What's New || Philosophy and History || To Students || To Teachers



Welcome to the Glenbrook South Physics web site. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a frequent shopper, a physics teacher or a physics student, we wish to extend our welcome and invite you to explore and learn. This page and the others at The Visitor's Center have been designed to get you acquainted with the site and the philosophy behind it.


What's New

Besides the much needed facelift, there are a couple of new features at the GBS Physics site which are worth noting. Thanks to google.com, search capabilities are now available at our site. By typing in one or more keywords, a web site visitor can conduct a search of physics pages at our site which pertain to that keyword. The search results are provided on a page at the Google web site. Links back to our pages are present on the Google search results page. The search box can be found at the bottom of the Physics Home Page.

For the last three years, Glenbrook South physics students have been using the Minds On Physics Internet Modules. The modules are a highly interactive, self-paced quizzing tool designed to target student misconceptions of physics concepts. This section of our site had been password protected in order to protect our databases from entries by students from other schools. After much tinkering and several revisions, the modules have been completed and the password protection has been removed. Any school or student wishing to use the resource may do so. The Minds On Physics Internet Modules is one of the most effective resource on our site for learning physics concepts. We invite you to utilize your tool and welcome your feedback.



Philosophy and History of GBS Physics Web Site (teacher stuff)

The first web pages at the Glenbrook South Physics web site emerged in the Spring of 1996. They consisted of pages which assisted students in conducting internet research to complement year-end laboratory research projects. In those days, there were not a lot of physics resources available on the internet and thus not a lot of opportunity to complement lab work with internet research. There were many physics professors at universities who posted lecture notes, pre-lab instructions and course calendars. And there were a few other gems which focused on specific applications of physics (e.g., Gatorade's Sport Science Institute, the Titelist site on Aerodynamics, and a few NASA sites on the physics of flight). But for the most part, there were very little understandable materials available for the first-year high school physics student.

The following school year (1996-1997) marked the beginning of the growth of the GBS Physics web site. During that year, Neil Schmidgall began to build a series of pages which utilized JavaScript and HTML to present physics problems to Honors Physics students. The JavaScript was used to create random numbers within the problems, insuring that each student had a different problem and a different answer. Students would solve the problems and enter answers online; the JavaScript would evaluate student responses and provide immediate feedback. Student success on a given problem was then submitted to a web-connected database along with an answer to a free response question. This approach marked our first efforts to use the internet to present interactive materials and hold students accountable for the successful completion of an activity.

During the same year, Tom Henderson began to create The Physics Classroom tutorial and the Multimedia Physics Studios. These pages represented our first effort to present curriculum-specific resources which presented physics concepts in an easy-to-understand language. While much of the content would be understandable to any first-year physics student, their language and references mirrored what was occuring in our physics classrooms at Glenbrook South. Discussions of labs and demonstrations were common; and the animations at the Multimedia Physics Studios often bore a strong resemblance to laser disc segments and Physics Explorer animations presented to students in our classrooms. Some of our courses placed unit schedules on the internet which linked to these instructional resources, placing students a mere mouse-click away from help on a specific concept covered on a specific day. This approach marked our first efforts to tie internet resources to classroom activities in a rather seamless and transparent manner.

During the summer of 1997, three teachers received a generous grant from the First in the World Consortium to continue the work which had begun during the previous school year. Neil Schmidgall and Brian Wegley completed the task of using JavaScript and HTML to create internet problems for the Honors Physics classes. They improved on the original pages by adding GIF animations to each problem to assist students in visualizing the physics concepts associated with the problems. Tom Henderson completed five more units of The Physics Classroom tutorial during that same year and added several more animation pages to the Multimedia Physics Studios. Other tasks included the creation of the Laboratory - a collection of activities for students who had missed labs due to absences and needed a makeup lab.

There was at least one underlying assumption behind much of the early page-creation: "If we build, they will come" (to borrow Kevin Costner's line from The Field of Dreams movie). Lots of students and teachers visited those early pages. Counters which we placed at strategic locations allowed us to watch hits rise from 50-100 per day during the 1996-1997 school year to 500-1000 hits per day during the 1997-1998 school year. But regrettably, the students we really wanted to draw to the pages (our own Regular Physics students) simply were not coming at satisfactory rates. Those Regular Physics students who did come, reported that the pages were useful. Yet like any textbook, most students will simply ignore it unless it is required reading and they are somehow held accountable for it. For certain, there were those who depended upon it, but the overwhelming majority only used it when they needed it most. We tried all sorts of tricks to increase traffic to the pages by our own students. The presence of project pages at The Project Corner with links to off-site resources as well as to on-site pages helped. The construction of the Quiz Room with copies of quizzes from past years, tips for upcoming quizzes and links from Quiz Room pages to the instructional pages helped. The construction of The Review Session with questions, answers and explanations and links to our instructional pages also helped. And the placement of all extra credit opportunites on the web probably also helped. But all in all, without accountability, there was no guarantee that our students would read materials which were entirely optional. To our Regular Physics students, the required reading of our textbook and the answering of end-of-chapter questions was painful enough. What masochist among them would dare inflict more pain by reading some stupid web page.

A grant from the Toyota Foundation and the National Science Teachers Association (a Toyota Tapestry grant) helped to change this tide more than anything else. The grant allowed us to create the Minds On Physics Internet Modules - a shockwave based program that targetted and corrected student misconceptions. During the summer of 1998, the Minds On Physics Internet Modules were created. There were nine modules pertaining to topics in mechanics. The modules presented questions to students, provided immediate feedback concerning their responses, and tracked student progress by the collection of information in a web-connected database. To our amazement, the modules worked and students loved them. When we took time during class to visit a computer lab to do "MOP", teachers were the first ones to leave the room at the end of the period as students stayed past the bell in an effort to finish that next sublevel. It was obvious to teachers, to students and even to the lab supervisors that Minds On Physics was a hit. Students were engaged, thinking phyics, collaborating with others, giving high-fives when they were successful, and using our web site like no time before. Furthermore, great strides in conceptual development was noticed as students perfected their understandings of key ideas. To help provide remediation of incorrect concepts, the Minds On Physics Internet Modules directed students to the instructional pages at The Physics Classroom and the Multimedia Physics Studios. Today, the Minds On Physics Internet Modules have been expanded to 15 modules and includes the topics of wave and ray optics and static and current electricity.


In the past few years, there have been some general trends in the philosophy behind how we use site.

  1. Organization of Resources

    We devote significant effort to our course pages - keeping them current and updated. We feel our students must be confident that the course home page will contain fresh and important information and not just a stale paragraph written during some hurried moment in August. Our GBS students are told to go directly to the course page in order to guide their online experience. The course pages have links to current schedules, information about upcoming exams, links to the currently open problem sets, and links to releveant resources which would be helpful for the current topic being studied. While The Physics Classroom, The Review Session, and the Multimedia Physics Studios might contain the goods, the course pages serve to deliver the goods to our students. While not all our students take advantage of these pages, those who do are generally more successful and have a more pleasant experience in the course.


  2. Interactivity

    We have become more dependent upon the interactive aspects of our site. Some of the resources at our site are to be read; some are to be watched; but for some of the resources, "do" is the operative verb. The Minds On Physics Internet Modules and the Internet Problem Sets are the main sections of our web site which we use. All of our first-year courses use these resources to some extent; they are part of the assigned homework during the course of a unit. These two sections require students to answer conceptual questions and to solve physics word problems; students must answer the questions and solve the problems correctly in order to be rewarded. On many occasions, we use classtime to do these tasks. During those times, we witness a level of interactivity and engagement which surpasses that which we witness on any other occasion.


  3. Accountability

    To us, accountability is more than a buzz word used by some legislator to persuade the voting public that he/she values the education of our children. Accountability is our belief that we should make students provide evidence that they have done that which we have asked and that they have learned that which we have taught. This belief presumes that we can measure doing and learning. Our web-based approach allows us to do just that (or at least it allows us to measure doing and learning better than we have ever done it before without the web-based approach). As mentioned above, we use the Minds On Physics Internet Modules to develop and measure students' conceptual abilities and the Internet Problem Sets to develop and measure students' problem-solving abilities. These two tools have several things in common. First, they are connected to a database on a web server so that we can track student progress. Second, the nature of each of these resources is that students must be accurate and correct to have completed the task. For a student, getting these tasks "done" means getting it "done right." Credit is not given for having "done" the task unless it is done correctly.


  4. Cognitive Thought and Collaboration

    We have tried numerous approaches through the years to get our students thinking analytically and logically about physics. It is difficult to break from the all-to-common mold of equating a subject with a collection of facts to be memorized. Entering into the realm of pondering, reflecting, thinking and analyzing is painful. As a teacher, stating in class that "an object in motion will continue in motion unless ..." is easy to do. As a student, listening to this age-old cliche and perhaps even writing it down in a notebook is painless. But asking what does this cliche mean, what doesn't it mean, and how does it apply to situation X is the more important task which we are confronted with as teachers and learners. Through the careful crafting of questions in the Minds On Physics Internet Modules, we have been able to engage our students in reflecting about the significance of conceptual ideas. And by the creation of challenging problems with small nuances in the Internet Problem Sets, we have been able to engage students in thinking about mathematical relationships between quantities. And because we spend classtime doing Minds On Physics Internet Modules and the Internet Problem Sets, the classroom becomes transformed into an environment in which students naturally help each other and collaborate together to complete their tasks. In the lunch room, students may form a huddle to copy homework answers. This rather low form of collaboration has been replaced with an environment in which students debate about methods, processes, and the meaning of ideas.



A Message to Students

The GBS Physics web site was created to serve first-year physics students at Glenbrook South High School. Many of the pages were simply intended to present common physics concepts in an easy-to-understand language. In some cases, the pages are more interactive, presenting students with practice and review exercises. If you are a high school student (or even a college student) from another school, then these pages may be of similar help to you. The resources have been organized in a manner to assist you in finding what you need (we hope).


and Learn

If you are looking for help in understanding physics or a specific concept in physics, then your best starting location is The Physics Classroom tutorial. These pages are probably the most commonly used pages on our site. Countless students have depended upon them to help them understand physics, to prepare for a test or to survive a course. A similar resource is the Multimedia Physics Studios. These pages are consist of over 70 animations of basic physics concepts. Each animation is accompanied by an explanation and links to other pages with further information.




and Interact

If you are looking to refine some skills, to practice in preparation for a test or simply to do something more interactive than reading and watching, then there is plenty of opportunities to do so at our site. First, you might do what our GBS students do (or at least should do) in preparation for a test - visit The Review Session. Most of our courses have a set of reviews which provide practice questions and problems in preparation for a test. These reviews are accompanied by answers and explanations and serve as a sort of practice test. Then there is the More Help section of our site. At the moment, this section is somewhat short on topics, but it still offers opportunities to practice such skills as kinematic graphing, drawing free-body-diagrams, and adding vectors (just to name a few). Finally, there are the Minds On Physics Internet Modules. If you're trying to prepare for a test or simply wish to test your understanding of a topic, then a few minutes (or hours or days) at the Minds On Physics Internet Modules would serve you well. Questions are presented to you in random order on a specific concept. The user attempts an answer and feedback is immediately given. The game-style format of this resource makes it an engaging activity.


If you're simply looking to explore an idea in an interactive manner, then visit the Shockwave Physics Studios. The Shockwave Physics Studios provides highly interactive activities targeting single concepts such as kinematic graphing, color mixing, or the drawing of free-body diagrams.


Finally, if you are a student who is looking for help with a project or presentation, The Project Corner might be a good stopping ground. While this resource is no longer used by Glenbrook South physics students, we have kept it at our site because of the number of students from other schools who still use it. And if that doesn't meet your needs, then you might try to conduct a search of our site using Google's search engine. And before you hurry to write us for advice, please read the information about on the Contact page.



A Message to Teachers

If you are a physics teacher, we are glad that you have found our site. We have tried to put together a collection of resources which help students through both the conceptual and the mathematical parts of physics. We invite you to include links from your home page to our resources in order to provide students with some valuable (hopefully) homework help. If you don't have a home page, then feel free to pass our web address on to students or to simply print a copy of our home page with the web address written on it.

If you do have a web page or a web site, you might be interested in one of our early attempts to direct students to appropriate help relevant to their daily assignments. For each question in their unit packet, a link to a relevant internet resource was made. (See the Solutions Guide.) So if a student was at home and having difficulty with question #12 on page 13, there was an online link to a portion of a page relevant to that question. While it would take some time to create, it would not be a technically difficult task for any teacher to make such a page or set of pages with links to pertinent homework help.

Another common practice which we have utilized has been to create a schedule for each unit and post that schedule on the web. These schedule pages include links from a given day to a specific resource on the web which is relevant to that day's lesson plan. (See the Regular Physics schedules or the ChemPhys schedules as an example.) Prior to the Internet Days, we typically created a schedule for each unit anyway. It just so happens that some of the best schedule-makers are web editors. The creation of a table by most simple web editting programs is as simple as choosing Insert Table from a menu and completing a dialogue box to specify the number of rows and columns. Inserting dates into the cells of the table and including lesson plan information and homework assignments is no more difficult than word processing. And with a little skill, links can be created from your schedule page to relevant instructional resources found at our site and others.

If you have not tried the Minds On Physics Internet Modules, then you might investigate the possibility of using them with your students. Reserve a computer lab and spend a day allowing students to review concepts relevant to your unit of study. Directions for guests are available in that section of the site. A similar activity (though not as engaging) might be to use The Review Session pages with students during a class period. These pages provide students with questions, answers, explanations and links to further information. It is an exceptional resource for any student who is willing to take charge of their own learning.

You might also be interested in exploring our use of databases to deliver problems, provide feedback, track progress, collect survey data, or simply to collect homework answers from students. We have several databases which do our dirty work; they are usually open for short periods of time at different times of the year so it is difficult to direct you to a specific database-driven page. The philosophy underlying their use and a description of the technical aspects of creating one can be found in the Internet Problems section of our site. One database application includes our Reading Sheet database in the ChemPhys section of our site. The approach was modeled after the Just-In-Time-Teaching (JITT) model developed by the departments of Physics at IUPUI and at the UnitedStates Air Force Academy. A database is used to collect students' answers to questions pertaining to a reading assignment; the answers are analyzed prior to class and used to guide class discussions. (To be fair, our own approach is probably makes a large departure from the original premises of JITT approach. To understand JITT, it would be best to learn about it using the link above.) A final database application includes our Roller Coaster project. This database is usually open during December for use by the Honors Physics classes and in May for use by the Regular Physics classes; links to the database can be found from the corresponding course pages. (Important Note: You are welcome to investigate the use of our databases as a teacher. However, please do not bring a class load of students to our site to interact with our databases. Should this become common practice, our servers would simply be unable to manage such large amounts of traffic and our own programs would be jeopardized. Thanks!)

Finally, we would love to learn how you are using our resources. Perhaps in the future, we will expand our site to include a Teacher's Lounge identifying and describing ideas for using the different resources which are available. Please drop us a line, describing your ideas and/or attaching any handouts which you have utlized with students. Direct all email correspondence to Tom Henderson.




GBS Physics Home Page || Search This Site || About This Site || About the Teaching Staff || Contact and Usage Policy

 © Glenbrook South Physics Teachers, 1996-2003