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This month, in my graduate studies program at Full Sail University online, we all developed lesson plans utilizing a Researched Innovative Learning Scenario (RILS) plan developed by our instructor Rena Hanaway.  The lessons are posted here at WordPress, but they are eventually going to be placed on the website maintained by Full Sail University shown here:

Click on this image to go to

The first RILS project I want to tell you about is from my art teacher friend named Mavy.  Mavy had her students learn how to make animations at, and then her students learned how to post and share their work on  Mavy did a fantastic job here, so go click on the image below and check out my full comment about Mavy’s RILS project:

Check Out Mavy's RILS Project!

The second RILS project I want to tell you about was done by my friend Bryan using a website for history/civics instruction called  As you will see after reading my full comment, Bryan created a lesson that was able to achieve a 95% success level with a class in which many of the students are borderline autistic. Bryan even inspired his student’s to become politically active through this RILS plan.  Chck out my full comment and Bryan’s project by clicking on the image below:


Well, it has been a busy couple of weeks for Steve.  Final exams, report cards, and all the various assignments for my graduate school program at Full Sale University Online, culminating with the RILS research project I implemented using the Ramp:Forces and Motion simulator.  So how did it go?  It was a complete success!  I was happy, the students were happy, and learning occurred.  Yet so far I have only completed the initial phase of this project.  Students are now analyzing their results and getting ready to teach each other what they learned.  I have never tried a project like this before where each group did something unique with the task of teaching each other their particular part of the experiment.  Can’t wait to see what the students have to say.  For my part, I will show you this short video about the experience.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making the video for this post.

Teaching Inclined Plane Physics with the “Ramp: Forces and Motion” Simulator on

Ramp: Forces and Motion Simulator at

Brief Overview: 

Students will study the Physics of inclined planes using a Java based simulation found at  Students will work together in small groups, with each group examining the effect of a different parameter.  Students will then work collaboratively together by combining class data and teaching each other the results learned by each group.

Target Audience: 

My audience will consist of high school seniors taking my advanced Physics course at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, CA.


  • Java enabled laptop computer with internet connection (provided by the school)
  • Scientific calculator
  • Lab instructions (provided by the instructor)
  • Data/Results tables (provided by the instructor)
  • “Ramp: Forces and Motion” simulation on
  • Writing utensil



After completing this lab project, students will be able to:

  • Construct a hypothesis about inclined plane motion based on prior knowledge.
  • Explain how various parameters such as friction and gravity affect motion on an inclined plane.
  • Recognize the uniqueness of inclined plane physics and understand the differences to solving inclined plane verses horizontal plane physics problems.
  • Organize data and explain the data to their classmates.
  • Interpret data to infer generalized concepts regarding motion on inclined planes.
  • Execute complex calculations to predict motion on inclined planes.
  • Compare their calculated theoretical predictions to their experimental data and interpret how experimental could have caused discrepancies if the lab was performed without the simulation.
  • Create tilted freebody diagrams to identify forces affecting motion on inclined planes.
  • Generate and interpret graphs based on their experimental data.
  • Teach each other how specific parameters affect motion on inclined planes.
  • Apply knowledge learned in this experiment to a variety of different real world situations involving inclined planes.
  • Reflect upon the usefulness and effectiveness of the inclined plane simulator as a teaching tool in the classroom.
  • Create a coherent lab report explaining their lab results in accordance with the scientific method and scientific standards (optional).

Procedure:  Note – This project will be completed over the course of two days as explained in this procedure. Also, the calculations described in Day 1 will most likely be completed for homework after class due to in class time constraints.

Day 1

  • Teacher will introduce lesson, explain the objectives, show the students sample calculations that they will follow later in the lab, and handout lab instructions.  These calculations will be 1) Net Force on the inclined plane determined using a freebody diagram, 2) Expected acceleration on the plane using Newton’s 2nd Law, 3) Expected velocity at the bottom of the plane using Galileo’s Kinematics equations, 4) Net force and acceleration on the ground after the object slides off the plane with a separate free body diagram, and 5) Determining the distance the object will travel on the ground until it stops using Galileo’s Kinematics equations again.
  • Students will then be divided into groups of three to four individuals, with each group assigned a unique parameter to examine during the lab simulation.  Parameters may include mass of object on the plane, angle of inclination, amount of friction, initial height, magnitude of applied force, or gravitational acceleration (comparing Earth’s gravity to the moon and other planets).
  • Once the parameter is assigned, the members of each group will then brainstorm together to create a hypothesis as to how their parameter will affect motion on the inclined plane.
  • Each group will then get on the Internet, go to, and download the “Ramp: Forces and Motion Simulator.”
  • Using the inclined plane simulator, students will observe how their particular parameter affects motion on the inclined plane and record data for each trial of the simulation into their data tables.  A minimum of four trials will be expected from each group.
  • After completing their required trials, each group will work together to calculate expected results based on the sample calculations provided by the teacher as stated above.
  • The calculated expected values will then be compared to the experimental data.  These values should be the same as the simulation eliminates all sources of experimental error.
  • In addition to their calculations, each group will then collaborate to produce graphs showing the relationship of their parameter to their results.  For example, one group will make a graph of “Distance Traveled Along the Ground vs. Angle of Inclination.  These graphs will be made using and each graph will be shared via to all class members for use in their final lab reports.
  • Finally, each group will analyze their data, calculations and graphs to determine if their data supports their hypothesis.

Day 2

Note:  The goal of Day 2 is to have each group report to the class what they learned on Day 1 of the experiment and teach each other in the process.

  • Each group will choose a spokesperson to explain what the group did, what their hypothesis predicted, and what the results showed about their hypothesis.  They will use the graph they posted on to illustrate what they are explaining.
  • After every group has finished their presentation, the teacher will give the students a reflective exercise featuring questions about the different parameters studied in the experiment; however, they will also be asked to reflect upon the simulation itself and provide critical feedback regarding the effectiveness of the simulation as well.  This will allow the teacher to analyze the usefulness of the lesson and the simulation utilized.
  • Students will complete the reflective exercise and turn it in the following class.  The questions asked will be created uniquely by each teacher that runs this RILS project as they see fit.  In addition, teachers may wish to have students provide a formal lab report as well.

Emerging Technology:

The ET I will be using for this project is the “Ramp: Forces and Motion” simulator found on Note:  after opening up the site’s home page, enter “ramp” in the search widget.  Then click on the “Ramp: Forces and Motion” link in the simulation menu.  Students will also be using to produce and share graphs.

Social Participation/Social Learning:

As stated in the procedure, this project will be completed by students working in small groups who then teach each of the other groups what they learned from their specific group tasks. This project is designed to promote social participation and social learning.

Making Connections:

Students will have already studied motion on a horizontal plane prior to this project.  So they will be making their hypothesis based on the connections with prior knowledge learned in previous weeks of the course.  Although there may be individuals that go on to study Physics in their collegiate years, the usefulness of studies such as this project is mainly in training learners to think rationally, logically, and sequentially which will benefit any student regardless of what they major in in future educational endeavors.  Students will, however, be able to understand physical phenomena they observe in the real world whenever they observe an inclined plane such as when they snowboard or drive up/down hills.  They will also connect intellectually with each other through the teaching portion of this project.


The end products that students will create are: 1) Their completed calculations, 2) Graphs on, 3) Their reflective exercise, and 4) A formal lab report if the teacher chooses to have them make such a report.


Grading Rubric for this RILS project:

  • Conduct During Lab/Participation/Effort                      10%
  • Individual Calculations and Freebody Diagrams            35%
  • Group Graph Generated on                       15%
  • Reflective Exercise/Group Presentation                         40%


  • For students, reflection is a large part of this project.  Please refer to Day 2 of the procedure above regarding the reflective exercise students will complete.  The reflective exercise will be a significant portion of each individual students overall assessment as shown above.
  • Teachers should complete their own reflective exercise as well for this project.  Did the project run as planned?  Are their any needs to modify the procedure in the future? Was the project effective in terms of its teaching objectives? Were the students engaged?  What went well for this project?  It is recommended that the instructor creates a reflective video similar to the one submitted with these guidelines.

Making Music with GarageBand Loops.

     Wow, I just stopped playing with the Loops section at GarageBand, and now I am feeling quite energized!  GarageBand loops are copyright free and made available for all GarageBand users as they see fit.  Loops allow inexperienced musicians to create great sounding compositions with very little effort, while experienced musicians can enhance the texture of their musical compositions as well. To get to the Loops section on GarageBand, click on Loops in the New Project window as I did here:

Selecting Loops in the New Project Menu of GarageBand

After clicking on the Loops icon, the following Loops recording screen opens up for use:

GarageBand Loops in Action

The Loops feature at GarageBand is a lot of fun, especially if you have prior musical and/or recording experience.  I have to admit, I had a blast creating music with GarageBand Loops.  So here is my first loop production that I just now made for your listening pleasure:

Magic GarageBand:

     One of my favorite features of GarageBand is its overall design that provides many ways for beginners to learn how to make music while also offering professional musicians a platform to create, record, and produce commercial quality recordings as well.  You can even, score your iMovie with ease using Garageband’s quality features.  After opening GarageBand, you have options to create new projects, learn how to play instruments, create customized iPhone ring tones, or enter Magic GarageBand as I am about to do in this screenshot:

GarageBand Options: Magic GarageBand

Magic Garageband allows the user to choose a specific genre that contains pre-recorded tracks of professional musicians that have performed a particular tune in a variety of ways on multitudes of instruments.  With Magic GarageBand, the user does not create the music, but rather, the user is more like the producer, arranger, and recording engineer in the music making process.  Personally, I found Magic GarageBand to be a great way to learn how to record and mix music in Garageband which must be mastered to produce and record one’s own original music creations.  So Magic GarageBand was my starting point to learn GarageBand.  My first successful product on GarageBand was my production of the Roots Rock option in Magic GarageBand.  Clicking on the Roots Rock icon shown above opens up the following screen:

Roots Rock Instrumentation in Magic GarageBand

In the screenshot above, I have selected the grand piano which is the current option for “My Instrument” as you can see.  A super cool feature of Magic GarageBand is that it allows the user to play along with the pre-recorded tracks provided.  A great way for musicians to practice their instrument and learn how to jam like a pro!  Each instrument shown above can be changed using the options offered by GarageBand.  This allows users to customize their production in a variety of unique ways.  Well, as I promised, I would put some music in this blog post.  So check it out!  Here it is:

Garage Band Training at!

     A couple of days ago, I decided that it’s about time for me to start mastering GarageBand.  Well actually, I was somewhat forced to do it, as I was assigned to learn a new technology for my Emergent Technologies in a Collaborative Culture (ETC) course at Full Sail Online.  We were allowed to choose whatever technology we wanted to use for this assignment, and I gladly chose GarageBand because I have been a musician for 35 years, and I figured that I better pull myself out of the analog glory days, and push myself into the digital world of today’s music industry.  So here I am, nearly 3 hours into the GarageBand training program known as GarageBand ’11 Essential Training.  Here is a screenshot:

Click on image to check out "GarageBand '11 Essential Training "

GarageBand '11 Essential Training

Click on the image above to check out the GarageBand training at  

     GarageBand ’11 Essential Training is the second training program I have begun at Last month I completed the iMovie ’11 Essential Training program earning my iMovie certification.  If you haven’t tried the site for your personal technology training needs and desires, I highly recommend that you do so.  The GarageBand training program has a duration of 4 hours 58 minutes divided into 13 sections as you can see in this screenshot:

Table of Contents: GarageBand'11 Essential Training

Each section of the training is further divided into various subtopics that enables the user to watch relatively short videos rather then hang to watch the entire presentation in one sitting.  This is my favorite feature of’s training programs for two reasons.  First of all, I am a busy guy, and I don’t have 5 hours of time to set aside and watch the entire training program at once; and secondly, even if I did have the time, there is no way that I could synthesize 5 hours of intense training and master the technology.  By breaking up the training into sections divided into smaller subsections, the user is able to learn at their own pace, re-watch specific subsections if needed, and take the time to absorb each subsection’s information before moving on to the next.  I just finished watching Chapter 9: Mixing and Automating.  Here is a screenshot of the subsections I completed:

GarageBand'11 Essential Training - Chapter 9. Mixing and Automating

So now I have learned how to mix my music on GarageBand.  I really can’t wait until I start making some cool vibes on my Mac.  Well I better get back to my training! I will bring some music to my next post!

For my RILS project, I am going to have my Physics students discover the physics of inclined planes using the “Ramp: Forces and Motion” simulator on shown here:

I currently teach four sections of high school Physics, two basic and two advanced.  The beauty of this simulation is that it has several features that can be turned on or off depending on the difficulty level of the project.  Students will be using this simulation to generate data and create graphs such as the free-body force diagram above in the upper left hand corner of the screenshot.  The force vectors are shown and recorded in real time allowing students to watch the simulations as many times as they wish to observe and record all relevant information.

There are also options to study the affects of friction, and this simulation can be applied to study not only forces, but energy as well, which is the chapter that comes after forces in our text.  I will be using this simulation twice for that reason.  Here is a sample of the force graphs I will have students generate and analyze:

Students will also be creating and analyzing their own graphs studying how ramp angle and friction affect the motion of the object on the ramp.  I will be providing examples of these graphs along with the full directions. objectives, rationale, etc. in my RILS plan at the Educator Studio website.  In the meantime, feel free to click on the images above which will take you to the simulation on  Hit “Run” and you can check out the simulation your self.  Be sure to check out the “Robot Moving Company” game that accompanies this simulator.  It is quite fun.  Here are the teacher resources associated with the ramp simulator on the website.  I will be using my own modified instructions with my students; however, they will be certainly based on the ideas already shared in the image below:

Overview: is a site created by the University of Colorado at Boulder, CO.  The site provides hundreds of research based simulations covering nearly all levels of math and science, including cutting edge graduate level science such as quantum computer design.  This site provides simulations for nearly all math and science subjects as can be seen in the screen shot below:


     In addition to the hundreds of amazing simulations featured on, the site also facilitates an online community of teacher-users which enables science/math educators to collaborate on a sophisticated level.  Teachers can create labs or projects based on particular simulations, and then share these ideas with others directly through the simulation website.  Here is a screenshot of the “Teachers Ideas and Activities” page on the site:

The teacher section also contains a library of resources, workshops, webinars, and other materials to help educators learn how to use these simulations effectively.


     All the simulations at this site are Java and Flash based programs, so these simulations require computing devices that are both Java and Flash enabled which I believe is not the case for some of the tablet devices currently on the market including the Apple iPad ($499 version).  From the users perspective the site is very easy to master due to its excellent award-winning web design.  In fact, the site can be used in three different ways: 1) Directly off the internet through any web browser, 2) By downloading the entire library of simulations, or 3) By downloading only the simulations you are interested in showing. This is all explained on the “How to Run Simulations” page as can be seen here:


     It is very easy to navigate around this site.  Every page has a full menu of links to the rest of the site on the left side of the screen, so you can get anywhere on the site from any page.  Furthermore, there is a search widget at the top of every page that makes it incredible easy to locate a particular simulation with one click. For example, to find the simulation I will be using in my RILS project, I need only to enter the word “ramp”, and the simulation I will be using concerning the physics of inclined planes pops right up ready to use.


     This site is owned and maintained by the University of Colorado at Boulder, and it is well funded by both private and public agencies and foundations.  It is utilized throughout the world, and it has received much recognition and awards for excellence.  I would say this site is here to stay for quite a while.

Content: contains easy to use simulations that cover all grade levels K-12 and undergraduate – graduate level as well.  The simulations cover every possible science course in some way or another.  The content is constantly growing as educators around the world are encouraged to submit their own simulations as well.  The collaborative side of this site enables teachers from around the world to create shared lesson plans free for educators any where to utilize and adapt to their own needs.  In my opinion, this is the best feature of the site.

Appropriate Audience:

     This site contains simulations that can be utilized by every science course in the K-12 curriculum; and the majority of the simulations can be utilized at the university level as well.  In fact, as a high school teacher, I find most science sites to be mostly geared to the elementary and middle school levels.  This is the best simulation site I have ever seen that focuses mainly on advanced level science appropriate for AP level high school courses and undergraduate college courses as well.  As I mentioned earlier, even graduate students could benefit from these simulations.  The site is also published in nearly 50 different languages, so the planets entire student body is literally the appropriate audience for this website.  Very impressive indeed.

Privacy Options:

     Since the simulations of this website are run directly from the users computers, there is no privacy issues within this site.  Users can choose to publish and interact with other users through the site if they wish, but that is not a requirement for the usage of these simulations.  Teachers can sign up for accounts and have their students do so as well, but those accounts are not necessary to utilize the simulations, and when they are used, they are only accessible to the account holder.  This is a safe site.

Costs and Support: is a free website for all users and it does not require anyone to open an account.  This site is dedicated to being a free resource for educators around the world.  The site does ask for user donations as can be seen in the screenshots above, but it is primarily funded by government grants and private foundations.  These include the National Science Foundation, The William and Flora Hewitt Foundation, Microsoft, and the University of Colorado as well.  The website lists more than 20 foundations supporting its efforts from around the world.

Bryan Davis, a colleague of mine at Full Sail University discovered a cool web 2.0 tool that enables a user to turn any wall or other surface into a virtual smart board.  Click on the image below to read my comment on Bryan Davis WordPress blog site.

Follow this link to Nicky Deanda’s cool blog called Travelicious Journeys, and see my comment on her blog post about a travel network site called  Click on the image from Nicky’s blog below!