M.E. Irizarry-Gelpí

Physics impostor. Mathematics interloper. Husband. Father.

Plan for Summer 2020

The purpose of this post is to have a list of what I would like to get done during the summer. I will be interesting to compare this list with the actual result at the end of the summer.

Physics in the time of coronavirus

The pandemic has made everything more difficult. I am currently in a very pessimistic mindset and I believe that it is very likely that my fall 2020 lecture and lab will be entirely remote. The second half of the spring 2020 semester was remote. I think I made it work. The lectures were okay. The labs were more challenging, but I converted them fully into data analysis laboratories. The experimental part was reduced to just talking about the lab. Maybe I could have tried harder to have students do some sort of experiment at home. All the experiments were in optics, involving lenses, mirrors, light sources, lasers, or diffraction grates. The fall semester is all about mechanics, so maybe that would be better? Maybe. But there is also the issue of the nature of the students: bio and chem students who mostly do not want to learn physics. This is a separate issue, which I cannot solve. My approach is more like, lets analyse some data after we talked about how we got this data.

Even without the pandemic, I wanted to make changes to my course material. I taught the lecture for the first time in fall 2019 and spring 2020. Lets go over how the fall 2019 and spring 2020 went.

Fall 2019

I was teaching a lecture and a lab each in two different places. In one place I was teaching a lecture and a lab for the first time. In the other I was teaching the lecture for the first time.

For PHYS 207, my biggest issue was not covering the chapters on fluids and sound. In my opinion, undergraduate physics should be a three semester course. Hey, might as well make it a four semester course. For bio students, the fluid stuff is most relevant and I did not covered it. This year I really want to cover fluids.

Another thing I did not due in 2019 was to keep the MCAT in mind. I would like the course to be useful for the MCAT, but I did not prep or incorporated anything into the class. Maybe if students are aware of the relevance of some of the content, they will be more motivated.

Spring 2020

Classes went remote just before spring break. My lecture methods did not change much. The biggest changes were in the lab. I had to generate data for some of the labs. I also had to make slides for each lab. This took a lot of time. Usually I write some stuff on the board and go over it before the experiment. During the spring 2020, I was spending more than an hour going over the slides and making sure people understood what the experiment was about. Sometimes I got lucky and found a video of someone using the equipment.

The first remote exam was a mess to grade. This mess was my fault: I asked students to solve everything on paper and email me pictures of their work. This was a mistake. For the second exam, I had them answer the questions in an online quiz that was graded automatically. Grades were high, due to me giving too much partial credit and also suspected cheating. Not sure what can I do about cheating.

I tried to keep the lecture and the lab separate. This was difficult, as I was nowhere near covering optics in lecture. I just did not want to turn the lab into a full lecture. But honestly, I should have. At least use the opportunity to give enough background so that later lectures move more quickly.

PHYS 207 Fall 2020

For the fall 2020 lecture, I would like to do the following:

  1. Refresh the look of the slides
  2. Add slides on fluids
  3. Add slides on sound
  4. Add slides on thermodynamics
  5. Add MCAT problems
  6. Review old slide content and be savvier about what to leave out as optional content

Again, I would like to figure out what material from the lecture can be presented in the lab period. Maybe topics like impulse, collisions, centripetal motion and simple harmonic motion can be covered in the lab.

PHYS 207L Fall 2020

For the fall 2020 laboratory, I would like to do the following:

  1. Make slides for each laboratory
  2. Make new data files
  3. Collect visual media about the experiment
  4. Review the analysis guide and improve it

Impulse is a topic that is more relevant in the lab than in the lecture. This is a great example of a topic that can be removed from the lecture and make more room for fluid and sound.

Final thoughts

It is the early summer, but already almost two months after the end of classes. I already worked on the syllabi and picked dates for exams and assignments. Pretty much the only time left is July, since most of August is going to be invested in moving to a new apartment. Good luck to me!