Flipping the Physics

What does the term “flipping the classroom” mean? Quite simply, it means that instead of sitting in class listening to lectures and going home to do problems or write essays, students view what used to be thought of as usual classroom presentations at home on video. They do what used to be “homework” during the class period in collaboration with their student colleagues and occasional help from their instructor. Professor Timothy Good, The Dr. Ronald J. Smith ’72 Professor of Applied Physics, firmly believes and has some strong evidence that this approach to learning is an effective way to conduct a class. He came to this conviction after using this approach in his Physics 211: Electricity and Magnetism class during the 2013 Fall Semester. In end of term evaluations, students stated that this class had “The best use of class time of any of my classes at Gettysburg.” Other students said that because they did not have to get homework done between the end of the previous class and the beginning of the next class, they had time to read their text more thoroughly. Still others noted that since presentations were on internet video, they could rewind them and go over points they missed or did not understand, as often as they wished. Other evidence supporting Tim’s claim is that he used problem solving questions similar to those he asked in tests given four years ago (the last time he taught the class), the lowest scores on questions asked to the students last fall were higher than the class averages on the corresponding questions he asked on the tests from five previous offerings of the course. The Fall ’13 class averages on these questions ranged from 10 to 20 points above those from previous years. Not statistically exact evidence, but certainly worth noting. Tim also employed a standardized pre-and post-course assessment test to gauge conceptual gains. Though conceptual gains were robust at 40%, this outcome was similar to previous methods that sought active learning through concept questions interspersed within a classroom lecture.

How is Tim’s class organized? Looking at it from the student perspective, there are assigned readings and also problems that will be solved in class listed on the course syllabus found on Moodle. In addition, Tim may have also posted a lecture or demonstration/animation using the One Note and Camtasia software from ITT for use on the Microsoft Surface computer that IT provided for his project. His presentation is very similar to one that he might give in class. It uses familiar notation from the class text and notes are written on One Note as his narration progresses much like it would be if given in class. There are two differences. The first is that Tim does not appear on the viewing screen - there is no “talking head”. The second is that the student can “wind and rewind” which allows them to proceed at a pace that can maximize their understanding. As for the readings, students can read their text at their pace and master the concepts without the threat of having homework problems done by class time. Ideally, the readings are done before viewing the video lecture.

The preparation mentioned above is important. When students enter class, they sign up in teams of four. Each team is assigned to work on a particular problem based on the video lecture and the reading, each team with a different problem. For the next twenty five minutes the team works on their problem. One person has signed up as the team’s presenter, another as the scribe, and the other two as contributors. This is where the peer learning takes place; the student team works together in solving their assigned task. Tim is available for help, but only as a last resort. After 25 minutes the rest of the class period is devoted to student presentations, questions, and clarifications. After class the team scribes post the solutions to Moodle for subsequent use in quiz and exam preparation. Students do not take class notes from the board or Power Point slides. Tim’s fourth weekly class hour is used for Concept Tests as Think, Pair, Share exercises at the board, and one Collaborative Learning problem a week that students later submit as homework. This course also includes a three hour lab where students develop hands-on skills with instrumentation and computational analysis.

Tim first learned about “flipping the classroom” in Physics education at the “Distance Education and Online Learning in Physics Workshop”, conducted by the American Physical Society, that was recommended to the Department by Ron Smith ’72, Chair of the IT Committee of the Board of Trustees. Tim learned about the SCALE UP (Student Centered Active Learning Environment for Upended Pedagogy {Tim’s, not NC State’s interpretation of UP}) program at NC State that uses this approach on classes of size 90 or larger. He became a believer in the method and saw the E&M course he was scheduled to teach as an ideal starting point.

Tim is extremely enthusiastic about ‘flipping the classroom’ and is eager to meet with other teachers at Gettysburg who feel the same way to share ideas, strengthen their efforts and lend support. He can be contacted on campus e-mail (goodt@gettysburg.edu) or campus mail (Box 405). If you would like to learn more about flipping the classroom, a video by Salman Kahn of the Kahn Academy is available at this URL. Tim is developing his own materials, but the spirit is very similar.

IT is proud of the small part that it has played in Tim’s very successful program.

Student e-Mail To Be Switched
To A Cloud Based System

When the first electronic messaging system began, the Advanced Research Projects Network, ARPA Net, was one of the first to implement packet switching. Messages on ARPA Net and its immediate followers were mostly ASCII Text Messages. The network was basically for communication between scientists and other academics. They may have been several hundred Kilo Bytes (kb) in size. That is miniscule by today&rsquos standards! Today e-mail is used by almost everyone of all ages and may contain very large and complex data files as well as multimedia files including sound and video. The size of many e-mails may be several Mega Bytes (mb) in size. Such large e-mails are important for Gettysburg College students for both academic and social purposes. It is simply the way our world works today. IT has provided students with individual mailboxes of 150 mb in size for their e-mail. While that seems quite large and requires a great deal of space on the on-campus servers, many students are finding that they are running out of space in their mailbox. The current system is simply not adequate for today’s usage of the service.

In order to meet the demand for larger student mailboxes, IT was faced with two choices: expand the storage space on campus or consider off-campus storage hosted by a secure provider. After consultation with the President’s Council, the Technology Advisory Council (TAC), Student TAC, and the Student Senate, IT made the decision to migrate, student mailboxes to the cloud via Microsoft Office 365. This service will provide students with 50 Giga Bytes (gb) of storage for their mailboxes. This is more than 300 times the size of their present mailboxes. Some of the major considerations in choosing Microsoft Office 365 were that the service is a cost effective, secure service that provides the best available data protection and privacy.

For all intents and purposes, the transition will be transparent. Students’ inboxes, mail folders, contacts and calendars will be transferred automatically and will be accessible to them with a link to e-mail via the web located on the student landing page. Gettysburg passwords will still work as before and will be updated automatically as they are changed by individuals for on campus system access. All e-mail in a student’s current mailbox will be available to the student after the switch. Nothing will be lost. One possible action that the student may need to make is to upgrade bookmarks since the web address for the new system may be different.

The transition will begin with the incoming class of 2018. During the summer months IT will migrate all continuing students’ inboxes so that they will be ready-to-go when they return in the fall of 2014. After graduation all alumni from the class of 2014 will have their e-mailbox, contacts and calendar in the cloud based service. This arrangement will be the case for all future alumni.

IT is pleased that it has been able to make a response to a very legitimate need for our students that is secure and cost effective without causing a major disruption to our service or creating major difficulty for our users.

Brua Hall
Waiting For Spring

Building Connections Across Campus