Teacher Usage of the Minds on Physics Internet Modules

What's the Big Idea?

Hundreds of high schools use the Minds On Physics Internet Modules as part of their curriculum. For physics teachers at these schools, MOP is a means of solidifying the learning that occurs within the classroom. The modules are typically used by such teachers as both classwork and homework. Students are assigned a collection of assignments that are due at the end of the unit. Students complete the assignments as homework (and on occasion as classwork) and submit their encrypted success codes to their teacher. The teacher then validates the truthfulness of the codes by checking them using an offsite decryption program.

This system provides teachers with a painless way of making assignments and deriving grades based on student completion of the assigned work. But more importantly, the assignments themselves are mentally engaging assignments that can only be completed once a student understands the concept. Guessing and simply doing my best typically does not lead to success. The Minds On Physics Internet Modules rewards students for understanding physics. This mastery-learning approach to physics concepts does not mean that it is hard-nosed or insensitive. Instead, MOP encourages student learning and understanding by providing hints, help and links to other online resources at The Physics Classroom website. Every question is accompanied by a Help page that discusses the specifics of the question. The Help page states a key principle or concept, provides a physics formula, elaborates on a principle, discusses common student misconceptions, and identifies small nuances within the question that typically trouble students. The Help pages are extensive and question-specific, designed to provide remediation and correction of incorrect or incomplete student conceptions.

The blending of carefully designed questions, a mastery-learning emphasis, and an extensive Help function makes the Minds On Physics Internet Modules a useful learning supplement for any physics classroom. Whether used in class as an end-of-unit practice or used outside of class as a type of homework management system, the Minds On Physics Internet Modules is a useful tool in the physics teacher's toolbox. Consider giving your classes the MOP experience.

How Does It Work?

Using the Minds On Physics Internet Modules with your classes is an easy process. There are 135 different assignments to choose from. These are grouped into modules or topic areas - such as Kinematic Concepts or Electric Circuits or Reflection and Mirrors. Once you acquire a Minds On Physics teacher account, your first task will be to identify a collection of assignments that are at the appropriate level for your students and cover the objectives that you have taught.

Determining which assignments are appropriate for your classes is easy with a Minds On Physics teacher account. You will receive a teacher code when you sign up for an account. The teacher code provides a teacher access to the password-protected Teacher Preview mode of MOP. This mode allows you to quickly and easily preview all the questions within any given assignment. By previewing the questions, you will be able to determine if an assignment is appropriate for your classes. Once you have identified a collection of assignments, you will provide your students with the list of assigned work. MOP makes this easy by providing a collection of pages in the Record-Keeping section of the site. The pages can be printed as PDFs and distributed to your students with the specific assignments and their due dates listed.

In addition to previewing assignments, you will be able to customize assignments. Questions within each assignment are grouped together. Students must answer a question from each group. The Teacher Preview option identifies the group number of each question. Customizing an assignment involves removing up to two groups of questions within the assignment. Customizing assignments is done easily using the Teacher Preview option. Simply identify the group numbers, enter the group numbers and click the customize button. Minds On Physics then creates a Start Code. The Start Code is entered by students when starting an assignment. By entering the proper Start Code, students progress through the assignment without being delivered questions from the groups that you have removed.

Code Collecting and Checking

By acquiring a Minds On Physics teacher account, you will be able to assign Minds On Physics as homework and quickly and easily check to insure that your students have completed the assigned work. When a student completes a MOP assignment, a success code is rewarded. The success code is an encrypted 8-letter code that is unique to the student, the teacher and the assignment. No two students will ever have the same success code. These success codes are written down by the student on the convenient record-keeping forms found at the Record-Keeping page on our website. When the due date arrives, students hand in their record-keeping forms with all the codes that they have earned. These codes are them means of obtaining credit.

Of course, simply handing in a code or a whole modules worth of codes doesn't mean a student has done the assignments. After all, any student can make up an 8-character code; and making up an entire module's worth of codes doesn't take a whole lot more creativity. To insure that a submitted success code is valid, a teacher needs to check it. The Minds On Physics Internet Modules makes checking success codes an easy task. By acquiring a teacher account, a teacher gains access to a password-protected website where success codes can be quickly checked for their validity. A quick comparison of the submitted code to the actual code allows a teacher to quickly check a unit's worth of homework. Unlike the most recent version of the Minds On Physics Internet Modules, version 4 allows teachers to check success codes without entering ID and name information. Using the cookies function of web browsers, MOP stores ID numbers and retrieves them when code-checking begins. Simply click on an ID and view the codes. In approximately 15 minutes, an entire unit's worth of homework for an entire class can be checked.

In the end, Minds On Physics provides teachers with a homework system that holds students accountable for the completion of learning-centered, interactive homework that is tied to specific objectives and surrounded by a wealth of helpful resources. And all this is possible without wearing the teacher out with the grading of daily papers. Your time is valuable! Why not purchase a teacher account today?

Getting Started With Your Students

Once you purchase a teacher account, you will receive a 4-6 letter teacher code. For students to begin a collection of MOP assignments, they will need to use your teacher code and a personal student ID number. Most teachers have students use their school ID number if the schools assign such a number (it may need to be shortened to 6 digits). If such numbers are not available a teacher could individually assign students numbers (4-6 digits, no leading zeroes). It is important that every student have a unique student ID number. If you are assigning ID numbers, keep it simple. Consider using: 11101, 11102, 11103, … 11126 for your year 2011, period 1 students; use 21101, 21102, 21103, … 21126 for your year 2011, period 2 students. In the school year starting in 2012, use similar numbers, except for the third digit being a 2.

Once students know your teacher code and have a student ID number, they are almost ready to begin. All that they need to know now is their assignment and some simple directions about how to begin. The best means of announcing their assignment and describing the start-up process is to provide them with a record-keeping form. You can find these in the record-keeping section of the MOP site. Download the Microsoft Word version, fill in the teacher code blank and the due date column. (It is recommended that you make the due date the same for all assignments.) A short page of Directions is also available at the same record-keeping page. Print the Directions page and duplicate it along with your record-keeping form.

As you begin the use of the Minds On Physics Internet Modules, take some time to become acquainted with the program. Study the Topics page and (more importantly) the Objectives page. Find assignments that are well-suited to your own curriculum. Use the Teacher Preview mode to preview the questions on an assignment before you assign it to students. MOP can be stressful for some students; avoid adding to the stress by giving assignments on material that you haven't discussed. Take advantage of the Assignment Customization option that allows you to drop up to two questions from any given assignment. By dropping questions that might use terminology that is different than your own, you help to reduce the student stress and improve the student experience. And finally, consider the integration of Minds on Physics with the Curriculum Corner. The worksheets found at the Curriculum Corner are intended to coordinate with both the Minds On Physics Internet Modules and the pages at The Physics Classroom Tutorial.

Other Ideas for using MOP

There are numerous other ideas for using the Minds On Physics Internet Modules. A few of our favorites are listed below.

  • Use MOP as your homework assignments. Assign one assignment each evening and collect the module's worth of codes at the end of the unit on the day of the test.
  • Reserve a computer lab the day before the test. Allow students the entire period to work on MOP.
  • Require that students do at least 7 of the 11 assignments within a given module. Allow students to pick the 7 which they wish to do.
  • Have a MOP Quiz. Take students to a computer lab at the beginning or end of class and allow them 15-20 minutes to complete a particular assignment. When students are successful, record their success on an attendance sheet.
  • Have an Evening at the MOPs night, inviting students to come in after school to do MOPs in the school library or computer center and to receive help from the teacher.
  • Provide a Best of MOPs sheet for preparation for the final exam.
  • Assign several MOP assignments but don't collect the codes. Then give a quiz which includes several MOP questions on it.
  • Use a MOP assignment as a makeup lab for those students that missed the lab. Find the assignment whose objective closely resembles that of the lab.

If you know of some other approaches that have proven useful with your classes, then consider sharing your idea so that it can be included here. Contact the MOP coordinator.

A Favor to Ask

Many thousands of students do MOP every year. Like any teacher, the MOP coordinator has a collection of classes and students. He is busy designing instruction, preparing lessons, setting up demonstrations and labs, helping students and grading papers. There is no way that he can attend to questions from students from other schools. As a favor, please advise your students to bring all questions to you as the local teacher. As the local teacher, become the expert in the operation of the program and the go-to person for all student inquiries. In the event that you are unable to answer a question or have a problem that won't fix itself, email the MOP coordinator. He would be glad to assist you in finding the information or solution that you need. Thanks.