22. Technicians and Teacher Talk

In 1927, the Solvay conference brought together the likes of Einstein, Curie, Schrodinger, de Broglie, Dirac, Bohr and on and on. That was the highest density of physicists until a couple of weeks ago when Robin caught up with Chris, David, Steve and Ben at Uppingham school.

In the same way that drunk guys start to talk about their mums, teachers will start talking about technicians and how wonderful they are. We point out how essential, precious and endangered they are. We encourage teachers to make sure their technicians are given professional recognition. Make sure they are fully included and feel that they are equal members of the science team. Technicians need professional development and should be included in professional dialog. Check out http://www.preproom.org and techognition for more (since publishing this episode have had even more suggestions and there is now a dedicated page for technician focused sites).

Timestamps

  • Lewis Matheson from alevelphysicsonline.com and vacuum cannons sold out @ 01:14
  • Americans going back to the Moon @ 03:06
  • Space Suits @ 03:37
  • Physics teachers and technicians @ 05:59
  • Practical in Memoriam @ 21:40
  • Closing the episode @ 35:23

Summary

Robin had a round table discussion with four other teachers at Uppingham School. Dr David Boyce, Ben Dickens, Steve Allen and Chris Shepherd.

Of course with so many of us, we had to discuss our practicals in memoriam. The Whoosh Bottle is a lot of fun. We found a video of the tin foil speaker but it does not show the setup: Thomas had reasonable success with a signal generator on low impedance, but the volume was pretty quiet before the sig gen borked. Pushing a current through glass does work, and the video Robin found is certainly not a CLEAPPS approved method.

Thanks to the wonderful gang for a great natter. Apologies though to Steve: the censors cut our discussion of how to maintain dignity while talking about those areas of physics that have… a double-meaning (Uranus or Kundt’s Tube anyone?). We may air it at the end of the year when we will be off on our hols to allow the furore to pass.

Join in!

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Send Message
Reset Form

21. The Rev

Robin and Thomas gush somewhat when chatting to ex-colleague The Reverend Tim Hardingham, Physics Teacher and ordained minister who qualified as a teacher in 1972.

Timestamps

  • Introducing “The Rev” @ 00:30
  • Nuffield @ 02:05
  • Tim’s advice to non-specialists @ 03:40
  • Tim’s favourite practical? @ 05:18
  • Thomas and Robin reminisce about working with Tim @ 07:32
  • Modelling SHM @ 08:20
  • Tim on teaching with modelling @ 12:12
  • Patrick Kaplo Challenge Lab (Crash Point) @ 14:17
  • The World needs physicists @ 21:00

Summary

A bugbear of mine is the recurrent attempt to somehow set science up in opposition to the arts or humanities.  I have met countless cultured scientists with deep interest in the aesthetic , in history, in the human condition at its broadest, and so I start this week’s notes with a parallel to one of the classic works of the modern age: Wayne’s World.  For when Thomas and I met this week’s guest, it was redolent of the eponymous hero and his sidekick, Garth falling to their knees before Alice Cooper, crying “We’re not worthy” in tremoring falsetto. 

“The Rev” as Tim Hardingham is affectionately known is a true physics teaching behemoth.  He is a wealth of practical knowledge and is the most generous gracious individual you could meet.  We were both delighted to spend time with Tim talking about teaching physics, the Nuffield Physics days when the curriculum was led by subject, not assessment considerations and the sheer joy of teaching physics which as regular listeners will know is the lifeblood of the podcast.

Tim’s practical in memoriam was – of course- a belter.  Tim loves electromagnetism and his passion bubbles through as he talks about a lovely piece of physics – easy to demonstrate but a pig to explain – connecting a coil, mounted on a pair of iron C-cores, in series with a battery and bulb. ‘Break’ the C-cores and blow the bulb! … Now explain. 

Thomas and Robin shared their favourite Hardingham moments and there is a spreadsheet available with his SHM instructions (and also starting spreadsheet for modelling SHM) , but perhaps the most uniquely physics element of Tim’s teaching is his delight in challenging students to explain complex concepts.  Grasping and explaining complexity is at the heart of physics and far from seeing it as a drawback, Tim makes it central to his teaching.  Try channelling your inner Rev and hold out on giving students the answer.  The trick is to do this with Tim’s twinkle and affection for the students. 

Tim also responds to a new Challenge Lab from Patrick Kaplo ; “Crash Point” where a car steadily climbing an inclined plane triggers the release of a dynamics trolley. Can the students predict where they will collide?

Tim’s always been an advocate for the subject and Thomas and I were both privileged to work with him.  He could do a daily podcast on physics teaching and never run out of material.  If you fancy being a bit more ‘Rev’, revive a Nuffield practical from one of the Nuffield “Red” books Thomas mentioned (Book 1 and Book 2)..  Have fun and don’t tell ‘em the answer!

Join in!

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Send Message
Reset Form

20. Ways to teach… Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration

The second “Ways to Teach” episode where we channel tips from our wonderfully generous contributors.  Teachers of Physics are heroes as we never tire of saying, and they have been so generous with their time, sharing a wealth of wisdom on helping students get to grips with displacement, velocity and acceleration.  

Timestamps

  • Vacuum cannon back in stock (and new t-shirts) @ 01:38
  • General advice on teaching displacement, velocity and acceleration @ 2:56
  • Measuring real things in the real World @ 07:56
  • Using an ultrasound displacement sensor @ 22:15
  • Data on real things in the real World/ worksheets @ 23:57
  • Maps and treasure hunts @ 25:18
  • Simulations @ 31:01
  • Videos @ 34:50
  • Plenary Yoga @ 36:05

Summary

Thomas announces that there is a new t-shirt design and the vacuum cannon is back in stock. Thomas and Robin chat about the suggestions sent in by Physic teachers on how they teach displacement, velocity and acceleration. After a few tips they break the suggestions down in to:

Blue toy car
Not constant velocity car, but close enough
  • Measuring Real Things in the Real World: toy cars, woodlice, the teacher, the students…
  • Live graphs with an ultrasonic position sensor
  • Using data from the real World. e.g. The Usain Bolt vs Stephen Hawking PowerPoint.
  • Simulations and sensors: Simulations such as echalk.co.uk, the PhET moving man and the Universe and More are all useful. PhyPhox is a really useful app for exposing the sensors on your phone.
  • Maps and Treasure Hunts: google maps allows you to measure distances if you right click.
  • Videos: e.g. the ISS video below
  • Yoga.

Here are some more details:

  • Use x for position and Δx for displacement instead of d and s which are confusing (thanks @PhysGal)
  • USE GRAPHS A LOT!! – thanks to Paul Reynolds, Imogen, Matt Harding and others – all graphs tell a story (chocolate versus happiness etc), Dan Twomey leaves the numbers out of it until later so that the shape of the graph is discussed first 
  • Explicit teaching of “per” “÷” and “/” all being the same – Tom Norris star of episode 19 and don’t use formula triangles – controversial – may be a last resort for kids as they approach their exam. 
  • Most popular – measuring real things in the real world – constant-velocity cars, woodlice, students on the athletics track all help students to relate real-world motion to the graph story.  There are loads of good descriptions in the podcast and I guarantee you’ll hear something new to try (thanks Molly Ann, Dan Hannard and Brian Lane).
  • John Hamilton told us about falling cupcakes (here’s an A-level practical that uses cupcake cases): simple, cheap and reliable.   What’s not to love? 
  • Thomas’s friend Sylvia joined us to describe the human ticker timer and how it helps students to understand how a ticker timer works. 
  • Cara, Mr Holliday, Paul Reynolds and one of Robin’s lovely former colleagues (thanks James!) all talked about live graphs with motion sensors – the software that comes with the sensor will help to get your students acting out motion and so thinking carefully about what story the graphs are telling.  Really popular with the students this one! 
  • Tom recommended some analysis of car chases and 100m races on video, while @e=mc2andallthat has a tongue-in-cheek PowerPoint that details a race between Usain Bolt and Stephen Hawking.
  • Fabio di Salvo introduced the idea of using a real map (and don’t forget Google Maps could be a good homework here!) to compare ‘crow flies’ displacement to ‘path taken’ distance travelled. 
  • Nigel from Essex joined us to talk about using superhero The Flash in his lesson to get  students thinking about and measuring their speed and thus saving the Academy from a bomb attack.
  • Dan Toomey shared the PhET simulation “The Moving Man” as a way for students to see a graph plotted in real time.  Thomas liked it but thought Bernard Rand’s suggestion “TheUniverseandMore.com” was really special with a graphing challenge
  • Robin’s favourite are the apps that access the internal sensors in mobile phones such as https://phyphox.org/ and Google Journal, that will measure acceleration and allow students to analyse their motion (for example on the bus to school) and tell the story of the motion. 
  • Don’t forget videos!  Thomas and Robin loved one shared by Ruben Calverd showing acceleration in the ISS (you can watch it below if you are on the web site) – thanks Ruben!  Please remember to share any nice videos on @physicsTP 
  • Paul Reynolds wrapped things up with a description of “graph yoga”  A great bit of fun as a plenary… Namaste, Paul! 

Fancy hearing something on a future “Ways to teach…”?  Just let us know via the usual channels!  Thanks for listening. 


Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Send Message
Reset Form

19. The “New” Model of Energy

Thomas and Robin feel the pain of Physics teachers all over the UK and attempt to get to grips with the new model of energy as promoted by the IoP. No more energy types, just energy stores that increase and decrease in magnitude and transfer processes that are allowed by the energy differences.

Timestamps

  • Philae lander found @ 00:30
  • Shooting nuclear waste in to the Sun @ 2:00
  • What is energy? @ 3:25
  • Energy Stores and the IoP’s different model @ 5:34
  • Tom Norris talking explaining the “new” model of energy @ 7:59
  • Robin helps Thomas talk about energy @ 17:27
  • Thomas and Robin grapple with a roller-coaster example @ 24:31
  • Precision of language @ 29:53
  • Common language with Brian Lane @ 30:32
  • A new T-shirt @ 34:33
  • The elephant in the room @ 36:00
  • Vacuum Cannon back in stock soon @ 36:56

Summary

After discussing the recent spotting of the lost Philae Lander and the folly of firing nuclear waste in to outer Space Robin and Thomas finally (and after much procrastination) bite the bullet and talk about Energy. The IoP has been pushing a “new” model of electricity in an effort to standardise the way it is talked about. Thomas’ understanding of this at the start of the episode is, to say the least, hazy. Robin talks him through it with the help of Tom Norris (from Episode 10: Ways to teach… Electricity). Moving away from “types of energy” to energy as the currency of force interactions that lets things happen does seem more sensible, but it is quite a change in thinking. W. Brian Lane, a professor from the USA mulls over his response to a student from the UK explaining energy with the new model before Thomas announces that there is a new t-shirt design and the vacuum cannon will soon be back in stock.

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Send Message
Reset Form

19.1 “New” Energy Model ~ Extended Interview with Tom Norris

20 minutes of chat with Tom including him going in to more detail about the “New” model of energy.

The music in this extra episode is Cantina Rag by Jackson F. Smith. It was the runner up in our “Which music shall we have for the podcast?” play off.

18. Spin, Shared Resources and Social Media

Photographic Physics in the News (great for a podcast) before Paul Reynolds tells us about his web site, planetphysics.co.uk that started as a personal site for storing files for printing but has slowly become a resource for non-specialists. Thomas and Robin then discuss how the internet can support non-specialists.

Timestamps

  • Single atom visible @ 00:54
  • A new particle @ 3:53
  • PlanetPhysics.co.uk @ 6:00
  • Shared resources (and where are they?) @ 12:11
  • New T-shirt @ 18:20
  • How twitter can be useful @ 19:54
  • Robin agrees with OFSTED @ 23:23

Summary

Thomas is blown away by a photo of single atom that won the 2018 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council science photography competition. It reminds him of the scanning tunnelling microscope he saw at the Cavendish labs once. Robin then worries Thomas with his knowledge of what “Spin” is as they mull over the new fast spinning charmonium particle.

We then hear from Paul Reynolds (@PlanetReyolds on twitter) who has accidentally set up a resource that supports the non-specialists in his department. He has used standard google tools to drag and drop resources in to a web site. This leads in to a discussion of how peple are using the internet to support Physics teaching and how fragmented that World is.

A great shock in the episode if Robin agreeing with OFSTED and then suggesting that Thomas (and you) contribute to their ongoing consultation document.

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode. Please do leave a voice memo: Thomas thinks nobody loves him.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Send Message
Reset Form

17. Smashing Neutrons, Supporting Non-Specialists and Surviving No Practicals

Thomas and Robin chat about Kilonova (neutron star collisions that create heavy elements), ways of supporting non-specialists and what to do when practicals fail.

Timestamps

  • Neutron Stars and Kilonova @ 2:45
  • Science(ish) Podcast and their episode “Is LIGO right?” @ 4:05
  • Flywheels for energy storage @ 5:22
  • Faking being a Physics Specialist @ 5:54
  • Tips for non-specialists @ 8:20
  • Practicals going wrong – ripple tanks @ 10:42
  • Practicals going wrong – cloud chamber @ 13:17
  • Dealing with practicals that go wrong @ 15:44
  • Teaching Physics with no practicals @ 17:09
  • Send us your tips @ 23:29

Summary

Physics in the news this week talks about Neutron Stars and how their collisions (Kilonova) create the heavier elements through neutron bombardment. This leads on to LIGO and the controversy around whether its results are right or not. Science(ish) Podcast has covered this in depth in their episode “Is LIGO right?”. Thomas reports on the Vacuum cannon sales (6 at the time of writing) and gets sidetracked on to talking about some research he did in to flywheels. Robin muses about how you can use the Physics in the News to fake being a Physics Specialist and Thomas and Robin discuss their lack of knowledge outside physics (Nose-buds anyone?) and suggest tips for non-specialists to make their knowledge appear deeper than it is. Thomas reports back on his failed practical work last week and begs the listener for advice on using a ripple tank or making a cloud chamber. Finally, Thomas reports that Patrick Kaplo has challenged the podcast to support lessons with no practicals. The thought of this has Thomas in full panic mode, but Robin calms him down.

Where is the diffraction? Are you a believer?

Ways to teach… Distance, Speed and Acceleration

Episode 20 (assuming we make it) will be all about ways to teach distance, speed and acceleration (or displacement, velocity and acceleration). How do you do it and what works best for you?

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode. Please do leave a voice memo: Thomas thinks nobody loves him.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Send Message
Reset Form

16. The Vacuum Cannon!

Thomas, Robin and Patrick Kaplo discuss the amazing vacuum cannon and how it can be used to make physics thrilling. The cannon is now available in the shop. Buy it and you’ll be supporting the podcast while you have a BLAST!
It is half term next week in the UK so it will be two weeks until episode 17.

Timestamps

  • Mars rover named for Rosalind Franklin @ 00:47
  • Introducing the Vacuum Cannon @ 1:20
  • Robin and Thomas test the cannon @ 4:43
  • A joyful enterprise @ 11:40
  • Safety considerations @ 13:14
  • Tips and tricks for firing it @ 14:46
  • Ways to calculate speed @ 17:06
  • Selling the cannon @ 23:52

Summary

Patrick Kaplo joins the team to talk about the brilliant Vacuum Cannon. This is a recognised piece of equipment, although Thomas and Robin had not heard of it. Thomas built one and tested it with spectacular results. All schools should have one! The cannon is actually covered in detail by CLEAPSS and they give full instructions (with links to where to buy parts) on how to make one (CLEAPSS login needed).

Thomas was so keen to spread the joy, he decided to sell the cannon in our shop and you can pick one up for £20 (including P&P but you need to enter the code BOOM at checkout). You can also support the podcast by purchasing a small upgrade that includes a £5 donation.

Patrick Kaplo modelling the t-shirt
Patrick Kaplo rocks the tptp look.

Ways to teach… Distance, Speed and Acceleration

Episode 20 (assuming we make it) will be all about ways to teach distance, speed and acceleration (or displacement, velocity and acceleration). How do you do it and what works best for you?

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode. Please do leave a voice memo: Thomas thinks nobody loves him.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Patrick’s theme tune is from Hail to the Chief Bluegrass Banjo by Tom Adams from BanjoNews.com under Fair Use.

Send Message
Reset Form

15.1 Extended Interview with Nicky Thomas about Diffraction

Full interview with Nicky Thomas about teaching diffraction (29 minutes). She covers how she teaches it in more detail as well as more context and thoughts about doing diffraction as a practical EPQ.

The music in this extra episode is Cantina Rag by Jackson F. Smith. It was the runner up in our “Which music shall we have for the podcast?” play off.

15. Water, Waves and Woodlice

Sea slugs use physics to move up to 90 km a day. Who’d have known? In the main body of the podcast Robin talks to Nicky Thomas about teaching diffraction. She has much to share so we released an extended interview podcast Finally woodlice can also assist in physics teaching by being a source of real distance/time data.

Timestamps

  • Our secret plans @ 00:30
  • Plea for people to share their ideas about how to teach distance, speed and acceleration @ 1:54
  • Physics in the News: Sea Cucumber escape strategy @ 2:55
  • Nicky Thomas on Diffraction @ 5:09
  • Biologist Sylvia and using Woodlice to teach Physics @ 19:07

Summary

Robin and Thomas are excited about their secret plans for the weekend that are related to the future “Ways to teach…” episode on distance, speed and acceleration. Thomas then tells Robin about escapologist sea slugs that use their deep knowledge of physics to move up to 90km a day. The main guest this week is teacher Nicky Thomas. Her favourite thing to teach is diffraction and she describes how she tries to make it a progressive subject through the key stages. Nicky told Robin how she explores diffraction with different age groups and give some context for how it is used in industry by Panalytical. Thomas from the future appears to tell the listener that the interview had to be cut hard, but you can hear the whole half hour on a special bonus podcast that has been released The last part of the podcast is an idea linked to distance, speed and acceleration: using woodlice as a source of real distance time information. This is described by an old colleague of Thomas’, Sylvia Gummery.

Ways to teach… Distance, Speed and Acceleration

Episode 20 (assuming we make it) will be all about ways to teach distance, speed and acceleration (or displacement, velocity and acceleration). How do you do it and what works best for you?

Please share ideas or successes on our Facebook Page – https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile, +44 7898 814716 (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode. Please do leave a voice memo: Thomas thinks nobody loves him.

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

Send Message
Reset Form