Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Earth-shakingly successful talk!

So I gave my talk and it went well.  It's probably the only talk I'll give in goofy bright blue slippers, twice the size of my feet!  But I didn't trip over myself so life is good.  Lei Bao, from Oregon State was supposed to go first but he wasn't there so I volunteered, since I next up anyway.  People asked me more questions than any other speaker in my section which suggested they were interested and generally understood what I was saying.  A little Asian man ran right up to me before I even unplugged my laptop to say what an excellent lecture he thought I gave and he was wondering if I was a professor.  So that was cute.
Dr. Bao gave his talk in English which made me happy.  I had read his study beforehand (he got a publication in Science and Nature out of that study)- and the charts he presented are absolutely fascinating.  He administered the Force Concept Inventory and Brief Electricity and Magnetism Assessment to American and Chinese high school students.  The Asian students scored dramatically higher on both but the scores for students of both nationalities overlap when they are giving the Lawson's Test of Scientific Reasoning.  The fascinating implication is that content mastery doesn't mean you are developing critical thinking skills.  With traditional lecture physics courses, there's essentially no shift in these skills over the course of the semester- improvements are only seen when you incorporate inquiry based learning.  Here's the link if you're curious because I find it fascinating: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/323/5914/586.full
 The other four talks were in Chinese but Dr. Kan translated so I had a good idea of what was going on.  Two people talked about revising the physics labs to incorporate more engaging, real-world, designing, executing and result-presenting type experiments.  One person talked about using Java simulations in class as pre-class assignments to give him feedback about what his students understand or not.  He made all of his codes downloadable and modifiable so people from all around the world use and improve his simulations which is pretty cool.
During the talk, there was a pretty impressive Earthquake rumble- definitely more significant than the one I felt in NC earlier this fall.  So that was interesting but the Taiwan residents barely batted an eyelash.
Yup, so that was today.  It's kind of high pressure to give a talk when you consider how much people paid to get me here.  But they gave me an envelope with more money after the talk.  Even I don't know what's going on half the time, I don't think that's a bad thing.  I've got a short time before dinner- powernap?  I think so!