filled with examples of student work on open ended, “goal-less” problems. I borrowed this idea from Kelly, and my students love working on these problems.
  • The Mistake Game Here’s a fabulous method Kelly cooked up for Normalizing mistakes in the classroom. Have students make mistakes on purpose in whiteboarding sessions, and see if other students can find them

Josh Gates: Newton’s Minions (@deltagphys)

Josh teaches all levels of physics at the Tatnall School in Wilmington, Delaware. He’s a proponent of Standards Based Grading, and does a fantastic job of teaching his students to develop explanations of physical phenomena through long chains of reasoning. His blog is relatively new (I say that as a wizened 10 month blogger), but it is filled with depth and insight.

Here’s are some of Josh’s blog posts that I’ve found most thought provoking:

  • Chains of Reasoning: the Doppler Effect In this first part of a series, Josh introduces a challenging problem that involves multiple steps of conceptual reasoning, and even shows how all of this plays out with examples of student work. Be sure to check out the rest of the posts in this series.
  • What does that graph tell you? (Part 1) Another great series from Josh zeros in on how to teach students to go beyond simply constructing graphs and instead focus on interpreting the meaning of graphs. This is a great extension of his chains of reasoning approach.
  • Test Preparation of Not This is a great metacognative post by Josh that explores how his students prepare for tests, and really got me thinking about what I can do to encourage my students to take on active methods of studying (like solving new problems) and avoid passivle methods (like re-reading notes).

Andy Rundquist: SuperFly Physics (@arundquist)

By day, Andy is a “SuperFly” physics professor at Hamline University. At night, he serves as the chair of the Global Physics Department. He’s a technological wizard—he can program Mathematica to tune his whistle, he can fake all the data from the greatest experiments of the 20th century using LabView, and he’ll show you how to do all this to with screencasts he whips together in seconds.

Here are a few posts from Andy I found to be “SuperFly”:

  • Momentum Units: In this seminal post, Andy starts the Momentum is King movement, and names a unit. Not bad for a few hundred words.
  • SBG with voice revisions: Andy reflects on how he assessed his students by having them create screen casts explaining problems. This seems to be an excellent way of assessing student understanding, and it’s something I’m looking forward to trying out.
  • Fleece Sheets: In a great example of finding science in everyday phenomena, Andy uses fleece sheets as a great method for drawing students into thinking about temperature, conduction and heat transfer.

Mark Hammond: Physics and Parsimony (@mark_s_hammond)

Mark teaches physics using the modeling curriculum and 2nd year physics using Matter and Interactions at St. Andrew’s in Delaware. It’s hard to believe that 8 years ago, I was Mark’s mentor when he was a new teacher and he joined the SAS faculty after deciding to change careers from working in industry to teaching. Very quickly thereafter, I found myself gaining much more wisdom from Mark than I could possibly impart. In addition to his physics teaching, Mark is an outstanding swimming coach, and this experience shows in both is teaching and his blog.

Here are some of Mark’s posts that have influenced my thinking:

  • Deliberate Practice in Physics: Mark is one of the best bloggers on the idea of deliberate practice I’ve found. This post gives a great overview of what deliberate practice is and how Mark is trying to build it into his classroom. Be sure to read his later reflection on the topic: Spend Time, Dig Deep, Think Hard.
  • Naturally Gifted One of the most destructive ideas in physics is the idea that some students just “get it” and other’s are destined to struggle. Mark breaks this idea down for his students and helps them to see that hard work is the foundation of any great accomplishment.
  • Leading with mistakes In this post, Mark explained how he wished that middle school science teachers would impart the idea to students that the ideas they are learning now, and their very conceptions of science are bound to change as they grow and mature as learners. This directly led me to write a post how my studnets and I were able to go back and look at graphs with a 6th grade mind.

Scott Thomas: Salt the Oats (@MrScottThomas)

Ok this is an almost brand new blog that has made a big impression on me and shows great promise for the future. And I think the whole point of this blog roll should be to point out the cool up and coming stars you might not have seen yet, rather than simply piling on more praise on Dan Meyer (great as he is, and all). Scott teaches physics and started blogging in April. He previously taught out of the CPO curriculum but recently decided to make the switch to Modeling and Standards Based Grading.

So here are a few of Scotts posts I read just today and found to be great:

  • Hello World: Scott’s honest and insightful introduction is an awesome raison d’blogging as I’ve read.
  • FIU modeling workshop day 1 Scott is blogging day by day about his experience at the FIU modeling workshop. If you’ve nevr to a modeling workshop before (like me, unfortunately), Scott’s posts are the next best thing to being there. Be sure to catch the rest of these posts.
  • This and That: A great reflection on the role of the teacher when students have ubiquitous access to the information, with some great ideas, like having students in first year physics create a text they can continue to use in their AP physics course the following year.
  • Dorrie Bright: h walks into a bar (@hwalksintoabar)

    Dorrie and I attended the Klingenstein Summer Institute together way back in 2001. As I’ve tweeted before, Dorrie has the most interesting and inspiring “how I became a physics teacher story” I’ve ever heard. She exudes enthusiasm for the subject and I’m thrilled that she’s now started a blog to share this enthusiasm with the world.

    Here are a few posts of Dorrie’s that promise great things in the future:

    • How I became a physics teacher. One of the most inspiring stories of learning you’ll read. Share this with everyone who thinks they “can’t get” physics.
    • Understanding Confusion. A wonderful reflection on how confusion and struggle are a necessary part of learning physics (or anything else).
    • MotoGP, part 2—the Dani data. Dorrie breaks down MotoGP with some real film and data analysis—a great activity for learning about centripetal motion, frictional forces and more.

Science Teachers

Jason Buell: Always Formative (@jybuell)

Jason teaches middle school physics science in San Jose, and I think he was the first blogger I encountered who used Standards Based Grading in a science classroom. His posts gave the tons of ideas about how I might be able to bring this practice into my classroom, and since then he’s been inspiring me with insightful tidbits and honest challenges of teaching middle school students (something I always fantasize about doing).

Here are a few of Jason’s posts that have helped me along the way:

  • SBG Implementation: Topic Scales: This was the post that introduced me to SBG in science and helped me to see that SBG doesn’t have to be this procedure handed down on high that I must follow, and instead, is a flexible framework that I can adapt to my own needs. It helped tremendously that Jason writes such detialed posts about how he’s made it work for him, and he’s now collected all of them under one page for your browsing pleasure: Standards based grading implementation.
  • Picard, not Data In this insightful and funny post, Jason explains why averaging grades is usually a bad mood, and appeals to my love of Star Trek at the same time.
  • The Problem With Creating Problems: A great post about developing problems and letting questions arise organically to see the value of alternative questions, rather than artificially constraining every problem with a question. Great stuff.

Mylene: Shifting Phases (placeholder for Mylene’s twitter account)

Mylene teaches electronics in a 2 year technical program eastern Canada. Myele is a great example of how the internet can bring teachers together form all sorts of different institutions (4 year colleges and universities, 2 year colleges, and high schools), and yet find so much common ground. Mylene is a deeply thoughtful teacher who participates actively in the edublogosphere, and leaves some of the most helpful comments imaginable.

Here are a few of Mylene’s blog posts which I’ve found most helpful in my own teaching:

  • I need to teach Reading Comprehension: Mylene makes a powerful case that one of the biggest roadblocks in our students’ understanding is their inability to read technical documents, like textbooks. She then goes on to devise a detailed approach to teach her students this skill. I suggest reading the entire series.
  • What my students say about confusion Mylene took my original blog post about embracing confusion and ran with it to study specifically what her students meant when they said they were confused. This is something I want to try in my own classroom. Again, be sure to check out the full series.
  • Annotation and Archiving with Mind-Mapping Software: Mylene describes how she uses mind maps to create themed library of resources related to learning and teaching. The mind map she created is an awesome resource that would benefit any teacher and lead to months of productive exploration.

Other thinkers

Cal Newport: Study Hacks (Cal will never get a twitter account)

Cal Newport’s blog puts out around a post a month, and every time Study Hacks shows up in my Google Reader, I get this great anticipatory feeling instantly begin trying to find a quiet place to go and savor Cal’s Thoughts. Cal Newport started blogging as an undergrad on the basic theme of how to see more academic success while working less hard. His advice was simple, practice and very effective. As Cal has grown, going on to grad school, a postdoc position, and now a tenure track professorship at Georgetown, the aim of his blog has grown considerably. Cal now seems focused on empowering his readers to lead a well-lived life, but not with a bunch of BS pseduo-psychology. Instead, Cal focuses on insightful interviews and deconstructions of great successes that had ordinary beginnings, and simple steps anyone can take to discover a deep interest, and advice on how to sustain the hard work necessary to achieve success.

My favorite posts by Cal Newport:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2011 11:42 am

    Fantastic list of resources. Thanks for sharing!

  2. September 1, 2011 4:15 am

    Thanks for putting this together! As a newcomer to the bloggosphere, it’s really helpful to have a more than just a list of links to sift through- keep up the good work!

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