Thursday, 28 February 2013

One down, two to go!

Gave my first talk at the UnB this afternoon and it went really well.  Reva’s husband was expecting attendance around 8-10 people since it’s during their exam period so professors are busy writing, administering and grading exams.  However, I had an enthusiastic crowd of 30-40 professors from a variety of backgrounds.  Since I had some time before I started talking, I asked the attendees what they taught and it ranged from elementary school, to physics, to international relations, Portuguese and even physical education!  The audience was attentive and I got many questions at the end- over 20 minutes of public questions and several people stayed after to ask more questions and confirm my contact information.  Success!! 

Giving this talk, and any talk really, is a reminder of both the exciting and annoying parts of studying physics education.  It’s exciting because usually people can understand and relate to what you are talking about.  It’s a great conversation starter and it is fun to share experiences with people.  Even back when I did a poster session during my summer research at the University of Minnesota, I was the only physics education research poster and it was one of the most popular stops.  Many people stopped to read my poster and I was always talking to someone.  However, a lot of people (especially professors who have been teaching for decades) don’t like to be told to how to teach so they can be prickly or refuse to listen to what you have to say.  An older, European man questioned me during and after the question session.  He was convinced that when students work in groups, only the top student does work and the other two tag along.  I explained how we strategically group the students, quiz them individually every week, test them individually and showed him the data separated out by bottom, middle and top third of students.  Each group has a member from each of these thirds and the chart shows how each category of these students learns significantly more than if they were sitting in a traditional lecture.  Which won’t happen if they weren’t participating!  Anyway, I won’t complain now but you think a scientist would appreciate that data does not lie!

Other exciting news of the day: APS (American Physical Society) wants me to write a column in their newsletter!  Which will justifying getting my housing in Rio paid for!  Sweet deal!  Good thing that I’m getting warmed up to write because Reva wants to get a publication out of this women and science thing as well.  Speaking of publications, the Physics Teacher article I’m a co-author on is set to run in April 2013 so keep your eyes peeled for that, if you are a physics person.

After that, went to play Snooker with Gilberto.  Basically pool but with a slightly smaller table and balls.  You play odds and evens instead of stripes and solids- supposedly an American game but if I played in the past, it wasn’t memorable.  It was an excellent time- the first game, I technically deserved to crawl under the table but he was nice and didn’t make me.  My skills improved, we talked about life… an excellent evening overall.  I was very impressed with Brazilian bars- they make you carry around a piece of paper to keep track of your drinks then you check out with a cashier and pay for it then.  Although their musical choices were pretty hilarious- classical 80s and early 90s.  One guy was a dancing machine in purple sparkly converse, which made me laugh.  

I need to get up at the crack of dawn for another talk tomorrow.  Boa noite!  Tchau tchau!