1 standard per day

I’m often involved in conversations with people about Standards-Based Grading where we focus on how many standards we should have. I’ve settled recently on a “1 standard per day” approach that works for me and I wanted to get my thoughts down about it here.

For me, a standard is an important concept/idea/tool/ability that students should know by the end of the course. I tend to write mine in “I can . . .” statements like “I can derive the Euler-Lagrange equation.” Deciding how many to have in a course is difficult, especially as there are a lot of really good approaches out there:

  • Have a handful: the argument here is that students won’t remember the details years later, so try to decide what the 4-6 or so big ideas are and focus your course around them.
  • Have one per chapter: the book author has already broken up the material into similar size chunks, use it!
  • Have one per class period: This is what I do (lots of discussion lower in the post)
  • Have big and small standards: Have a handful of big ideas that then breakdown into smaller ideas. Josh Gates does this really well
  • Have one for every concept you can think of: this is how I started. Look through the material and write down every concept you would normally assess. This, for me, led to something like 2-3 per class period or ~10 per chapter

My general advice to people is to do what feels right and what you’ll be able to assess well. For me, the 1 per day approach checks those boxes and has a some other benefits as well.

One standard per day works out to ~30 for the whole semester. That’s well under the ~42 or so actual days we have, but I tend to use a bunch of days for oral exams. Probably my favorite thing about this approach is that it really focuses every class period. My students (and I!) know that the day has one major topic and we work to figure out what resources we have, what connections there are with other days/standards, what examples hit all the subtle nuances, etc. I end the day refining the language of the standard, but at the beginning of the semester I put a one or two word phrase on the calendar to let them know what’s coming (like “doppler effect” or “RC circuits”).

I also like the notion that I’m using equal time to help me figure out equal weight, since I tend to treat all the standards equally in the grade book. What’s cool is that I’ve been working my whole career on finding the right balance of how much to cover (uncover?) on each day. In the old days of plain lectures (and homework and tests etc) I really agonized over how much of each chapter to cover each day. I still do that! And often I come to the same conclusions. And, interestingly, I’m often right with the authors of the texts I use as far as how many days per chapter. This work involves looking at the complexity of the concept(s), ¬†looking at the level of math involved, looking at the impact on the “big picture”, and lots of other intangibles. In the end, I feel like I mostly meet my goal of using each day as wisely as possible. That notion, for me, translates to figuring out what my standards should be pretty easily.

When I talk to others about this, some push back that I get is that just because a concept takes a while to learn doesn’t mean that it’s as valuable an idea as something that’s quick to learn. I find this to be a compelling idea, but, at the end of the day, I don’t think I fully agree. If it takes a while to learn AND we decide to teach it, taking the appropriate amount of time, we have decided that it is that important, haven’t we?

So what other push back is there? Here are some starters for you:

  • How do you deal with MWF vs TR classes? It would seem you’d have a lot more of the former.
  • Even 30 is way too many! Here’s why . . .
  • 30 is way too few! Here’s why . . .
  • How do you deal with labs? Here’s what I think you should do . . .
  • It takes you 40 days to teach them where Wolfram|Alpha is? That’s weird.
  • I’m a student in your upcoming class and I think this is great! What I’m especially excited about is . . .
  • I’m a student in your upcoming class and this makes me nervous. Here’s why . . .
Posted in sbar, sbg, syllabus creation, teaching | 4 Comments

doodle notes

A while ago I saw a news report about these guys. They specialize on providing note takers for big events (usually speakers). The note takers try to produce an extended doodle that captures the essence of what’s spoken. I thought it was pretty cool, I remember someone in the report talking about how, for him, it really helped him internalize and synthesize information from presentations. He concentrated on finding images that connected to the material and found some non-linear ways to represent all(?) the information.

This weekend I’ve been at a conference all about upper-division physics curriculum, and in the last session I thought I’d give this technique a try. I did it for a couple different presentations, but I purposely chose to do it for Melissa Dancy’s on the research about why PER ideas are slow to disseminate. I wanted to do it for her because I was sitting next to her and I wanted to show her what I created. She got a kick out of it, and I thought I’d post here both what I did and what I thought about the process.

Here’s the link to the pdf that my Surface Pro produced via OneNote.

I have to say that it was really fun to do it. I used a bunch of stick figures and some drawings along with the occasional keywords. What I really liked is how I 1) concentrated like crazy, but 2) didn’t feel stressed or exhausted doing it. I really liked how I had to come up with a cool/funny/informative/whatever way to represent something, often trying to connect the new idea to the existing doodle. Of course, OneNote and its infinite page size and ease of changing pen colors really helped, along with my super cool Surface Pro (I promise I’ll stop promoting that one of these days).

There were some times when I felt like just writing out a sentence would have worked just as well (or better) but I wanted to really give the doodling a chance.

Having tried it, I think I might try it some more about meetings etc. We’ll see, but I’m pretty excited about how it got my brain to engage in a different way. I’m really curious if any of you think this might be good to encourage students to do it.

Side note about technology: I had my Surface out for nearly the whole conference, mostly taking notes in OneNote in full-screen mode, but admittedly occasionally checking email etc. What was interesting is that I think I appeared more engaged with the conference than I would have been using the keyboard (as opposed to the stylus). My screen was flat to the table, not blocking anyone’s view of my pretty face. I only used one hand to take notes, though I’m not sure if that’s meaningful. It’s interesting how many people have talked to me about the recent study showing how laptop note-taking seems not to really help people. I felt that my Surface enabled me to take digital (and thus easily saved, searched, not lost etc) notes in a format that is incredibly flexible (handwriting/doodling) while maintaining the ability to do other things too (yes, I’m talking about checking email :)

So what do you think? Here’s some starters for you:

  1. This is cool! Could you come to a meeting with me on …
  2. This is dumb. Melissa (or whomever) can just post her slides and you could fully engage without writing anything.
  3. This is cool. Here’s how I do something similar . . .
  4. This is dumb. I can’t figure out anything from those notes. I bet you won’t be able to either after a few days.
  5. This is cool. What would it be like to lecture like this?
  6. This is dumb. I don’t know how to draw.
  7. Wait, you didn’t mention how Mathematica played a part.
  8. I’m Melissa and I think this was really cool because . . .
  9. I’m Melissa and I’m mortified that this post exists because . . .
  10. You’re using technology, so the study about laptop notetaking applies directly to you.
Posted in teaching, technology | 9 Comments

Breadth vs depth

This tweet really got me thinking recently:

In the Global Physics Department we talk about this quite often, though we usually focus on students who will continue with physics or at least science. For that audience, we seem to always come to the conclusion that depth is better than breadth. For me it comes down to noticing how strong students can be in college if they’ve done a deep project in high school. That’s true even when that project restricted their depth a little. It seems that when they’re presented with something in college that their classmates have seen before but they haven’t, they seem to take it in stride quite well.

Casey asked later in the twitter conversation about non-majors, though, and I’ve been thinking about that too. Again I think I land on depth. I want students not to just know the results of science, but to understand how we got those results. If a student studies something, anything, deeply, they’re likely to really understand the scientific process. They’ll stumble, they’ll grope, they’ll make leaps, they’ll see connections, and they’ll see how our crisp, clean textbook results are really dirty, messy, and hard.

One of the physics teachers at the school my kids will go to has come to the Global Physics Department a bunch. He’s heard us have these conversations and he’s decided to try to find more ways to give students opportunities to do these messy, deep projects. I’m not sure if they necessarily take away from the breadth he covers, but I don’t care. I’m happy they’re doing science, not just taking it. (By the way, his name is Peter Bohacek and he just won a very cool award.)

Two things seem to creep up in conversations like these. The first is those dumb Harvard students on graduation day who don’t know what causes the seasons.

My friend Brian Frank has taught me that you can use those misconceptions to really talk about science and to learn about other possible explanations. Here’s my point: I don’t care if people know what causes the seasons (heresy, I know). What I care about is whether they can talk about it and think about it and brainstorm about it. Can they think about what evidence they have, seek out other evidence (not just do a google search for “the answer”), and/or ask good questions? It would seem that doing a deep project would prepare them well for that.

The second issue that creeps up is the AP physics curriculum and exam. I will certainly stipulate that you need breadth to do well on those exams. But I don’t care. Yay, you got a 5 and can skip a course in college. Skip an opportunity to build relationships with physics faculty and students. Skip a chance to see material in a different way, with different questions, with different labs. Great. Good for you. And to do it you had to go at a breakneck pace in high school to see all the physics “facts” that are available. No, I say. I say do a cool project. Look into how a slapshot really works. Wonder whether Godzilla can iceskate. Twirl some beads.

I know some of this won’t sit well with some. And that’s ok. I wanted to get my thoughts down so that a conversation could continue. Here’s some starter comments for you:

  1. I agree. We should just not teach science at all. Instead we should . . .
  2. I disagree. Students need to be facile with all kinds of things. Here are some examples . . .
  3. I agree. AP is overrated and also . . .
  4. I disagree. AP is the single greatest thing since sliced bread and here’s why . . .
  5. I agree. Just teach them Mathematica
  6. I disagree. If we just do AP physics in 9th grade, they’ll be set up AP chem and then AP bio after that.
Posted in glodal physics department, teaching, twitter | 14 Comments

Flipped flip debrief

This semester I taught our optics elective using a similar approach that I used in our non-science-majors physics of sound and music last semester. Here’s a couple of posts about this class. The main approach consisted of:

  • Students are not encouraged to prepare for class, other than thinking about the occasional “daily question” like “If we zoom in on a high-resolution image of mars, why can’t we see the rover?”
  • In class I structure, hopefully, some “active learning” activities to engage with the material of the day. When we hit something that they’re confused about, we vote on whether to learn about it at that point or add it to the list of resources that I’ll provide after class. These resources are nearly always screencasts that I make either that day or the next (certainly before the next class period).
  • At the end of class we review the list of resources and determine the nature of the “standard” for that day’s material. They tend to be “do an interesting problem on. . .”, “derive equation X.XX . . .”, or “I can use Mathematica to . . .”
  • Between classes the students work on video assessments on the standards, utilizing the resources that I put together.

When I started thinking about this class, I was nervous about using a technique that I thought might slow us down, as not having them prepared for class meant starting from scratch every time. I did notice that in my sound and music class, but I’m happy to report that I felt we tackled the material pretty well this semester, covering the exact same chapters as last time I taught this class with a normal flipped approach.


As I’ve already noted, we didn’t fall behind. I’ve also been pretty happy with how well the students have mastered the material. I don’t necessarily mean their grades (which are pretty sucky right now, but they have 2 weeks to get all their reassessments in – I’m writing this post now because this past week marked the end of new material), I mean how well they’re able to tie all the concepts together. We talk about boundary conditions, plane waves, polarization, and the microscopic description of the index of refraction all the time, and they seem to have “mastered” at least the connections among all those things.

I really liked making screencasts for this class. I could target these particular students, with their needs and their common experience (with me) in class. I don’t actually think the videos will be overly re-usable, but I don’t think I really care. I say that because I feel like that’s my class prep time, and I don’t spend any more time doing that than I used to in my old flipped approach or, for that matter, in my old lecture approach.

I really like how we’ve used the textbook in class. It’s ranged from me asking where they thought an equation came from, through pointing out a particularly good image, to asking them to read a derivation in class and figuring out where they got lost. That last one was particularly intriguing to me as I felt a little weird asking them to just read in class. However, they were able to admit right where they got lost, so that when I did some screencasts for them later, I was able to focus right on those points.


I lectured. A lot. To quote Seinfeld: “not that there’s anything wrong with that.” We’d start a day with some conversation about something, and I’d land into “explain” mode. Mind you, we’d still have a relatively active class, but on most days I talked the most, by a lot. I think there’s lots of reasons for this.

  • I’m very comfortable in “explain” mode
  • They were often blank slates, with not a lot to build on
  • Sometimes it felt like the best way to lay some groundwork for a deeper conversation

I started out with whiteboards, but ended with them just working on their own paper. There wasn’t as much sharing that way, but they seemed more comfortable. I think it’s because the class was so small (6). I’m not sure if this is really a “con,” maybe just an observation.

One student said he really would have preferred to prepare for class, so that we could go deeper into things. Another said that he doesn’t think we do enough of the math this way. Two more said they liked this approach, though those hadn’t ever experienced my other flipped approach.

Connection with SBG

I realized throughout the course that this approach works pretty well when tied with standards based grading. As a student noted when we debriefed this past Thursday, they eventually have to learn it all, so making lists of resources that they know they need is really helpful. I think if I did a more traditional assessment approach, they’d do more work outside of class because of homework (that’s a plus in my book), but the one-and-done nature of the exams would mean they might not fully leverage the resources. Also, the resources might not grow for a particular topic, as they can sometimes this way, because once the exam is over, that material “is dead to them.”

So, that’s my debrief, for now. I might do another once all the reassessments are in and graded. Your thoughts? Here’s some starters:

  1. I was in this class and it rocked! What I liked the most was . . .
  2. I was in this class, but I need to wait until after grades are in to explain just how much I hated it.
  3. I was reading the comments of the other posts and you said you might consider a non-all-in approach. Why did you lie?
  4. Why don’t you want to reuse your screencasts. I love just doing the class right once and coasting until retirement.
  5. You talk about standards but you don’t show how you leverage high stakes testing to achieve them. I don’t understand.
  6. You made the students read the book in class? Don’t you “flippers” always say that english professors would never make students read Shakespeare in class? Hypocrite!
  7. If you’re such a “flipper,” why don’t you give us readers something to read before we read your blog post?
Posted in sbar, sbg, screencasting, syllabus creation, teaching | 4 Comments

Finding normal modes

Normal mode analysis is a typical topic in junior/senior mechanics courses. Ours suffers from a lack of linear algebra as a prerequisite so I’ve worked to find ways to engage students with this material without that background. My typical approach is to model the system with a ton of friction so that it settles down to an equilibrium setup, then turn friction off and move the particles a little bit away from their equilibrium, then analyze the motions, looking for peaks in the Fourier transforms.

Last week I was a part of a chemistry honors defense that was looking at Raman spectra of bath salts. It was mostly a conversation about normal modes! So I wanted to see if I could model a benzene ring using this approach. Here’s my first try at it (I know, I know, I haven’t added the H’s around the edge. Babysteps!)

normal modes of a connected hexagon

normal modes of a connected hexagon

You can see that it works pretty well, but that the top “breathing” mode doesn’t look perfectly symmetrical.

Ok, here’s where I need your help. To find the resonant frequencies of the system, I simply Fourier transformed the time sequence of the distance one of the particles was away from its equilibrium position. What I’m wondering is whether there’s a better time sequence to use to do that Fourier analysis. I could certainly:

  1. do that trick for all the particles and, I don’t know, add the results
  2. fourier transform the time series of all the coordinates (that would be 12 for the case above – x and y for all particles). Then add them? That seems problematic because symmetric modes will cancel. Maybe add their amplitudes?
  3. Look for a measure of the whole system (like the standard deviation of all the displacements or something) that could then be Fourier transformed

I guess I don’t know what’s best. Hence this blog post. Any help you could give would be great. Here are some starters for you:

  1. You’re an idiot to teach this without linear algebra. But, if you have to, here’s what I would suggest . . .
  2. That’s not a benzene ring it’s a polysyllabatesupercomplicatedchemistryword and those modes don’t look right.
  3. How do you deal with degeneracies?
  4. How long does it take to run that?
  5. Can you share your code?
  6. Those animations are wrong because they all take the same amount of time to cycle through. Instead you should . . .
  7. I’ve tried modeling something like this before and all the particles stack up. The lengths are all at their equilibrium length, but the angles are all basically zero. How did you avoid that?
    1. quick answer: angular springs
  8. It’s obvious! You should fourier transform the time series of . . .
Posted in mathematica, physics, teaching | 8 Comments

Maxwell to Snell

Today was a really interesting day in my optics class. We’re doing chapter 9 in our text and I wanted to make sure that I motivated the material well. What’s weird about this text is that it waits until chapter 9 to do ray optics. This chapter has the lens equation, curved surfaces, etc. You know, all the stuff you can do in general physics. So why does it wait until chapter 9? Well, because we’re trying to ground everything in Maxwell’s equations for electric and magnetic fields. Go back and look at your general physics book and you’ll likely find that there’s a big gap between things like Ampere’s law and Snell’s law. I learned so much in class today that I wanted to make sure I wrote it down, so here you go.

We did Snell’s law back in chapter 3. I love that derivation, because we show that the boundary conditions that Maxwell’s equations enforce lead directly to three things:



n_i \sin\theta_i=n_t \sin\theta_t

where i stands for incident, r for reflected, and t for transmitted. It’s a really cool argument that comes down to this: If:

Ae^{i a \xi}+Be^{i b \xi}=Ce^{i c \xi}



as long as \xi can take on any value. If \xi is time, then you get the \omega equation above, which is the same as saying that the color going in is equal to the color going out. If the interface lies in a plane (which is crucial to this argument), then \xi can represent one of the spatial dimensions in the plane and you get the law of reflection and Snell’s law. Very cool! A direct path from Maxwell to Snell.

But there’s a problem. If you don’t consider plane waves, you can’t do it! The math is critically dependent on both the idea that the wave is in the form of a plane and that the interface is a plane. Break down either of those, and you lose some of the valuable math tools we’ve put together.

So today was all about looking at non-plane waves. First we considered the notion of a plane wave interacting with a non-plane interface. Going into the interface is fine, but the reflected and transmitted waves would definitely not be plane waves, so we can’t assume angle in equals angle out and Snell’s law. One thing we talked about was the notion that any curved interface can just be zoomed in upon until the portion of the interface you’re considering looks flat. The thinking goes that then your picture looks like the plane wave one and everything’s good. But the big problem is that \xi, acting as one of the spatial variables that span that mini-plane can’t take on any value, since the plane does not extend forever. Therefore we can’t use that way of thinking to say that reflection and refraction work there.

So what to do? Well, let’s go back to the beginning. For plane waves, we assumed that the field was of the form:

\vec{E}(\vec{r},t)=\vec{E}_0 e^{i(\vec{k}\cdot\vec{r}-\omega t)}

and we checked to see what conditions would be in place if we enforced Maxwell’s boundary conditions at the (planar) interface. Now we need to try a more general version of the electric field. The plane (given by the k\cdot r¬†part of the equation) represents the locus of points that all have the same phase. If we want to consider a more interesting, curvy surface, we should put an expression for that into the exponent and see what happens:

\vec{E}(\vec{r},t)=\vec{E}_0(\vec{r})e^{i(k R(\vec{r})-\omega t)}

Where R(r) is a surface with contours representing lines of constant phase.

What we did was plug that into the wave equation (which comes, of course, from Maxwell’s equations) and made some assumptions of the small-ness of the wavelength compared to any changes of the material. After a lot of work (see section 9.1 of the text) we get to the Eikonal equation:

\left| \vec{\nabla}R\right|=n(\vec{r})

This finally tells us that to find the next contour, you should take a step perpendicular to your current contour, with your step size being proportional to 1/n (ie, the steeper the hill, the closer the contours are). So now at least we can start seeing how the wave evolves.

But that still doesn’t get us to pencil-thin rays (like lasers) propagating and hitting things like lenses etc. To get there, we need to do a little more math. We can derive Fermat’s idea of least time by playing around with the Eikonal equation. We find that the path a ray would take between two points is the one that would take the least amount of time. Then, from that idea, we can get to Snell’s law by asking how light would navigate going from one point in one medium to another in a different medium (this is a pretty standard Fermat-based homework problem).

Aha! Finally! We get Snell’s law (and, very similarly, the law of reflection) for zoomed in flat things that don’t have to extend to infinity. With that in hand, we can go off and do lenses and curved mirrors and have some fun (especially with ABCD matrices!).

So, here’s the path: Maxwell -> wave equation -> general form for a non-planar wave front -> assume small wavelengths -> Eikonal equation -> Fermat -> Snell. Awesome (at least I thought so).

What do you think? Here’s some starters for you:

  1. I’m in this class and I thought this was cool. Connecting everything back to Maxwell has really connected some ideas for me.
  2. I’m in this class and I thought this was a waste of time. I knew all this stuff worked because we’ve been using lasers, not plane waves, in lab all semester long.
  3. I’m in this class but wasn’t able to make it today. Can I print this out and turn it in for a standard?
  4. Could you, I don’t know, do some screencasts to fill in some of the gaps in the text?
  5. I like this. I’ve always been frustrated with the typical approach in general physics because . . .
  6. I think this is dumb. You’re making statements about the general derivation that aren’t true. We can get all these results quite easily and generally by . . .
  7. Why do you do the Eikonal stuff? You’re going to be hitting abrupt interfaces like lenses that break the assumptions built in!
  8. I like this because everything should be tied to Maxwell. How would you do that for . . .
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Group digital lab books

Last summer I bought a LiveScribe Sky pen for my lab group, with the hope that we’d connect it to a group Evernote account that we’d use as a group lab notebook. Unfortunately, it didn’t work very well. The Evernote part worked pretty well, but the LiveScribe connection never really worked reliably, so it wasn’t really our go-to way of collecting information. I really wish I’d read a few more product forums about the Sky pen. It seems that nearly everyone was disappointed with it. Oh well, live and learn, I guess.

So this summer I want to try a different, though similar, experiment. Now, dear reader, you should prepare yourself, for I will be making a suggestion that I and my group should use a Microsoft product. Specifically, I’m going to be promoting OneNote in this post.

Here’s what I want (numbered for reference, but not necessarily in priority order):

  1. Easy access by me and all my students on whatever devices we want to use.
    1. for me that means a windows desktop/laptop and an Android phone
    2. my students use lots of different things, though I don’t think I have a student who uses Linux at the moment.
  2. Digital handwriting
    1. including annotating digital artifacts
  3. Organized
  4. Easy to connect images, video, mathematica files, etc.
  5. easy way to share notebook with future students/collaborators

Last summer’s approach did 1 and 5 great, 3 if we worked at it, 4 once we decided on google drive for our other docs, but not 2 at all because the sky pen didn’t work as advertised. Note, if it had, I think I’d still be using that system and not thinking about a new one. It’s interesting to note that LiveScribe now sells a pen that only works with Apple products.

A couple weeks ago I used some IT “sandbox” money to purchase and test out a Microsoft Surface Pro 2. I really like it, especially how well the digitizing pen works. What’s been interesting to me is to find that the best software on it for leveraging that pen seems to be OneNote 2013, which, as it happens, Microsoft has recently decided will be free for windows and macs. It also has connections on the ipad/ipod and android, so that takes care of number 1 above for me.

If you’re a fan/user of Evernote, you won’t be surprised by the organization set up in OneNote. You probably also wouldn’t be surprised by the usual set of things it can hook into its notes. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it can take in digital handwriting. Not only does it look great, but it’s searchable! In other words, it does some internal OCR on it but you don’t have to have it replace your handwriting with text. The reason I don’t do the latter is because I really like the flow you can get with handwriting, including arrows, underlines, circles, etc. Converting to text seems to screw that up, and, if it’s searchable (and legible), who cares?

Also, it can do the LiveScribe thing where chunks of handwriting can be indexed in a larger audio recording, so it’ll work for group meetings too.

So how do I envision using it? I’ll have all the students get a free microsoft account so that it’ll be easy to share the notebook with them. They’ll all have full editing capabilities. Last summer I was disappointed to learn that we needed to share an evernote account to pull that off, though I’ll admit that I’m going by what my students said since I had them research that. OneNote lets me set different sharing for each notebook inside my one account.

Now that I have my Surface, I’ll donate my Wacom Bamboo tablet to the lab so that they can enter handwritten notes if they’d like. If they like it, I’ll buy a couple more for the lab. I like how the ~$70 bamboo turns a non-touch desktop (which we have lots of in our labs) into a touch-sensitive device. It’s certainly how I’ve done all my annotations prior to my Surface. My Surface will be portable and can be used in group meetings, but they’ll have OneNote and the bamboo in whatever lab they’ll be working. My guess is that they’ll want to type most end-of-day thoughts, but I know how useful sketching a plot of things can be. Also, equations are much easier in handwriting than anything else.

So they’ll take pics/vids/do screenshots of linked Mathematica files, link and annotate journal articles all in a single place where we can all stay up to speed. I only work ~20 hours/week in the summer so I’ll be able to give them some feedback to keep them on task even when I’m not there.

I did a not-very-thorough search to see what other ways people do this. It seems to breakdown into people doing evernote/onenote and people doing specialized software. None of the specialized ones did handwriting very well, though I’d be pleased if I was wrong about that. In many places I’ve found lots of people saying that onenote trumps evernote for handwriting **for the moment**. We’ll see how things go down the road. For me each summer is a pretty well contained research event, so I really only have to commit to doing it this summer. Soon I’ll experiment with the sharing with one of my students who already downloaded the free onenote to her mac. Hopefully all goes well.

One last thing: Every other year we bring in a 3M corporate attorney to talk to our students about patent law careers. This year she took some time to tell us about the repercussions of the USA’s new “first to file” law. The US used to be “first to invent” which was why you had to be so careful with your notebooks. Policies ranged from having to have every page signed by a supervisor, to signing across the border of any taped in page. Everything, even in this digital age, needed to be put into the notebook, and I for one always thought it was a great big hassle. Well, now with the “first to file” law, we don’t have to do any of that any more. And that’s not just me saying that, it’s a corporate attorney from 3M of all places. She tells me they’re slowing relaxing their policies in the company, but she sees a lot of things being easier with this new ruling.

So what do you think? Here’s some starters for you:

  1. I’m working with Andy this summer and I think this is great. I’m especially excited about …
  2. I’m set to work with Andy this summer but after reading this I’m going to try to get out of it. Here’s why . . .
  3. I think you haven’t given Evernote enough of a try. It’s totally better than OneNote and here’s why (beyond the, you know, not being Microsoft stuff) . . .
  4. I use _____ for this and I think it’s great. It’s way better than your proposed solution because . . .
  5. I think you should have your students keep their own pen-and-paper notebook. It’s a mistake to go all digital. Maybe a hybrid? Here’s how I’d do it . . .
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