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Global [Insert Your Field Here] Department

Dillon Meeting Room 3

Faculty can have many different forms of professional development available to them – conferences, workshops, teaching-related journals, email lists, etc. Choosing to add something else to the list is not something to be considered lightly. However, over the past year I’ve been participating in Global Physics Department (and if you’re connected to me on Twitter, you’ve seen me rave about it.) I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful, so I wanted to share more about it here at ProfHacker.

Global Physics Department (GPD) is a group that meets online once a week to discuss matters relating to teaching physics, both at the college and high school level. There are several elements to GPD that I believe to be critical to its efficacy. These include

1. A moderator. Andy Rundquist is our gracious host most Wednesday evenings at 8:30 pm Central (the best time zone, as Andy always says), and keeps the group organized and always on time.

2. An online meeting system. We use Blackboard Collaborate, hosted by Andy. Presenters can use microphones and screen sharing to present and users can listen in and type in questions and comments as the presentations proceed.

3. An online hub. GPD has a Posterous site that includes links to an associated Google calendar that you can easily add to your own and to recordings of the sessions so you can catch up if you need to later on.

Over the past year I’ve seen a tremendous variety of meetings. A couple of times we’ve reviewed each other’s teaching (you can read about the effect the review of my teaching had on me here). Other meetings we have heard from presenters talking about everything from the math and physics of juggling, the somewhat-controversial pedagogy of modeling instruction, and issues concerning women in physics. I find these weekly one-hour meetings to be extremely beneficial for connecting with other physics educators on a regular basis and learning from them.

My question to ProfHacker readers – could a Global Department work for you in your field? What questions do you have about getting one up and running? Let us know in the comments.

[Image Creative Commons licensed / Flickr user SROA SHARC]

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