I was honored to be invited to share at the 2021 AAPT Summer Meeting. Since the pandemic pushed things online for the conference, I recorded and submitted my presentation as a 20 minute video. Below, I have included this video, a downloadable pdf of the presentation, and links to the materials/blog posts for the lessons shared in the slides.
Links to Resources from the Presentation
Virtual Escape Rooms
Each challenge is provided to the students on a separate sheet for them to work on as a group (or most likely divide and conquer). The general layout is the same as each challenge contains a word problem, a clue for the topic of focus for the problem (i.e. "Heat", "Elastic Potential Energy", etc.) and a letter to be used in the puzzle
The beauty of this task is that the built-in check for students to confirm their answer is to see if any other challenges arrive at the same value. As groups progress, it becomes pretty clear which solutions don't belong in a pile and students work together to revisit their work or ask for help.
Since this task was written as a final review for the IB Physics curriculum there are a lot of different topics that may not appear in a typical high school physics class. That said, it would be fairly easy to swap out the problems as needed, just make sure that the final answer stays the same (something that I found was not always as easy as I thought it would be...)
Ok. All of the calculations have been done and students notice that the answers are all landing on the same 4 values with units of Joules.
They make their piles accordingly and unscramble the pages until a word appears. An example of four challenges with the same answer are shown below.
If done correctly for each answer, they should see the following 4 secret words emerge:
It's at this point that I remind them that the task isn't to find the words but to determine what they all have in common. While technically, they are all gems or precious stones, I tell them that the answer to the puzzle has something to do with the task as a whole...
They are all JEWELS (Joules)! 😂
Is this entire task just a set up for a dumb energy units pun?
Yes. Yes it is...
As mentioned above, the questions can to be adjusted to fit with the content covered in the class using the editable files. I found that this format works really nicely as a review that's a little more engaging than a worksheet or practice test. :)
Virtual Option - Jamboard
In light of many schools going completely virtually or meeting in person with restrictions on shared materials, I have updated this post with a Jamboard template that allows students to collaborate on this task in a virtual space.
Click HERE to jump to these Virtual Materials
Each of the clues is encoded using a different cipher technique. Each of these techniques are outlined in the resource posters shared below. None of these ciphers are too intense and the keys are given when needed so students should be able decrypt the messages without having to employ frequency analysis or other more advanced cryptography techniques. One of the biggest challenges for the students is that even though the resource posters provide the information about each cipher, it isn't always obvious which cipher to use for a particular clue.
I wanted students to teach themselves the necessary skills to decode these messages. To facilitate this, I created standalone posters that provide students with all of the resources they need even if they don't have any background in cryptography techniques. I printed these posters and hung them up around the room. From these, students should be able to decode any of the secret messages. I encouraged my students to walk around the room and take photos of the posters so they could bring these resources back to their group.
Virtual Cryptography Murder Mystery
To avoid sharing materials or allow participation in an online setting, a Jamboard template can be used instead of pieces of paper.
The link below will force a copy of the Jamboard that I put together as a virtual version of this task. You can either modify this and share with students or give them this link for them to create their own copy and share it with the rest of their group.
Below are the files for the posters and clues. Please use and share freely for non-commercial purposes. If you have any questions or ideas, leave a comment below :)
Below you will find a .zip file of the digital (PDF and editable) files needed for this cryptography murder mystery task. All of the files are included individually in the sections above as well but it's nice to get everything in one tidy package!
With many classes meeting in a virtual setting, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about how to create a group-worthy task that requires participation from every student in an online space. Below is my attempt to create this collaborative experience for our electricity and circuits review :)
The general concept is that a group of four would have a unique google form for each student. The form is a series of "doors" that must be unlocked. These tasks all require some type of collaboration and use information from one of the other forms. This challenge can take place in an entirely virtual setting or in person to create what I feel is a truly groupworthy experience.
This is my second attempt creating a virtual escape room. If you haven't seen the Motion Escape Room, I recommend checking it out for another example of what this could look like. I'm continuing to explore the possibilities of this format and tried a couple of new approaches in this Circuit Escape Room to mix things up. Some of the updates include:
Quick Start Guide
If you want to dive in right away, here's a quick description of what this task entails:
If you want to try out the task first (highly encouraged), check out the teacher link below for a google site that displays forms for all 3-4 players on one screen
You must work with your team to earn your reward
Your clues interact, and you cannot afford
To leave groupmates behind or sit silently staring
This is time for unmuting and time for screen sharing.
This escape room requires your circuitry smarts
You will face separate doors and will have unique parts
Of the overall challenge. It will test your persistence
As you calculate voltage, current, power, resistance
Make sure that you're careful and read all the text
When your team is all ready, you can start - just click "Next"
Each of the "doors" that students need to make it through have a topic that is highlighted. Some challenges require students to solve parts of problem individually and combine with their teammates while others have a single challenge where students are each given unique clues to help solve.
Door # 1 - Calculating Power
The resistor shown below has a 3-watt power rating
From this published limit, find volts by calculating
Maximum voltage for the resistance shown by colors
Too bad your data’s scrambled, compare lists with all the others
For the first challenge, all student have the same general problem to solve: determining the maximum voltage based on the resistance and power rating of a resistor. The twist is that each student receives a different picture of a resistor to calculate for.
Each form also includes the specs for a resistor, it just isn't the same resistor as the one that is pictured. They need to confer with their teammates to get the right information for their resistor based on the color code before calculating. The specs also include lots of unneeded information so they need to locate the important information.
Door #2 - Equivalent Resistance
To make this groupworthy, no one student has access to all 6 resistor cards. Instead, each player's form has 3 of the 6 as seen below in the example from player 1. There are also optional questions with data validation set up for each of the resistor combinations so that students can check their answers to these individual parts before combining them all together.
The distribution of these cards is done in a way that each one shows up on two students' forms so that they have a buddy that is also working on the same challenge in case they get stumped. It's also intentionally set up so that at least 3 of the 4 players need to be involved before finding the overall resistance. See the table below for the clue distribution in the 4-player version.
Door #3 - Circuit Analysis
Circuits are simply complete paths around
For electrons to flow as components compound
The electrical properties, junctions, and loops
Will help find the colors as you work with your groups
For this door, students need to solve some circuit analysis problems. Instead of requesting the information in a word problem, the "cards" are purely symbolic with a colored box highlighting the information needed to complete the color sequence provided at the bottom of the section.
Once they think they have determined the identity of each of the 4 colored boxes, they need to enter in their answer as a 4 digit number in the order shown.
Similar to Door #2, each student is given more than one value to solve so that they overlap with one of their other teammates and can support each other. As seen below, each player can see two of the four circuits that need to be solved.
Clues for the Maze (click the image to enlarge)
Door #5 - Resistivity Calculation
You reach in your backpack and pull out a wire
To get through this next door, you'll see I require
The name of the metal, and for your calculation
Each member has some of the right information
To make it through Door #5, students need to work together to determine a wire's material by calculating its resistivity. To do this, each student needs to calculate one of the properties based on unique information that they have been provided. By combining length, resistance, and cross-sectional area to find resistivity, they can compare their value with the resistivity table to identify the material.
You made it to the end and the feeling is ELECTRIC!
It's clear your group is ready, you accomplished every metric
Share this code here with your teacher to prove that you are done
I hope this helped review things and I hope that you had fun
To make this transferable to other teachers without requiring customization, the prize at the end of the escape room is the in form of a number that can be submitted in a form or as a screenshot. The confirmation screen once a student makes it all the way through and submits can be seen below
For a task focused on electricity and circuits, I thought it would be appropriate to base the secret code off of the elementary charge :)
3-Player vs 4-Player
When you click into the forms, you'll notice that there are two versions of this task. Because it is crucial that no clue is missing to complete many of the challenges, the group size must match the activity. It is unlikely that every class will be perfectly divisible by 4 so I designed a version of this task for 3 players as well. This 3-player version follows the same challenges as the 4-player version but some of the group-wide collaboration clues are compressed so that they still receive all of the necessary information.
I recommend splitting up groups to maintain as many 4-player teams as possible and use 3-player groups to make the final total work. :)
I've learned just how googleable this website has become for desperate students searching for the answers online, so I am not choosing not to post the map here. If you are hoping to use this in your classroom, please send me a message through my contact page and I will send you the map files within 24 hours
Circuit Escape Room - TEST PAGE
The google site linked here is a way that you as a teacher can try out the task without needing multiple devices or tabs open in your browser. This isn't the link to share with students because the task is designed so they are only working in one of the forms, but it's useful to see this overview how they interact before assigning it to the class.
Student Entry Page
To make the link sharing process less complex, the google form links are organized in this google site. This is especially useful to make sure that students are accessing the correct version based on their group size. Since the results from this site aren't shared, have them take a screenshot of the final confirmation screen or share the secret passcode for proof that they completed the challenge.
If you would prefer to post separate links, or modify questions, or receive your own results report, here are the links to individual google forms. Note: if you want to make edits, it will force a copy into your google drive so that it won't disrupt the original version.
There were a lot of new diagrams and images compiled to create this activity. The Google folder linked below contains all of the images and editable files used.
Creating "groupworthy" tasks for physics both online and in person has been a passion project for me lately, Here are some of my other favorite lessons with this gamification flair :)
More Lesson Materials (by Topic)
This virtual lab uses the PHET Circuit Construction Kit to study how to determine the emf and internal resistance for a battery by graphing voltage and current.
Part 1: Setting up your circuit
Display the circuit values by making sure that the “values” checkbox is marked
Part 2: Collecting Data
With this set up, you are measuring the total current flowing through the circuit as well as the terminal voltage of the battery. To collect multiple measurements, adjust the external resistance and record the resulting current and voltage in the table below. (see the video tutorial above for an example
Part 3: The Mathematical Model
Copy the table from part 2 into Excel and create a scatterplot from only the “Current” and “Terminal Voltage” columns. Add a trendline with an equation to your graph. Make sure that the current is graphed on the x-axis.
Part 4: Analysis of the Model
Compare your mathematical model with the battery values that you selected in part 1:
1. What electrical property does the slope represent?
2. What electrical property does the y-intercept represent?
Part 5: Extending our Understanding
If we were to do this lab in real life, we wouldn’t have a simulation displaying the emf and internal resistance of our battery. Analyze the data shown in the screenshots below to determine the mystery battery’s properties that are covered up by the emoji.
Part 6: Checking your Work
To check if your values for the mystery battery are correct, create a test circuit with your battery values to recreate one of the example configurations shown in part 5. All values and measurements should match.
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