This was my first AMTA conference, and in fact, my first year as an AMTA member. I took a modeling workshop one year ago and have been modeling in my high school physics classes for just one school year. At this meeting I was hoping to find some advice and resources, as well as make some connections with fellow modelers, and all of those expectations were certainly met and exceeded. Everyone at the conference was very friendly and approachable, whether they were new modelers, like me, or seasoned modelers, some having decades of experience.
While the entire conference was well worth the time and money to attend, some of the most valuable sessions to me were the relatively unstructured ones. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the “Unconference” Physics session but it turned out to be a wealth of ideas and solutions being shared by other physics modelers. I was able to glean many ideas that I could easily implement, such as adding more vertical whiteboard space to my room, ideas for easy randomized grouping, and even a collection of slow-motion cart collisions to use as an introduction to momentum. Similarly, I attended a “Whiteboarding” session, in which people simply shared their ideas for what worked well and what didn’t in whiteboarding discussions. That has been one area that I want to improve on for next year, as I felt myself getting “stuck in a rut” in terms of how I conducted my whiteboard sessions this year and I needed some fresh ideas.
The most valuable structured session I attended was the one on Standards-Based Grading. This is something I have been wanting to look into for a few years, but have never taken the time to do. Mark Schober presented such a clear picture of why standards-based grading makes more sense than a traditional system and gave a straightforward method of carrying it out that seems, surprisingly, like it could actually be less work than a traditional grading system. He pointed us to his website which has, among other things, a step-by-step guide on how to make the switch from traditional to standards-based grades. Mark also offered to provide additional assistance through email to anyone who wanted it. After just this one hour of hearing about standards-based grading… I might be a convert.
All in all, I am very glad that I signed up and went to the AMTA conference. The people I met were helpful, encouraging, knowledgeable, and friendly; and the resources and ideas I got for my classroom will definitely help me in continuing to grow as a modeler.
Article submitted by Molly Sauder