Friday Miscellany

I got book edits this week, gave an exam on Thursday, and pre-registration for our spring term classes is just beginning, so I have a parade of students begging to get into this course or that one to deal with. So I have no more time for detailed blogging, but will do a bit of tab-clearing to end the week.

  • This piece about bimodal exams resonated well with my experiences in intro classes. I see a lot of the same thing, though with less statistical power, given that our maximum class size is 18. But in general, the “well-prepared students are bored, poorly-prepared students hopelessly lost” thing is universal. The tricks mentioned for trying to deal with the issue are likewise very general– I try to throw a question or a sub-part of a question on exams that will stretch the good students. The trick is doing that without having it completely destroy the weak students. Maybe I should start marking the exam questions with levels of difficulty…
  • Adam “2footgiraffe” Taylor is getting evangelical about Twitter, and specifically his monthly student Twitter chat. I kind of go back and forth about Twitter; on the one hand, it’s useful for connecting with scientists and educators I probably wouldn’t reach otherwise. On the other, the character limit makes it absolutely horrible for discussing anything requiring the slightest bit of nuance. And there’s a sort of middle-school social dynamic to a lot of Twitter communities that I waffle between kind of enjoying and finding deeply troubling. So, you know, Twitter. Yeah.
  • This article about teaching general relativity to 11-year-olds was interesting. Also, relevant to my interests (one of the many ideas I have kicking around but can’t do anything with yet is a picture book introducing quantum to little kids…). I’m not sure I entirely buy it as a realistic model for education, but it sounds like a cool outreach activity.
  • I’ve had this no-math explanation of the Lamb shift open in a tab for months, and keep saying “I should write about that,” but not having time. So here’s a link. Go read it, it’s good stuff.
  • Likewise this 3 Quarks Daily post on fitting and overfitting of data. Excellent stuff that I never quite have time to discuss in detail.
  • The TL;DR version of this post giving advice on doing “service” activity before tenure: Unless you find it rewarding in some other way, don’t. Also applies post-tenure.
  • This post on harassment and compassion was interesting. I don’t have anything particularly coherent to say about it, but it’s an angle I hadn’t heard discussed before.

And that ought to be enough links to prove a point of some sort. So here’s a video of the kids being silly:

We have not one, not two, but three little-kid birthday parties to go to this weekend, plus Kate is away Saturday night. Whee!

3 thoughts on “Friday Miscellany

  1. The trick is doing that without having it completely destroy the weak students. Maybe I should start marking the exam questions with levels of difficulty…

    I mark the harder problems with an asterisk and tell the students to first do everything without an asterisk and then if they have time to go back and do the problems that have one. Those are extra credit, so technically someone can get e.g. 120%.

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