Teaching Physics With Movies

Class assignment:  Stop the train loaded with hazardous chemicals before this “missile the size of the Chrysler Building” hits a populated area and “vaporizes everything in front of it.”

Okay, that's actually a summary of the premise in the new thriller film, Unstoppable.  But that doesn't mean that a class couldn't consider the assignment virtually using the film.

Could a train even be as powerful as a Chrysler Building-sized missile?

The lesson idea comes from Emory physics professor Sidney Perkowitz. He is a good source considering that he wrote Hollywood Science: Movies, Science, and the End of the World.

Science and Entertainment Exchange
- National Academy of Sciences program to bring scientific accuracy to media entertainment.

Six Sounds in Search of an Author

I found out about this through an EdTech group on Facebook. Chris Shamburg is running a contest for NJAET for students to do an audio remix. You must be an NJAET member to submit (membership is free) but I'm posting it because his links and the idea are easily transferable to your classroom.

Students can get creative, learn audio editing, and have some fun with 21st century skills. It works for novice or experts.

You can download all six sounds as a zipped file at http://drop.io/sixsounds/asset/six-sounds-zip or as one single mp3 file at http://drop.io/sixsounds/asset/all-six-sounds-for-contest-mp3 .  It's a challenge and opportunity to get creative within specific boundaries and rules.

If you can operate a word processing program and a tape recorder, you have 95% of the skills you will need to do audio editing. There's a tutorial at http://drop.io/sixsounds/asset/six-sounds-in-search-of-an-author-tutorial-pdf designed specifically for this project. It should take about 20 minutes to complete.

Along with the technical skills, this project is an accessible and creative way to teach literacy and important 21st century skills.

The contest rules would probably work well in your class.

- You must use all of the sounds.
- You may use a sound more than once.
- You cannot use any other sound effects.
- You can manipulate the six sounds—i.e. trim them, add effects such as changing the pitch or speed.
- Your story must be a minute or less.
- It can be true life, drama, comedy, detective, romance, adventure, action, fantasy, horror, sci-fi or any genre
- No profanity or use of personal information
- The story can have characters and a narrator, just characters, or just a narrator.
- File must be submitted as an mp3.

Here are two examples:
Camping Trip at http://drop.io/sixsounds/asset/camping-trip-mp3
Drug-Free Detectives at http://drop.io/sixsounds/asset/drug-free-detectives-mp3

Chris has a rubric and more information at http://njaet.org/

This project addresses New Jersey standards - NJCCCS 3.2, 3.3, 3.4 (Language Arts Literacy) 8.1; (Technology); and 9.1 (21st Century Life and Careers).

The Beat of Our Searching

More than a billion searches are done every day on Google. Do you ever wonder what people are searching for?

I think most of us are a bit curious, and I also think it's something that students are interested in - therefore, it's a good conversation and lesson starter.

An easy and visual way to start the conversation is via a video series called the Google Beat that highlights some of the hottest searches on Google in the U.S. (I'd like to see an international version.)

They pull data from Google Trends, Google Insights for Search and other tools. Those are also interesting tools to use in class. Beyond the video, you could have students dig deeper into the statistics and trends.

I always do a post when the year-end Zeitgeist report comes out. One obvious trend is the pop world of entertainment's dominance in what we are looking for information about online. How many topics related to education, science, literature et cetera can your students find? What can we say when the top searches are the rescue of the Chilean miners, Sweetest Day, sports, and Snooki on South Park?

Here's the video from August when the service launched that shows how it works,

and here's the video look at what were the hottest searches from last week ending October 22, 2010.

National STEM Video Game Challenge

Advanced Micro Devices and Microsoft were among the co-sponsors who showed up at the White House recently to join President Obama as he launched the National STEM Video Game Challenge.

It is in two parts. One competition allows students grades five through eight to compete for a cash prizes, plus tech gear from AMD and Microsoft. They must design an original video game to win.

Another competition is geared for college-age contestants. A cash prize of $25,000 awaits the creator of the top technology with "high potential to reach underserved communities" such as games built for basic mobile phones that address urgent educational needs among at-risk youth.