Tag Archives: student work

Portal in High School

Jimmy Newland, a high school teacher in Houston, seriously takes the cake. He took with my physics lessons and recreated them better than I could have imagined in his physics classroom.

You have to check out his blog and hear his students talking about their experiments to fully appreciate the kind of learning that can take place when students get free reign to explore and learn inside a virtual world.

Here’s a sample of a student talking about his experiment in terminal velocity.

Great job, Jimmy! I’m incredibly happy to see that Portal helped make learning physics fun for your students 🙂

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student projects part 2

Here’s another level a student created as part of my fall semester exam.

Though this level may not have been the most exciting, it still clearly demonstrates three different aspects of mechanics. Along with her excellent paper, this student earned a 100 for this part of her exam.

If you’re asking yourself why this level doesn’t seem more exciting, I completely understand. This level, like most of the others I received, is fairly plain. The demonstrations are obvious and appear piecemeal. I wish my students had created astounding, complex masterpieces with demonstrations that link multiple aspects of physics with possibly some puzzles thrown in. But, as anyone who has ever tried to make a level could tell you, making complicated levels is difficult. Even my simple demonstration of a physics problem took me a few hours of tinkering to work correctly. Around exam time, it’d be unreasonable of me to expect my students to spend hours fiddling with the Puzzle Maker especially when most of my students don’t have access to Portal 2 outside of school. So, I required very little of my students with the level building portion of their exam grade and instead focused on their descriptions (there was a classic multiple choice component to the exam too, in case you were wondering).

And, in case you haven’t looked recently, the media mentions page has been updated. I just added the IT Babble podcast at the top. They’ve got a quick segment about Portal 2 and education. While I don’t get a mention by name, they do a decent job of describing of how my kids have been using Portal 2 (starting with a bad description around 13:00 but a much better description coming in around 19:25). Being discussed on a podcast is definitely a pretty cool first, though hearing the way they describe what I’ve been doing (especially around 15:00 in the podcast) is probably a good impetus to make a few quick introductory videos about everything Portal 2 and education for the general public.

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student projects part 1

At the LEAD Academy, our exams must come in three parts: content knowledge (usually in the form of multiple choice), ACT style questions (in whatever form makes sense for your particular class) and an essay. I decided to get creative with my essay and asked my students to build then summarily describe a level they built inside the Puzzle Maker. They had almost two weeks to work on their projects. I’m pretty happy with their results. For the next few posts, I’ll be spotlighting and describing their levels.

This first level, like many that will follow, lacks coherence or logical design. It looks more like a hodgepodge of random elements, which is pretty common. However, it does show two physics concepts, projectile motion and conservation of energy, and I did not grade on principles of level design. This student wrote an excellent essay about their level and how it relates to physics so they earned an A for this portion of their exam.

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