Sound and music update

Well, we’re a month into my “Physics of Sound and Music” class, and I thought I’d put some notes down as to how I think it’s going. I did a lot of planning for this course, using this blog to capture some thoughts, and it’ll do me good to capture these mid-course thoughts. Note also that if you click on the course link all of the daily outlines have some notes in them.

Student voice

I’ve put a lot of effort over the last few years finding ways for students to use their voice in their assessments. For this course, with 40 students, I figured I’d have to change the logistics. I decided to have a weekly quiz in class, and then let them use videos for re-assessments. Results: four quizzes so far, zero videos turned in. Ugh. I’ve had some great conversations with students in my office (some of which are turned into official reassessments), but I just can’t seem to get the students to embrace this model of improving their grades. Maybe after midterm grades. We’ll see.

No lab writeups

This seems to be going pretty well. They know that the quiz on Thursday will rely heavily on what they learn in lab. They plan lab on Tuesdays (some of the time at least) and they seem pretty engaged in lab, trying to take whatever notes will help them on the quiz. One quiz really needed their data, another relied on them learning the pattern of how tension affects wave speed on a string. Another asked what made the measurement of the doppler effect difficult. I’m pretty pleased with how this is going, and I’m committed to waiting until after the Wednesday labs to write the Thursday morning quiz. I’ve been heard saying “if you skip lab, you should fail the quiz.” I now think that’s too harsh. We’ll see.

Simulations using CDFs

I wrote a while ago about planning to use Mathematica to author some supplemental texts for my students. While I haven’t really done that much for this class (mostly I rely on this nice online sound text), I have really enjoyed publishing CDF documents using Mathematica for simulations that we discuss in class. Yes, while it’s certainly true that almost any simulation about waves already exists, the incredible ease with which I can whip something up in Mathematica usually finds me doing that instead of scouring the interwebs. I can make the simulation do exactly what I want. The cdf reader is a big file for the students to download, but it’s free, so it seems to be working. If you happen to have the cdf player, here’s a list of the ones I’ve made so far:

“Yes!” of “Ahhh, shoot.”

I’ve made use of these simulation in several class periods. I show them something like a standing wave, and then ask what would happen if the speed of the wave changes. They work in groups to make predictions about things like that, and then I’ve prepped them to yell “Yes!” if they get it right (when I show them) and “Ahhh, shoot” or “Ahhh, crap” if they’re wrong. One time I had coded the simulation wrong, and it lead to some very cool discussion.

Grade your own

My students (mostly) bring 2 colors of writing utensils on quiz days. We spend 15 minutes doing the quiz and then 5 minutes reviewing the key and noting what they’d like feedback on. Notes have ranged from “Yep, I got this” through “I think this is right, but can you tell me if this is the same as what you say?” to “wow, I really don’t get this.” At first I gave them the key as soon as they were ready (individually) but I realized that the stronger students (on that topic) were getting more time to do this cool meta-learning activity. So now we do the 15/5 minute thing. I’m finding that I agree with their numeric assessments (using our Frank Noschese-inspired rubric) most of the time, and I guess that’s cool.

Your thoughts

Some starter comments for you:

  1. I’m in this class and I like the direction things are going. Here are some thoughts to improve it . . .
  2. I’m in this class and there are a few things I don’t like. Here’s what should change . .
  3. I’m in this class and think there are a lot of things that need to change. Here’s what we should do . . .
  4. If your students grade their own quiz, what keeps them from going back to their first color and changing their answers?
  5. If they aren’t turning anything in for lab, then they’re not learning science, since documentation and lab writing skills are central to how science is done.
  6. I like your ______ activity, please tell me more about it.
  7. I think your ______ activity is doing active harm to your students, please stop.

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
This entry was posted in sbar, sbg, syllabus creation, teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Sound and music update

  1. Libby says:


    Legit: Grading our own quizzes. This has helped me focus on what I really need to work on. It helps me because I can tell you what to comment on when grading.

    Legit: Our labs are awesome. I thought this was going to be a lab where we had to complete reports so I am very happy to not have to write. I agree that since we know our quizzes will heavily depend on our lab data and observations, I take it seriously.

    Legit: Picking our own groups to work with. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a couple of different classmates but I have found that the group that I consistently go back to thinks the same way that I do.

    Worry: I’m a little concerned that my instrument won’t work or that I won’t get enough time to work on it. I have an idea but am still a little unsure as how to move forward–I’m confident that we will learn more about this assignment in the near future…

  2. Joss Ives says:

    Andy. How are you finding it having them have access to their quizzes and the solutions before you have had a chance to see their quizzes? I think it is a very clever way to get them to do some self-reflection, but am curious how it is working in practice.

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      I was a little nervous about that, but I’m liking what’s happening. Every once in a while I see a paper where their answer (first color) is amazingly similar to mine, but I don’t really mind that as long as I’m seeing a ton of very cool and useful comments. They’re asking me for some very specific feedback this way, and I’m not having to redo the key on all their pages.

  3. bretbenesh says:

    The quizzes are really cool. I might steal that.

    Do you have any sense of why students are reluctant to use the Voice feature? Is it that they are unsure of the technology, happy with their grades, too busy, or something else entirely?

    • Andy "SuperFly" Rundquist says:

      In lab yesterday I made sure that (nearly) all the students could make a screencast. They brought their laptops or used the lab computers. Then I asked if that was helpful and whether they’d start doing it. It was interesting that one of the comments was “it’s still too early in the semester” meaning that they’ll wait until it gets to crunch time. Also, some feel that their grade is fine, as you say. It’ll be interesting to see if I get some in in the next week or so.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s