A distance teaching experience in Physics with an experimental and peer learning approach
Because of Coronavirus, we suddenly had to stop our school routine and we had to stay at home rethinking our teaching and learning process.
In our region, the lessons were suddenly stopped on February 24th. In the beginning, it seemed the suspension will only last one week, but then, after few extensions, we understood that we will not be returning to class for this school year.
From 2nd March I started meeting my students in virtual classroom, providing video lessons. After less than a week I had understood which tools to use (Classroom, Meet, whiteboard, Geogebra and Phet) and we started a new routine.
In fact, for me and my students, it was natural enough to organize distance lessons because with many of them we had experienced with extended and virtual classes thanks to the eTwinning projects we took part in. We were also used to flipped-classroom teaching approach.
I teach Mathematics and Physics in a humanistic high school where I have a few weekly lessons of my subjects and they are often underestimated by the colleagues of other subjects.
To involve students in Physics during this period I used different approaches and I think that two of them are quite relevant to be shared as they could be reused by other teachers: conducting a virtual experiment and peer-to-peer teaching regarding some specific topics.
As school lockdown due to COVID-19 is being prolonged in many countries, technology is currently the only means by which we can reach our students out. It’s sadder four those who don’t have access to technology. Therefore, we need to reconsider where, when, and how learning happens and adapt our methodological approach, to create and innovate and get involved with all our dedication.
As a Scientix ambassador and science teacher, I have participated in all the STEM Discovery Campaign Competitions. I have always promoted the initiative in my country involving colleagues and motivating students, publishing articles about useful online tools to support teachers and students. In 2017 we won an award in such contest called “Make your Own Poster”, using the resources from Scientix and Esero.
This year, a year we will always remember, my involvement in this great campaign and in this great movement of education consisted of creating the conditions for students’ learning in the online environment.
Learning, participating, creating online
In order to support the students in continuing their learning, I founded together with my colleague, Cristina Nicolăiță, the eTwinning project – “ Physics Virtual Class”, a project approved by the National eTwinning Center Romania from 16th March 2020. Since then, it has been growing, getting richer, polished, built-up. And finally, we managed to give significant importance to online education, which so far has not been widely promoted in my country.
Why do I like games in the classroom and why do I hate them at the same time? Well, to start with, games are fun, they keep your mind focused, and are something students will always remember. On the other hand, there are not so many STEM games that are just perfect for the class, and most of them rather focus on completely other things than STEM. What we mostly forget is that STEM lessons should have educational values on the first place, and at the same time be fun and motivating. So when I discovered Android game Nuclear INC 2 you can only guess how excited I was.
For years I have been looking for a game that would be educational and motivate students to search for more answers. And this is why I like this game. In Nuclear INC 2 you take control over a nuclear power plant. You try to create as much energy as you can (to earn money) and at the same time avoiding nuclear meltdowns (for obvious reasons). And you do it by controlling uranium roads and cooling system. All parameters are here, core temperature, pressure, turbine temperature, radiation level… Too low temperature and you will not produce enough energy, too high and the pressure might be too big for the reactor.
Basically, this is what I would teach my students in a class, as nuclear power plants are one of the lessons in physics curriculum, only this time I can have my students play and search the answers themselves. All they would need is a little bit of guidance.
This is the second year that our school organizes activities during the STEM Discovery Week.
Between February and April 2019 we have organized 3 extracurricular activities meant to boost the interest of our students towards science in general and Physics in particular.
First activity which took place on the 22nd of March, 2019, was to repeat the Eratosthenes method in order to measure the circumference of the Earth. This activity was carried out by the 7-grade students who measured the length of the shadow cast by a 1-meter stick – gnomon- on the ground. The students had the opportunity to apply what they have learned in their Maths, Geography and Physics classes, to use different sites to perform necessary calculations and to communicate with other foreign students in order to obtain the radius of the Earth.