>Screencasting in modern physics

>This is a continuation of my earlier post on screencasting. Here I’ll talk about my plans to use screencasting in my upcoming Modern Physics course for sophomore physics majors at Hamline.

Here are some of the contributing factors for why I decided to do this:

  1. I never feel like I work enough examples in class (often I won’t do any!).
  2. I would like to do more all-class quizzes. I first saw these in my HS physics course with Mr. Erpelding 20 years ago. You come in, ask a question, and expect the answer on the board after a fixed amount of time. After the allotted time you ask random students follow up questions. In the end everyone gets the same grade. In HS we’d take the whole period but I’ve done it in as short as 10 minutes.
  3. Sites like cramster.com have made it difficult to know if students are doing their own homework. I always encourage my students to work together but in the end I want them to own it. I was at a Physics Chairs conference this past summer (sounds like fun, huh?) and a lot of people were trying to figure out what to do to combat this. A number of times people talked about quizzes taking the place of homework in the gradebook but the common response was that class time is too precious.
  4. This past summer in my graduate classes I assigned four homework problems a night. Instead of grading all of them as I’ve done in the past (continually falling behind as I teach them for 8 hours a day every day for two weeks) I rolled a four-sided die every morning and then used that homework problem as the quiz the first thing in the morning. That way I only had to grade one problem per person per day. The students commented that they liked the system as at night they just needed to make sure they understood the problem and didn’t have to obsess about every point possible. The four-sided die was fun because the students knew that it was completely random and they didn’t need to waste time trying to guess which problem I was going to pick.

Ok, so here’s the plan: For every class I will type up my notes (as usual) but then I’ll record and post a screencast of the notes. Effectively it’ll be a lecture without an audience. Students will be expected to both read the book and watch the screencast before class. They then use my online summary web page to submit a summary and a question about the material. In class I’ll simply do four things: 1. Give a quiz on a random homework problem from the previous day, 2. answer any questions they’ve posted, 3. work some examples on the new material, 4. give an all-class quiz.

The plan addresses all of the concerns above as I’ll have plenty of time in class since I won’t be lecturing the new material. Some concerns I have include:

  1. The student’s exposure to my lecture does not allow interactivity (they can post their questions to my summary page but they’ll have to wait for class for the answer)
  2. If the students don’t do the work outside of class they’ll fall behind quite quickly. In a recent class I committed to not talking about material students didn’t ask about and I stuck to my guns by continuing to ask both homework and exam questions about that material.
  3. Can I stay on top of all those screencasts?

For the first one above there’s been some interesting research done recently. Apparently students in a similar class felt that the flexibility they had in being able to watch the screencasts whenever they liked (and the ability to pause and rewind) outweighed the lack of interactivity.

I’m currently optimistic about this experiment. I’ll add more posts about it when the semester starts.

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About Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist

Associate professor of physics at Hamline.
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