Monday, June 27, 2011

FIU Modeling Workshop - Day 1

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm blogging about my experience at the FIU Modeling Workshop.  Much of this is for me, so that I can remember my experience.  However, maybe this will help someone else to come over to the Modeling Method.  I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, so I might as well state it here, I currently teach Standard, Honors, and AP-B Physics.  I've been using the CPO Program, which is a hands-on program.  To me, it's biggest downfall is that the labs, although well constructed, are cookbook labs.  The students can get caught up in the procedure, and miss the concept.  After joining twitter, I've come across several teachers that use the Modeling Method, and have become more and more interested.  Which brings me back to the point of this post, my experience on the first day.  However, before I get into that, I would make the following claim, if this interests you, please go to the workshop, don't just rely on me.  Even after only one day I can tell that my recount will mean nothing for you without you attending.

Day 1:
We started the day with our leaders introducing themselves (Jon Anderson and Chris Doscher).  They quickly led us through a great introductory activity, that I might very well use with my students.  We each had to come up with 2 truths and 1 lie about our self, and the other people in our small group had to try to determine which is the lie.  After that, each person in the group had to introduce another member from the group to the entire cohort.  To me, it was a fun way to break the ice.

After taking the Force Concept Inventory test, we then got our first taste of whiteboarding.  We were asked to answer the following 3 questions as a group:
1. What are your greatest content-related teaching challenges?
2. What are your greatest instructional teaching challenges?
3. What are your goals for this workshop?

Here are the whiteboards:

After breaking for lunch, we began our first experiment, a Pendulum Experiment.  

In walking us through the experience of the lab, we were given a few questions and comments after we completed the task.  (For the sake of brevity, I'll omit our responses to the questions). 

Jon set up a simple pendulum and then wrote the following questions in succession:

What do you observe?
(side note, Brian W. Frank  recommended asking "what do you notice," rather than "what do you observe." Here's why)
  • Jon mentioned to try to not give any comments/facial gestures, just write.
  • Ask if you need to rephrase for fewer words
What can you measure?
  • Don’t comment until at the end.   
  • Do you need to pare down the list, do to lack of equipment?
  • Are any measurements redundant, if so discuss with the class.
What can you manipulate to change the time?
  • Edit down after complete based on equipment present
State purpose of lab for students:
To determine the mathematical and graphical relationships that exist between time, length, mass, and angle of release of a simple pendulum.
 (Jon told us that the bold part represents the beginning phrase for basically all the lab objectives)

Before assigning the different types of relationships to different groups, Jon told us two important "rules" for labs:
  1. Fair Test: manipulate only one variable at a time
  2. 8x10 rule: collect at least 8 data points separated by at least a factor of 10
After collecting the data, they then introduced the group to LoggerPro, to analyze the data. We used LoggerPro to analyze our results and then put them on whiteboards to share with the other groups.

During this time, my small group discussed some of the strength and weaknesses with excel vs LoggerPro.  Namely, to us LoggerPro can analyze the data faster, but excel integrates with word docs a little easier.  (We could easily be wrong on this.)

Well, that's basically it.  A good first day, and I'm excited for the second day.


  1. Hi Scott,

    It's fantastic that you are blogging about your Modeling workshop experience. A lot of us can gain a better understanding of why and how modeling works by learning more about the nuts and bolts of what happens at the workshops.

  2. Thanks Joss. I'll do my best. Thinkthankthunk is doing the same thing. I think it'll be interesting to read his posts now that I'm in the same type of workshop.

  3. Hey Scott,
    Just got back from my own adventure with the modeling workshop in Clarksville TN conducted by Rex Rice. Very worthwhile experience. Just wondering here ... is there any way to let us see the images of your whiteboarding? I get a weird error message when I try to display them. Not sure if it is on your end ... or mine ...

    403. That’s an error.
    Your client does not have permission to get URL /-0it0aowkmls/Tgjjrn4F0mI/AAAAAAAAAB4/nH_PgefdveI/s1600/photoImage.jpg from this server. (Client IP address:

    Forbidden That’s all we know


  4. I think I fixed it, but let me know if it still doesn't work.

  5. My students have no problems integrating logger pro with MS Word. It's just copy/paste. The only caveat is that they need to make the text large enough on the original so that it's readable when it's reduced in Word. I have my students reduce it and wordwrap around the graphs with their discussion of the results.