Physics Examples of What Desmos Activity Builder Can Do

I’ve been getting more and more requests for examples of things I have done or things you can do with Desmos Activity Builder in a physics context. I’m going to add to this blog page gradually, rather than try to get it all out at once. Note: These are not polished curricular pieces, but rather things I put together in the scramble of remote learning in the spring, or things that I was tinkering with in order to learn how to use it. I still have a lot to learn, but hopefully this helps you get a sense of what can be done and to start your own learning process.

Card Sorts

Magnetic Forces Card Sort

Teacher Link to Activity:

Sketch Pads

Teacher Link:

Note: Doing sketch pads is simple. In this particular version, I have also used the omputational layer” in Desmos to “layer” sketches.

Randomization for Problems

Teacher Link:

Note: This kind of work requires working with the “computational layer” in Desmos. I also have some very minimal feedback in this one, just telling students whether there answer is too large, too small, or just right. Silly, in terms of feedback, but just showing it can be done.

Aggregate Student Data for Lab

Student Link:

Teacher Link:

Short Example: Constant Vel

Teacher Link:

Note: This kind of work requires working with the “computational layer” in Desmos. This shows using buttons, error messages, and feedback.

Medium Example: Orbits

Teacher Link:

Note: This one requires no computational layer and includes using card sorts, polling, sketch pad, etc.

Notes from Pandemic Teaching: Week Two

Just based on what I know, I have one student who works in the ER and another student who has been reactivated to active military duty for pandemic response. Many students have lost their jobs and a few have since taken up new jobs that conflict with opportunities for synchronous class activities. Others have told me they have unspecified barriers to continuing with class. I still haven’t heard from a handful of students, despite multiple efforts to reach out.

Teaching the concepts of electric charge, electric force, and electric field proved somewhat difficult, especially without the ability to be with students as the explore and grapple with phenomena. I used various simulations and clicker questions. Limiting our synchronous class time to 1.5 hours meant much of what we needed to go over was not addressed during synchronous. I’ll make some screencasts to fill in the gaps.

I chose not to do high stakes assessment for problem-solving with Coulomb’s Law and calculations of electric field and electric potential for point charge. We are doing exercises and they have some HW, but the emphasis is on getting oriented to enough of the concepts so we can pivot to circuits, which is an area we will assess.

We have our first online test this Monday. Students are worried, because they have become used to paper exams with lots of opportunity to show one’s work and reasoning. I will see how it goes and adjust later exams if needed, but the exam is open book and notes. Students are asked to work the exam individually without any help or consultation from any person (in or out of class). All students are taking the exam at the same time, during our regularly scheduled time. Their is pseudo randomization of numbers and scrambling of questions and answers for multiple choice.

Online learning: Notes from Days 3 and 4

We did more problem-solving in the latter half of this week, still using zoom’s breakout rooms and whiteboards. In intro physics, I had 4 groups of 4 students, which seemed close to the limit of me being able to get around and be helpful. I really wish I could see the all the students’ whiteboards simultaneously without having to join their group. In general relativity, I had two groups of three students and that was easy to just hop back and forth. For both, Id like to have an easy way / work flow for students to bring their whiteboards back to whole class. It might also be that Online whiteboarding would benefit from explicit roles.

In intro physics, we also did more clicker questions with polling. There were some minor difficulties with polling, wherein some students couldn’t find the polling after a repoll. I don’t know what the issue was, but it would fix itself if the student left the meeting and came back. It would also get fixed when I stopped sharing and reshared. This makes me think it’s an issue when both polling and sharing are being used at the same time. Why for some students? Not sure. One student who uses Linux also has trouble with zoom, but that’s with whiteboards.

Things I like about online learning. 1. Back channel. I definitely have students who interact with me more because they can privately message me a question without interrupting or having to ask it publicly. 2. During clicker questions, students can also privately type to me their reasoning.

Things I don’t like: I don’t yet have a work flow for the “pair” part of think-pair-share. I may need to create pairs for chat, because breakout rooms seems to take too much time for a quick pair chat. This is similar in annoyance with how I can’t glance across the room and see all the whiteboards.

We decided that 1.5 hours is the max time we should do whole class. So I am doing 1 hour of open room / office hours , where students can work home work problems either alone or together, ask questions, etc; then 1.5 hours of mixed lecture, discussion, whiteboarding. Students are not required to be there for any of this, of course.

Online Learning: Notes from Day 2

We mostly practiced technology routines in zoom — polling for clicker questions, breakout rooms for discussion, sharing and annotating whiteboards. For that wen did just a small amount of review. Lots of time was given for students to ask questions and express concerns about structure and policies moving forward. Overall, Things worked smoothly. I was able to do a little one -on-one office hours after class. We will try a regular class with new material on Thursday. I still don’t quite know how well I can quickly assess what students are thinking and doing, but we shall see.

My back felt a lot better being propped up with a pillow behind me and sitting with better posture.

Nothing big to report. Students seemed happy to have some normalcy and social interaction. I need to follow up with students who weren’t there. Tomorrow, we do white-boarding in GR with some problems, so we will see how that goes, and that will be some good practice for me before doing it with my larger physics class.

Online Learning: Notes from Day 1

I held my general relativity course over zoom. It was mostly review lecture slides with clicker questions to break it up. We had a collaborative whiteboard set up as well. Everything went ok. Things were are little clumsy and awkward, as getting a feel for the flow and pacing will take time. There were only six of us, which made things easy to discuss and collaborate without having to use polling or breakout rooms.

The good thing is that all students showed up and technology worked. We debriefed at the end to talk about how it went and what changes we need. On Wednesday, we are doing collaborative problem-solving, so I’m curious how that will go. It was defiantly harder to get a feel for the class… I need to establish some useful and transparent learning routines.

My back didn’t like sitting that long. I may need to figure out a standing desk situation, or just get up frequently, or get a better chair.

Today, I am meeting with intro physics for the first time as a large group. I have had some small group or 1-to-1 soon meetings with about a quarter of my class, just informally as tests of technology and just checking in with students. Today is just a review day.

This is just to say

I’m here.

Wishing you all well.

Today, we start remote delivery of physics instruction. I’ll hopefully have more to say once I’m back in the mix with students and their learning.

Last week we had no classes and our family daycare was closed. Our home is too quiet without the hum of play.

Waves Clicker Question

Students were struggling with a homework question about waves that asked them to determine what the “snapshot” graph (displacement vs position along string at a given time) would look like based on the “history” graph (displacement vs. time for a given location on the string.

Here are two clicker questions I wrote to get us thinking and talking critically about it in class. This sequence of questions and discussion took 20-25 minutes, which was more than I was expecting, but there was a lot of productive struggle.

Among many rich points of conversation, three key points of confusion and insight were

Argument 1: Time on the history graph is always read from left to right, but events on a snapshot graph with a left traveling wave occur from right to left. So the shape should be opposite, since time is proceedings in different directions on the two graphs.

Argument 2: Whatever the source does first gets a head start on the wave, and so should be “out” in front, which way the wave is traveling.

Argument 3:  We know each point on the graph goes up and then down. This means if you are at further down the string that the current snap shots shows (which hasn’t yet gone up or down yet), the closest part of the pulse needs to be an up part, because you are staring at what’s about to happen too you as it approaches you.

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