In this issue: (pdf copy)
In this Issue:
Physics with Peter
It is a standard truism that people reject Hollywood’s characterization of their job. Cops scoff at CSI Miami and doctors simply shake their heads at Grey’s Anatomy – so it came as no great surprise when Carleton physics professor Peter Watson expressed his hatred for the Big Bang Theory.
“I can’t stand the program,” said Watson, who still has his British accent after almost fifty years living in Canada. He gives it one star out of five, with the lone star serving as a metaphorical pat on the head for getting the equations right (the show’s producers have a go-to physicist to keep them honest).
This year Watson is teaching a new CUOL physics course aimed at the non-science student. For Arts students who perhaps have an unconventional class schedule but are still required to take a science credit, the CUOL course will be a major boon (other pop science courses – such as dinosaurs and astronomy – fill up quickly).
But aside from the convenience, the CUOL course promises to be very interesting. It will explore how things work, Watson said. Far from the abhorred classrooms of high school physics, it will avoid the complex mathematics and start each lecture with a tantalizing question: “Is this a good idea?” For example, ice cubes. Specifically, when someone arranges a bunch of them in a bowl and puts it before a fan as a nifty do-it-yourself air conditioning trick. By physics’ reckoning, this is poor logic; it takes more energy (and thus produces more heat) to run the freezer and make the ice cubes in the first place, than the fanned-ice-cube system can cool. Of course, physics doesn’t have to account for your quickly wilting lettuce. But the basic argument is solid.
By Watson’s estimate, he’s taught first year physics probably over thirty times, so he’s excited to have a change-up. Students can tell when you start going on cruise control, he said.
And helping students to understand, to reach that ‘aha!’ moment, is Watson’s favourite part of teaching.
“You go through something complex, and get something beautiful and elegant out of it,” he said.
Peter Watson teaches PHYS 1905 A & T http://tinyurl.com/c8a77px
CUOL Exams FAQ
1. How do I apply to write my exam at a distance?
If you live more than 160 km from Carleton University you can apply to write your exam at a distance. Please do this using our Exam Wizard.
2. Where do I write my distance exam?
The Exam Wizard will determine whether or not you will write at a Test Centre (Toronto or Hamilton) or with an individual proctor, based on your address.
3. How much does the distance exam service cost?
Students are billed the following for the distance exam service:
-$60.00 per course for exams written in Canada
-$125.00 per course for exams written in the United States of America
-Late Fees: $25.00 per approved exam application
Students writing exams outside of North America should contact CUOL for the current charges per course.
4. When do I write my exam?
Students should refer to the appropriate exam schedule at http://tinyurl.com/cs5u8rn. NOTE: Students writing at a distance DO NOT refer to the exam schedule that is posted on Carleton Central (for local students only)!
5. Can I change the date of my distance exam?
Students are expected to write their midterm and final exams on the assigned date as per the CUOL exam schedule. Consideration for date changes for midterms will only be given for medical or family emergencies and you will be required to submit formal documentation to your professor or the department. Approval must be provided by the professor in writing for CUOL to allow an alternate date. Request for final exam date changes must be handled through the Registrar’s Office’s formal deferral process.
6. I have a conflict. Who do I contact?
-Conflicts regarding all CUOL midterm exams should be directed to the CUOL Exam Coordinator.
-Conflicts regarding final exams (off-campus) should be directed to the CUOL Exam Coordinator.
-Conflicts regarding final exams (on-campus) should be directed to Scheduling and Exam Services.
7. What if there is an emergency or I become ill prior to my distance exam?
-Midterm Exams – contact your professor.
-Final Exams – see the Registrar’s Office for information regarding Deferred Exams.
-In both cases you will be required to submit the appropriate documentation to the
Professor, the Department or the Registrar’s Office.
8. I am a registered PMC student. Can I still write my exam at a distance?
Yes! Please contact your PMC Coordinator first to ensure that they have all of your current information and ask that they forward it to the CUOL Exam Coordinator.
9. Who can I use as a proctor?
A suitable proctor is someone currently employed full-time in an academic or administrative capacity at a university, college or public library. Students and proctors MAY NOT be related in any way and MAY NOT reside at the same address. CUOL reserves the right to refuse any proctor it deems in appropriate.
10. What if I decide to write my exams on campus?
You must contact CUOL by email, firstname.lastname@example.org or tel., 613-520-4055 at least two weeks prior to your exam to cancel your distance exam arrangements.
11. If I drop the course, are my distance exam fees refunded automatically?
You must contact CUOL by email, email@example.com or tel., 613-520-4055) at least two weeks prior to your exam to cancel your distance exam arrangements. Students that contact CUOL prior to the deadlines, the fees will be credited to their student account. Students that do not contact CUOL to cancel their arrangements will be charged for the distance exam service.
Tales from the field
She’s been on both sides of the educational system – both as student and teacher. But this was her first time using CUOL.
Holly Kienzle was hesitant about video learning. She’s been teaching on and off since 2008, and figured she would prefer to learn in the same way she prefers to teach – face to face.
“I thought I’d want to be in the traditional class setting,” she says, “but then when I went and did it, I really loved it.”
She returned to school to get certified to teach French. Since graduating from teacher’s college in 2008, she has worked for a couple years as a grade eight teacher in the Durham region, but has realized how hard it is to get a teaching job in Ottawa if you don’t know French.
She’d heard good things about Carleton, and enrolled.
Unfortunately, one of the courses she needed, FINS 2105, was full. At least the in-class portion was. She now marvels at how far online learning has come since she was a student the first time around.
“When I was an undergrad I never even knew those kind of courses existed. If they did they weren’t as well advertised or made as obvious. I think it’s come a long way.”
Sitting alone in the quiet Loeb building CUOL lab, viewing her lectures, she didn’t feel alone at all, she says. The teacher regularly looked into the camera, addressing her CUOL students directly.
Kienzle also appreciated the luxuries that she wouldn’t have enjoyed had she been in-class. For example: the ability to pause or rewind the lectures if she missed something, and watch them whenever was convenient for her – this last is particularly convenient since she still
works part time with Mad Science, a science performance group that travels to schools to show science experiments to kids.
And by reading the posts on the discussion boards, she finds her link to other students in the class.
People have been introducing themselves and talking about their background, she says. “It’s nice because then you read about it, and realize they’re in the exact same position as you.”
Kienzle hopes to be done by next January, and teaching French a few years after that.
Logo courtesy of iTunes
This month’s feature: iTunes U
Is iTunes U a valuable educational resource for students or a just another app?
Education is moving ever more online. Apple is pushing this trend with 2012’s new iTunes U app.
While iTunes U used to be the seldom-clicked button in people’s ITunes menu, the rise of iPads may turn that trend around.
The online catalogue of free education – now in app form – will organize all the course content into virtual 3-ring-binders with tabs. Students can take notes while watching video, and the app will automatically remember at what point in the lecture the note was made so context will available when they later review. Students will also receive notification when the professor adds something new, and can see a list of all the assignments for the course and check them off as they’re completed.
There are numerous free courses available, on everything from Shakespeare to Chemistry. While the source of the course content and the quality of the course varies, the app will hopefully make the experience as much a complete representation of a real course as possible.
However, while all this free education could be a big boon to students, the obvious downside remains that unless you have an iPad, iTunes U still isn’t too much more than a series of video and audio podcasts. To take advantage of the interactive resources integrated into the app, the student would need either an iPad, iPhone or iPod.
Teaching with Twitter
This industrious professor is pushing the boundaries of interactive teaching with a new social media component
Check twitter on any given day and you’re likely to see the following: breaking news, comedic commentary on the latest celeb gossip, and unappetizing details of what Bob’s cat just dragged in the front door. And increasingly – at least for Carleton professor Kathleen Hughes’ students – psychology class updates.
Starting this semester, Hughes is using twitter to bridge the gap between distance students and the professor. Both in class and out, she will field questions from her 430+ students and tweet articles she thinks might interest them. None of the readings posted on twitter will be mandatory of course, but she hopes to foster a more personal relationship with the students who she might never get to meet in person.
“What I’m really trying to use twitter for is not so much to express my personal persona, but more to express the discipline and topic of my course and to get students more interested in learning.” (So students probably won’t be kept abreast of her cat’s eating habits.)
In class, while students are on halfway break and/or during the occasional discuss-with-your-neighbour pauses, she’ll refer to her Samsung tablet and quickly check her twitter for questions or feedback.
It’s forward thinking stuff, and her personal research is inextricably linked.
Studies shows that shy kids generally don’t do as well in school. Not because they’re any less smart, but because they’re not reaping the purported benefits of class participation. Hughes’ PhD, which she hopes to finish this winter, looks at what might be contributing to their social withdrawal – whether it’s teacher relationship, classmate interaction or classroom atmosphere.
Hughes was a masters student when she first started hearing the talk about how shy kids didn’t do well in school.
“And I thought, well I’m shy, and I’m at grad school… It didn’t seem to make sense. It seemed like a question that needed answering.”
“My passion is making education work,” she says.
Whether the students embrace her twitter experiment or not remains to be seen, but Hughes is optimistic and excited about the months ahead. She’s even spread the twitter fever to some of her instructor colleagues.
Twitter will not be replacing her email correspondence though, she says. Email is a whole different animal, and will continue to be the mode of communication she will use for more delicate matters, such as grade discussion or a student’s personal situation.
Hughes fleshed out her twitter idea with the help of the CUOL Course Development Fund. Carleton is a very twitter-active school, and many departments manage their own twitter account.
Kathleen Hughes teaches PSYC 2600 A & T
Reporter/Writer: Sabrina Doyle
Contributors: Maria Brocklehurst| Patrick Lyons | Nestor Querido