Course Review Strategy Revisited #physicsed

Following several discussions with a number of science teachers, we’ve decided on a review strategy to prepare students for our cumulative standardized final exam in NY Regents Physics.

To begin the review sequence, students will be given standardized exam question printouts from previous years and will cut out the individual questions.  Questions will be sorted into the main course topics and pasted on a blank sheet to create a worksheet consisting of single topics of questions from multiple years’ exams.

Each day, we’ll being the class with a 10-minute review video covering one of the key topics of the course.  These have been created previously as part of the Physics In Action podcast, so this is very easy to implement.image

  1. Scalars & Vectors
  2. Motion Graphs
  3. Kinematic Equations
  4. Dynamics
  5. Friction
  6. Uniform Circular Motion & Gravity
  7. Momentum & Impulse
  8. Work & Energy
  9. Electrostatics
  10. Electric Circuits
  11. Circuit Analysis
  12. Magnetism
  13. Wave Basics
  14. Wave Behaviors
  15. Modern Physics

Students will then be given a previous year’s Regents Exam, and asked to complete the first half of the exam.  This will be repeated the following day, with students completing the second half of the exam.

On the third day, the exams will be graded and reviewed as a class.  Students will then break down their scores to provide a separate score for each key unit from the exam using a diagnostic guide provided by the teacher.

Corrective actions must then be taken by the student based on their score in each topic.  For scores above 85% in any topic, no corrective actions are required.  For scores above 75%, three of the four corrective actions must be taken (student’s choice).  For scores below 75%, all four corrective actions must be taken.

The corrective actions for each unit are comprised of

  1. Determine correct answers to the problems you missed, showing all work including your initial formula, substitution with units, and answer with units.
  2. Read
    1. Textbook chapters covering unit in question OR
    2. Regents Physics Essentials Review Book chapter covering unit in question.
  3. View topic tutorial and associated pages on Take interactive quiz at end of section until you score 85% or higher.
  4. Complete practice worksheet on topic and check answers.

This sequence will be completed three times over three weeks leading up to a final in-class exam, followed by the formal state standardized exam.  Students who have completed their practice exam and corrections for the week may be released from class early, while those who need more practice will benefit from more class time as well as a lower student-to-teacher ratio as the week progresses.

Of course, the monotony of review will be broken up by occasional activities and supplemental lessons such as the always-popular time dilation discussion, reading of “Icarus at the Edge of Time” by Brian Greene, and other end-of-year activities.

Creating Instructional Videos with Tablet PCs

One of the greatest benefits of using a Tablet PC is the ability to create short videos walking students through lectures or problem-solving exercises. Sure, you can create hand-outs showing step-by-step problem solving, but it’s hard to beat an audio and video combination where you explain each step as you perform it – not quite as good as the live instructor model, but a close second, especially in situations where you have students in your classroom working on different topics, or the student can’t be physically in the classroom!

Screen Capture Software

There are a variety of software packages available that allow you to do this, with just as wide a variety of bells, whistles, and prices.  These “screen capture” packages record whatever is shown on your screen (or a subset of your screen) along with audio through a microphone input, and output a digital video file in one format or another.

Starting at the high end, Techsmith’s Camtasia Studio is the Cadillac of screen capture.  Not only does it include just about any bell and whistle you can think of, it also includes an integrated editor that allows you to jazz up your video before publishing to formats ranging from Flash for the web to iPod-compatible videos to Youtube directly.  The downside – it lists at $299, with an educational discount down to $179 (and if you do decide to go this route, I’d recommend going the extra mile and purchasing the bundle that includes SnagIt for $199, a screen capture utility that you’ll fall in love with). You can try it out for 30 days for free — its features certainly justify the price if you’re going to use the software extensively, but for just starting out, there are simpler and cheaper options.

At the next tier, you can find a wide variety of screen capture software from lesser-known and considerably lower-imagesupport firms.  I’ve been using BSR Screen Recorder 4 over the past few years, which was roughly a $30 purchase at the time.  The new version, BSR Screen Recorder 5, is available for download for $50, and includes output options to AVI, Flash, and WMV.  I can’t speak to the newer version of the software, but BSR4 has performed admirably for me for videos of 10 minutes in length or less.  I’ve used this software for everything from movie analysis problems to mini-lectures to flash video creation for the website.

In general, the software works fine for its intended purpose, but if you run into trouble, I wouldn’t expect the same level of support you’d get from the higher-end products.

Another potential software package for video screen capture is the open-source (i.e. free) CamStudio, based off an earlier version of the now-commercial TechSmith Camtasia package.  I haven’t used this myself, but it comes highly recommended from a well-respected colleague who has used it to make quite a number of instructional videos using his tablet pc.

image Finally, I’d like to point out a free software package called LectureScribe put together by Brian C. Dean, a computer science professor at Clemson University.  LectureScribe is a slick little flash video creation program designed by a teacher for teachers.  It takes a bit of getting used to, but if you want a no-frills package to get you started, LectureScribe is your answer!


As far as microphones go, you can get away with the built-in mics in many laptops and web cams.  Of course, with imagemicrophones, you typically get what you pay for.  Decent USB microphones can be obtained for $30-$50.  I use a Zoom H2 portable digital recorder ($145 at Amazon), purchased a couple years back as a multi-function device.  Students use it in class for our Physics In Action podcast, I use it for creating multimedia videos, and outside of school I’ve used it for recording a reading of books onto CD for my daughter as a Christmas present.  It’s a relatively high quality microphone that automatically converts its input into digital files, so it’s very portable, or you can plug it directly into a computer for use as a microphone.  For simple video recordings, however, this is probably overkill.


The easiest way I’ve found to create these videos is to place the problem in Bluebeam PDF Revu before starting the recording.  Then, set up your microphone and screen capture software to record the Bluebeam window.  Next, solve the problem just as you would in your class, explaining your steps as you go.  Finally, hit the “stop record” button in your software, and save your video file to a format that best meets your needs!

APlusPhysics Android App Released!

The first version of the APlusPhysics application for Google’s Android OS has been released and is available for free download from is a website dedicated to providing users with review materials and real-life applications of physics. The complexity of topics ranges from NYS Regents level physics to AP-C Physics (Mechanics and E&M). This app displays all recent blog posts and podcasts published on The user can read blog posts and stream or download podcasts. Downloaded podcasts must be stored in the SD card present in the phone.

In addition, an easy-to-read list of constants can be viewed that includes all constants used in Regents and AP-C Physics. Clicking a constant displays the name of that constant.

I am extremely open to feature requests. Let me know!

Package: com.kking.apphysics

Screenshots of the application in action have been released:

aplusphysics-10-1 aplusphysics-10-4 aplusphysics-10-2

Special thanks to developer Kevin King for his terrific work on this project!