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Friday, December 9, 2016

Who and why should learn physics?

Who And Why Should Learn Physics?

(This paper was used as the core of a project presented to the NSF in the form of a proposal for The NSF 2026 Idea Machine)
This link leads to an extensive, more detailed, presentation about the importance of study physics, including  the project "The development of the uniform standard for measuring content knowledge in physics", which was used as the core for one of the proposals to the NSF Big Idea Machine.
That post represents the transcripts of a short video, plus an appendix: Physics v. Computer Coding). 
The video is available at:

The materials for a full physics course are available on this link.

Hello I am Dr. Valentin Voroshilov. Since my graduation with my Masters in theoretical physics I’ve been teaching algebra based physics, calculus based physics, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, even logic, and problem solving. I also have a PhD in education with the concentration in teacher professional development. I have developed and taught courses to middle and high school teachers. I also developed and taught a physics course for students with learning disabilities. So, I know a thing or two about teaching, and I am good at that. My website GoMars.XYZ provides all information about me (Why “GoMars”? Because it’s easy to remember!). 
If you click on this link you can read what my former students say about my teaching. This is the best proof any teacher can have of a good teaching (capital G, capital T). I’m pretty proud of this, considering that when I moved from Russia to Boston I practically couldn’t speak or understand any English. Today I teach and wright. I am very productive. I publish (and self-publish) papers and even books. I think that these days I am compensating for all those years when I was learning English (mostly via TV and radio) and couldn’t express myself.
The first time I realized that I was good at teaching was a long time ago. I was teaching physics to two-year college students. It was the first or second week of the course. The class had to solve some problems, and every student had to show the work to me. A girl was walking to me slouching and scared. She handed me her notebook. I looked at it. The solution was absolutely correct. I said “You are absolutely right, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be done”. Her face lightens up, she smiles, and she says “I wouldn’t ever think that I could solve a physics problem on my own.”
Since then every time when I begin teaching a new course, I look at my students, and I see an anxiety or even fear in many eyes. Based on my surveys, student feedback, and just everyday conversations with students, I know that many of them are scared of physics, they think physics is too difficult, and they can’t get a good grade in physics.
That is why at the very beginning of every physics course I always tell my students “You can learn physics. Everybody can learn physics. Everyone who knows a multiplication table, and can solve a quadratic equation can learned a high level of physics - like quantum gravitation. And everyone can get an A. Different people may need different time and effort to get it, but everyone in this room can succeeded in a physics course. If someone tells you that physics is hard, and you can’t learn it, that person is a liar, or a bad teacher, or he or she just wants to feel better about themselves. “I know physics, I’m so smart.”
There is a lot of competition in a “science” of teaching physics. Some people compete for a fame like actors compete for an Oscar.
Most of my students by the end of a course change the perception of physics from “hard” to “doable”, and a perception of themselves from “I can’t do physics” to “I’m actually smarter than I thought!”. I always say that to learn how to solve a problem about walking a rope is much easier and faster than to learn how to walk a rope.
People say that to learn physics you have to be good at math. That’s not true. That’s another myth. To learn an algebra based physics people need to know a simple, elementary, rudimentary mathematics available to everyone.
Learning physics is like learning a foreign language. You need to memorize a set of new words. And you need to be able to look around, to see things, to name those things, to classify those things and relationships between those things. As a school subject, physics is uniquely positioned as a bridge between an abstract world of mathematics and real world of actual phenomena. 
Physics as a science is based on experiments, but when we learn physics most of the work is happening in our brain. We have to use the power of our mind to manipulate with different images, ideas, abstract objects. That is why the most important tool for learning physics is imagination – like in reading and writing.
Nowadays, physics is used far beyond just physics and engineering. It has entered business, medicine, even sport – and this is the first answer to “WHY students need to learn physics”.
I want to finish this video with a question “If everyone can learn physics, does it mean that everyone can teach it?” The answer is “No”. Why? For a short answer, I recommend to read the “Fundamental Laws of TeachOlogy”. It takes just fifteen minutes. For the full discussion please read my book “Becoming a STEM teacher” which is available on or, or, and is (basically) free.
Thank you.

Appendix: Physics v. Computer Coding
(a.k.a. a “scientific thinking” v. “computational thinking”)
Nowadays computer coding, or “computational thinking” enjoy a broad attention, an ideological and financial support from all levels of government and philanthropy.
According to the Wikipedia: “Computational Thinking is the thought processes involved in formulating a problem and expressing its solution(s) in such a way that a computer—human or machine—can effectively carry out. Computational Thinking is an iterative process based on three stages: 1) Problem Formulation (abstraction), 2) Solution Expression (automation), and 3) Solution Execution & Evaluation (analyses)”.Simply, computational thinking has two parts: developing the solution of a problem (a.k.a. thinking, or reasoning), and coding (translating into computer operations) that solution using a language understandable by a computer.The later part – coding – relies mostly on memorizing lines of computer commands (or, if using a high-level object oriented programming – memorizing a set of programming operations).
Every road has its beginning.
Every evolution has stages and phases.
The birth of a knowledgeable and skillful human follows specific laws, in the same manner like the birth of a human.
Skipping the stages is just impossible.
Alternating the stages will lead to “birth defects”.
For STEM, Computer and Data sciences the road, the evolution, the birth begins with PHYSICS!
Before physics, reading, writing, math, general science leads to a person to be ready to start to study physics.
Then study physics leads to the advanced development of other abilities require to succeed in science.
Because physics is the only science suited as the bridge between abstract matters (math) and real world.
BTW: That is why the NSF needs to have a project with the goal to allow ALL school students to study physics (like it does for computer and data sciences and cyber thinking).
Physics Is the Door into STEM education!  FYI: In Russia ALL middle-school students take physics 2 one-hour classes each week three years in a row (in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade); and then take physics again in high school (in 10th and 11th grades). Maybe that was the reason Russian cyber forces had beaten American counter forces in 2016?
I have a much larger post on the matter:
How much of “cyber” in “cyberlearning” and "cyberthinking"??
A link to a presentation on the matter: physics as a Door into STEM Education

From my syllabus (the full course is also available):

The links to all six my applications to the NSF 2026 Big Idea Machine (from August 31, 2018 to October 26, 2018):

1. Entry125253: High Frequency Data Streams in Education

2. Entry124656: objective measures of physics knowledge

3. Entry125317: National database teacher PD

4. Entry124655: role of NSF in funding education

5. Entry125719: The new type of a science course for science teachers.  

6. Entry126205: The development of the uniform standard for measuring content knowledge in physics.

Thank you for visiting,
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals
To learn more about my professional experience:
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