The Science Learnification Weekly (March 6, 2011)

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past week or so. Some of these things may turn out to be seeds for future posts.

Screencasting in education

Last week I posted links to a couple of posts on screencasting as part of a collection of posts on flipped/inverted classrooms in higher education. Well this week I’m going to post some more on just screencasting.

  • I mentioned this last week, but Robert Talbert has started a series of posts on how he makes screencasts.
    • In the first post, he is kind enough to spell out exactly what a screencast is among other things.
    • In the second post, he talks about the planning phase of preparing a screencast.
  • Roger Freedman goes all meta on us and posts a screencast about using screencasts (well, it’s actually about his flipped a.k.a. inverted classroom and how he uses screencasts as part of that).
  • Andy Rundquist talks about using screencasting to grade and provide feedback. He also gets his students to submit homework problems or SBG assessments via screencast. He has a ton of other posts on how he uses screencasting in the classroom.
  • It’s unofficially official that #scast is the hashtag of choice for talking about screencasting on twitter.
  • Added March 10: Mylene from the Shifting Phases blog talks about some of the nuts and bolts of preparing her screencasts including pointing out how the improved lesson planning helps her remember to discuss all the important little points.

I taught a 3rd-year quantum mechanics course last year and encouraged the students, using a very small bonus marks bribe, to read the text before coming to class. I think that due to the dense nature of the material, their preparation time would be much more productive and enjoyable if I created screencasts for the basic concepts and then had a chance to work on derivations, examples and synthesis in class. With the reading assignments they were forced to try to deal with basic concepts, synthesis, derivations and examples on their own which was asking quite a lot for their first contact with all those new ideas. I’m pretty interested to try out screencasting and


I have been scheming for a while to bring the Arduino microprocessor (a.k.a. very small open-source computer) into my electronics courses starting with a 2nd year lab. Arduino is a favorite of home hobbyists and the greater make community.

This is a collection of things that tickled my science education fancy in the past week or so. Some of these things may turn out to be seeds for future posts.

Standards-based grading in higher education

Standards-based grading (SBG) is a pretty hot topic in the blogosphere (SBG gala #5) and on twitter (#sbar). There’s a nice short overview of standards-based grading at the chalk|dust blog.

I am very fond of the idea of basing a student’s grade on what they can do by the end of the course instead of penalizing them for what they can’t do along the way when they are still in the process of learning. I also love the huge potential to side-step test anxiety and cramming.

Folks using this grading scheme/philosophy (a.k.a. the SBG borg) are mostly found at the high-school level, but there are some folks in higher ed implementing it as well. I am strongly considering trying out SBG in one of my future upper-division courses, such as Quantum Mechanics, but there are some implementation issues that I want to resolve before I completely sell myself on trying it out. I am in the middle of writing a post about these issues and look forward to discussing them with those that are interested.

Special thanks go to Jason Buell from the Always Formative Blog for bringing most of these higher ed SBG folks to my attention. He has a great bunch of posts on SBG implementation that fork out from this main page.

SBG implementations in higher ed:

  • Andy Runquist is using collaboarative oral assessments as part of his SBG implementation. This is the only higher ed Physics implementation that I have encountered so far and I have been chatting Andy up a ton about what he is up to in his first implementation.
  • Adam Glesser from the GL(s,R) blog has tons of SBG posts: He is in his first year of a full SBG implementation in his Calculus courses. He gets bonus points for being a boardgame geek and playing Zelda with his 4-year old son.
  • Sue VanHattum talks about wading into the water as she slowly moves into SBG implementations by way of a mastery learning implementation. Search her blog for other SBG posts.
  • Bret Benesh comes up with a new grading system for his math courses with help from the SBG borg.
  • Added March 10: Mylene teaches technical school electronics courses and replaces the achievement levels for each standard with a system where the standards build on each other and are assessed using the binary yup or nope system.

That’s it for this week. Enjoy the interwebs everybody.

Robert Talbert

2 Comments on “The Science Learnification Weekly (March 6, 2011)”

  1. bretbenesh says:

    Hi Joss,

    Be sure to document your potential experiments with SBG (and everything else): I would love to learn how to do it better.

    • Joss Ives says:

      Hi Brett,

      Thanks for the encouragement on documentation. I am usually good about keeping debrief notes as my courses are going, but I never sit down and do the last step of putting everything together in a way that could potentially be handed over to somebody else. So I greatly appreciate your interest, it will help make sure I get stuff done.

      I have some questions for you on your SBG implementation, but I will comment on your thread since that seems like the sensible place to do it.

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