Making contemporary and emerging physics ideas available to all teachers in Virginia
The 2007 SOL review panel was composed of practicing scientists and engineers drawn from universities, government laboratories, and the technology industry across the Commonwealth of Virginia. They found that current Virginia chemistry and physics SOL are more representative of the mid-20th century than the beginning of the 21st century. For example, in the area of nuclear physics, essential knowledge and understanding is limited to protons and neutrons without mention of quarks and gluons. There is no mention of LED, LCD, or plasmas, but cathode ray tubes are explicitly recognized. Organic chemistry is left out of Virginia’s high school chemistry SOL and nanoscience or nanotechnology receives not a mention. The panel recommended that a number of existing content areas be excised and contemporary and emerging content be added.
The panel saw evidence of the K-12 world being isolated from the contemporary world of work and research and was made anecdotally aware of teachers with less than minimal qualifications in coursework background. The resulting conclusion was that a reliable, timely, and easily available content source must be provided for all teachers. Because of delays involved with getting new material identified, published, and approved through traditional textbooks, the panels recommended that the Department of Education support an open-collaborative software “Wiki.” The Wiki would be open to all physics and chemistry teachers to post curriculum they developed and taught. It would focus particularly on contemporary and emerging content. After teaching a lesson, the teacher could add notes or suggestions on the Wiki, thus continuously improving its content. This would also enable a virtual learning community of K-12 teachers from throughout the Commonwealth.
Making laboratory activities that employ industry state-of-the-practice equipment available to all teachers
The scientists and engineers on the SOL review panels recognized that hands-on experiments and laboratories are the glue that connects science theory to real-world phenomena. They recommended that at least 20 percent of a course be devoted to laboratories or demonstrations and that students use the same state-of-the-practice equipment that they would soon find in the technology workplace and college.
The FlexBook laboratory chapters are addressed to three audiences:
- Teachers who have little or no experience with labs
- Teachers who teach labs but may be using obsolete equipment and technology
- Teachers who would like to use the FlexBook labs as a jumping-off point in developing their own labs
For the first group of teachers, some of whom have limited experience and proficiency in lab science in general or physics labs in particular, the FlexBook write-ups should provide equipment lists and cookbook instruction. This will at least provide for some hands-on work with state-of-the-practice technology.
The second group of teachers will be introduced to new equipment manufacturers and taught how to incorporate state-of-the-practice technology into engaging physics laboratories.
The third group of teachers may find some of the equipment and its capabilities to be new and can use this information to develop their own labs with more advanced technology.