During the summer of 2012, several NWOSU faculty teamed up for a "Cutting Party." The purpose: cut 170 panels of 4' x 8' whiteboard into over 5,000 pieces about 10" x 12" in size!
This act was unsolicited, unexpected and was carried out at no cost to NWOSU, teachers, students or school districts. It was a volunteer enterprise entirely funded from grant monies secured from the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education as part of a closely related project.
Above: Dr. Thompson purposely posed for this photo as evidence of "working" this summer! Full panels were first cut into lengthwise strips before the final cut.
The effort was to bring Project Oklahoma Whiteboard to fruition: getting class sets of student-sized whiteboards in every single Oklahoma high school physics classroom. This idea for the project emerged following a summer professional development opportunity for Teachers of Physics and Physical Science (ToPPS, for short). See the POW homepage.
Above: A four person assembly line helped complete the cutting in a single day. Some packages shipped with boards and sawdust . . .
It took six volunteers five hours of continuous work at Starr Lumber of Alva to pull it off:
- Richard Ryerson (of Starr Lumber, Alva)
- Dr. Tim Maharry (NWOSU Mathematics)
- Dr. Steve Maier (NWOSU Physics)
- Dr. Dean Scarborough (NWOSU Agriculture)
- Dr. Steve Thompson (NWOSU Biology)
- Dr. Jason Wickham (NWOSU Chemistry)
Whiteboards are extremely low tech, yet they can be very effective agents in the classroom for engaging students and facilitating discussions. Some pedagogical models even place "whiteboarding" as the central focus of classroom activities to help students build mental models of the concepts being investigated. For example: instead of being told the equations of motion, students collect the data and report trends they see in the data in teams. Collectively, they arrive at the equation(s) of motion after making comparisons among the teams. Want more examples? See AMTA.
So in late August, 214 packages were picked up from the Alva NWOSU campus and put in the mail. Those receiving packages were 2011/2012 OK ToPPS participants and OK high school physics teachers. Some teachers sent in appreciation emails within 24 hours of pick up--amazing!
Above: While it took hours-days of cutting, counting, packaging and stacking to get ready, took the USPS only 15 minutes to load and get into the mail system.
The total cost of the project, excluding donated labor, was just under $6,000. It may not be a high-tech-flashy gadget in a classroom that is the usual suspect for gaining attention. However, this gesture of goodwill has spurred additional interest in an already growing network of physics teachers in Oklahoma. We hope the interest continues so professionals in the field can grow together--sharing resources and expertise.
Sat, August 25, 2012
by Steve Maier