Saturday, January 12, 2013

Reflections on J-Term 2013

We just finished J-Term and I have so much to write about, but so little time to write, so let me just do quick summaries and if I have any time (this summer?) I'll come back and elaborate.

For those of you who don't know, at our school J-Term is a week-long opportunity for our students to take some unique classes and learn things their teachers don't normally get to do during the school year. For instance, many students took iPad video making, or an interesting Hunger Games exploration, knitting, chess class, etc. The teachers suggest offerings and the students sign up for three different classes they'd like to take.

This year I offered two classes: Astronomy (which I have taught before) and a new class which I called "Did You Get My Email?" but might more formally be called Digital Communications.

Star and Planet Locator
by Edmund Scientific
In Astronomy we learned a 15-20 constellations, discussed how to use a Planisphere, the idea of altitude and azimuth, how to find the planets along the ecliptic, and how the sun moves through different constellations (the zodiac) throughout the year. Next on the list would have been declination and right ascension, but we ran out of time.

The Star and Planet Locator made by Edmund Scientific is an great tool for teaching these concepts -- and at only $3.95 per unit it's one of the cheapest I could find.  I bought mine a few years ago and kind of remember a 25 for $50 deal so if you're interested in a classroom set, look around.

These worksheets I offered:
The other class I taught was new to me -- Digital Communications. I'll admit I'm not proud of how this class turned out because I didn't put the time into it over Christmas break that I should have. In this class we learned about a ton of different technologies, leaning quite heavily on "How Stuff Works" descriptions of: the telegram, telephone, television, computers, hard drive, cd player, text messaging, email, radio, etc. We also studied binary numbers, and spent some time describing how computers convert all information into numbers, which are all converted into binary, which can mean everything can be stored ultimately as a handful of 1's and 0's somewhere.

I also did some hands on materials, though I had ambitions of doing way more. We played around with simple circuits, hooking up batteries and lights. We made a few electromagnets, and I showed them a homemade "byte" -- 8 bits -- which I made with just a piece of wood, 8 nails, and a about 40 ft of wire. I never used it in anyway besides holding it up occasionally when we discussed that 8-bits define a character in Ascii, or that three of these 8-bits define a color of an individual pixel in a picture, and so on.

I learned from this that I enjoy doing things hands-on and should take more time to make that happen in my classroom. I learned that radio shack has a lot of small circuit components for sale, such as LED's, solar panels, resistors, switches, etc and I have a lot of material now that I'll be able to use in our electricity unit in physics.  And I learned that classes will survive, even if you are fully prepped for them. Maybe that wasn't the lesson I should have learned -- but I did.

1 comment:

  1. I'm learning that last lesson a little right now too!


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