A message "To the Teacher" about
PhysicsLAB and its Curriculum Guide

Whenever I went to choose a new textbook, I looked for completeness and depth of content. Realistically, we all know that no one can cover an entire textbook in one academic year. However, I was looking for a text in which the topics I did want to cover had explanations, developmental exercises and sufficient practice problems. It is along these lines that I developed PhysicsLAB. The philosophy of PhysicsLAB is to provide you with content from which you can choose those activities that will best suit your program's needs. Content that, while being flexible and easy to access, contains instructional lessons, labs, developmental and conceptual exercises as well as worksheets that will allow your students to become accountable for their own learning.

The web-based delivery of PhysicsLAB's curriculum readily allows students to set their own pace as they take the time required to complete each activity. Well over 90% of the activities have some type of interactivity: pages that supply correct answers when students input their own initial answer, that provide help windows and hints, that have physlets, animated gifs, or flash animations, that have clear, diagrams and solutions. The student now has a personal repository of resources he can reference to either learn a new physics concept or to review for tests or national exams. Your job now is to facilitate his learning, to envision the course's content, its implementation timeline and to teach your students from a wide assortment of types of content. These include resource lessons, mathematical worksheets, labs, Conceptual Physics Workbook pages and NextTime Questions. There are also online tests from AAPT, past exam questions from North Carolina and Massachusetts state testing as well as New York's Regent Exams from 1996 to the present. Many visitors have also shown a high level of intererst in the clever situations of the collection of Amusing Problems.

For current teachers of the Collegeboard's AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 programs my content should primarily be reached through the chapter listing. Moreover, I have an exhaustive collection of AP-B free-response questions for each of the 21 units of instruction which can be searched by year (for example, 1988B3) or keyword. The keyword search also allows you to locate related free response questions in the same/similar topic areas. The Collegeboard has also released old AP-B exams, mutiple choise, and free-response questions materials from 1999-2018 which can be found on their website at Previously Released Materials.

To assist you in finding materials in PhysicsLAB, this companion website was developed. You can locate curriculum either by a Unit of Instruction, by Content Type, or through a search engine of previous assignments made throughout last year. In addition to a comprehensive listing of curricular activities found in PhysicsLAB, each unit of instruction were correlated to

  • content standards from the Florida Sunshine State Standards, Volusia County Science Standards, and the Advanced Placement Acorn Guide for Physics-B,
  • assessment strategies for Hewitt’s Conceptual Physics (3rd High School edition; 8th College edition), Principles and Problems (1995 edition) and Giancoli’s Physics: Principles with Applications (5th edition).
Although all of the correlations listed above are now outdated I decided to maintain their inclusion to assist any beginning teachers who are using the website.

The units of instruction are presented in the classic order: mechanics, optics, electromagnetism, thermodynamics, and modern/atomic. Before AP Physics 1 and AP Physics 2 were incorporated, my first year course was an honors level course that started with with an overview of the metric system (incorporating some information on "What is Mass" since it was the only SI unit based on a prototype), followed by waves and vibration, and then sound and geometric optics. Then at the semester, I move into mechanics: metric system, kinematics, dynamics, work/energy and momentum. My second year course was the actual AP-B course credit which completed the remainder of mechanics: momentum and energy, uniform circular motion, vertical circular motion, rotational motion and SHM. The rest of the second year is spent on electromagnetism: electrostatics, DC circuits, magnetism and induction followed by physical optics, thermodynamics, atomic, nuclear, and modern. Both years were very strenuous since most students did not start with strong mathematical insights, experience with problem solving, or lab work procedures.

PhysicsLAB supports both mathematical and conceptual development throughout all of these units of instruction. PhysicsLAB's curriculum complements any general high school physics text or recommended AP Physics text.

Upon completion of the curriculum in PhysicsLAB, students are qualified to take additional physics courses beyond the introductory high school, college (AP) level. Students will also master skills for completing on-line courses. Many of my former students have returned from college with statements about how comfortable they are with taking online courses at their universities because of the skills and confidence they gained from completing my online curriculum while in high school. This confidence is especially important since more and more courses are going online as the ratio of students to teachers grows throughout every level of education. Moreover, if you choose to implement PhysicsLAB in your classrooms as I did in mine which was as an online resource that facilitated student learning while they were also in a physical classroom with a teacher present, students will learn a tremendous amount about how to work in groups. Also, they learn how to cooperatively complete assignments and how to interact with a learning partner so that both students walk away richer from the experience. Students have told me that their computer skills have increased dramatically as a result of using the online tools in PhysicsLAB: forms, spreadsheets, word-processing.

Since PhysicsLAB's inception, more and more physics programs are "going online." For those readers who might be interested in looking at an "historical snapshot (1997-2002)" of student opinions as they first participated in a online program partnered with in-class instruction, please take a moment to look over the student surveys that were administered and analyzed during the first five years of PhysicsLAB as part of the evaluation of Mainland's US DOE Technology Challenge Grant.

Please forgive any broken URL's or 404 errors as many websites have re-arranged their content or have gone out of existence. If you report any of these errors I will do my best to update PhysicsLAB.

* The following special resources have been included with either the permission of the author or publisher: Conceptual Physics Workbook pages, NextTime Questions, Amusing Problems, physlets, Direct Measurement Videos, NC exam questions, NY Regents Exams, MCAS Introdutory Physics Exams, and past AAPT tests.

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Catharine H. Colwell
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