Digital Physics Labs

This year I’ll be teaching two sections of distance learning physics. I LOVE physics – it’s been my favorite subject since my sophomore year of high school (hence why I majored in it!). The trickiest part about teaching physics remotely, however, is how to still do labs!? Luckily, I’ve rounded up a few great digital resources this summer and I’m going to share all of them with you here!

Now, before I tell you all about those resources, I want to give a little background on my physics teaching, because it’s somewhat unique. I majored in physics during undergrad and during senior year I was choosing between Teach for America and a few physics Ph.D. programs. You probably know (or can guess by now), I chose TFA. When you get selected for TFA, they assign you a grade and subject. I thought surely I would be chosen for secondary physics, but based on how many math classes I took, they assigned me secondary math. So my M.A.T. is in secondary mathematics, and my NYS and California teaching credentials are in mathematics.

I actually do like teaching math more than physics, though I like learning physics more than math. Depending on what state you teach in, your teaching credential creates some limitations. In New York I was permitted to teach as many math classes as necessary but only ONE additional class “outside” of my credential. My first year this was a programming class, my second and third years this was physics. Now that I teach in a private high school, all those rules are gone, so I can teach as many physics classes as my school wants!

Why am I telling you all this? First, so that you know I teach physics in a way that’s more like a math teacher (which I’ll be the first to say is not always a good thing). And secondly, so you know my struggles with instructing the lab sections of the class. I’ve done plenty of labs in my day, but teaching them (and acquiring all the materials) is a much different story. Nearly all the schools I’ve worked at haven’t had the proper budget for physics lab equipment. And I’ve been too unsure of my own lab knowledge to confidently buy limited supplies. Now though, distance learning has almost solved my struggles! Fully digital/online versions of common physics labs are widely available. Many for free, and all for a fraction of the price at which it would cost to outfit a proper physics lab!

So what online labs/resources will I be using this year for physics!?

Pivot Interactives

These are SO COOL. I believe they are made by the same company that the fancy Vanier physics instruments (actual lab supplies) are, so this is high-quality stuff. It’s not free, but the prices are ridiculously reasonable from what I’ve seen. SO excited to try this one this year.

The Physics Classroom

I’ve used this site a bunch and they have good quality content. It’s not quite AP level, but it would be a good supplement. It’s more than adequate for NYS Regents-level physics. I use their Interactives and Concept Builders extensively.

Khan Academy*

*Not a lab.

I’m up in the air about using some of their resources, and they’re not exactly labs. The nice thing is you can assign their problems via Google Classroom and they now have AP 1, 2, and C courses (I believe) available.

Physics Ranking Tasks**

**Not digital/online.

Ok, this is another non-lab listing but it’s SO GOOD I just had to share it! This is an old-school resource that I learned about from a fellow Physics AP 1 summer school teacher. It makes students develop a deep conceptual understanding of nearly all intro physics topics, by ranking different things (ex: which projectile will go the furthest horizontal distance). The only downside to this (besides that I’ll have to scan/take pics of the pages to share with students remotely) is that there’s no Teacher Edition. Now, I haven’t looked very hard and if you have a basic physics background you should be able to know the answers yourself, but just keep that in mind if you’re looking for a truly done-for-you resource.

Honestly some of these resources (Pivot!!!) look so great I might even continue to use them when we’re in-person again!

Yours in remotely physics-ing,


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