FEd Fall 2002 Newsletter - Looking back

Fall 2002



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Looking Back

Thomas D. Rossing

As we advance in years, most of us spend more time thinking about the past and less time thinking about the past. That even happens to physicists. Although the future of physics has never presented a greater spectrum of interesting challenge, the writing of mature age practitioners of the art tend to reflect on the "golden age" of physics past. Our papers in journals are heavily loaded with references to past work by our colleagues, perhaps a commendable feature.

With that brief apology, I look back at the ten-year history of the APS Forum on Education, which was founded 10 years ago. Drasko Jovanovic, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, was elected the first chair, and the Executive Committee of the Forum on Education held its first meeting on October 25, 1992. The goals of FED were given as:

  • Improving channels for all interested physicists, including those not directly involved in teaching, such as those working in industrial and government labs, to become involved with physics education
  • Focusing attention on the importance of good and universally available education to the health of the physics research enterprise and the quality and quantity of future researchers
  • Promoting two-way communication between the physics research community and the physics education community
  • Working cooperatively with other organizations for a sustained national effort in science education.

These goals have not changed appreciably over the past ten years.

The first FEd newsletter, prepared by Ken Lyons and dated February 1993, advertised for an editor. The second issue in October 1993, edited by Gerry Wheeler, noted that 15 applicants had answered the ad. The Forum decided on a troika composed of Stan Jones, Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, and Thomas Rossing, each editor to take the lead on one of the three issues of the year. In 1997, Sam Bowen succeeded Diandra as editor, and in 2000 Ernest Malamud took over Sam's position. Stan and Tom continue their editorial duties. Webmaster Ken Lyon began putting the Newsletter online, beginning with the Spring 1994 issue Since Spring 2001, the newsletter have been placed online only, thus saving printing and mailing costs. Jim Wynne, website administrator, now posts the newsletter both in html and PDF formats.

The editors often ask the questions: Are most of our members reading the Newsletter? Do they like what they read? Could it be improved? We don't get much feedback, but the lack of complaints probably means that it is satisfactory to most readers. Probably the most important function of the FEd is to arrange sessions on physics education at AS meetings. However, a relatively small fraction of our membership get to attend these sessions, and so the Newsletter is the main source of information about physics education and the APS role in improving education. We maintain close ties to the APS Committee on Education and to the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT). (For example, the authors in this issue include the President, the Vice-president, and a former president of AAPT, all of them active in ASA as well).

Some issues of the Newsletter have focussed on a particular theme, for example Outreach and Informal Education (Fall 1996), ABET (Summer 1998), Reform in Physics Education (Spring 1998), and Teaching on the Web (Fall, 2001). The articles and letters have treated a wide range of topics of interest to teachers and others interested in physics education. We welcome ideas for themes, and we would also welcome an offer to guest edit a special issue on a theme.

The Fall 1996 issue carried an index of authors for the years 1993-96. In researching this article, however, I discovered that no index had been prepared since that time. In keeping with the anniversary theme, I have prepared an index for all 10 years of the Newsletter. The list of authors reads almost like a Who's Who of physics education. One of our authors, a former chair of FEd (Rush Holt), is now in the Congress. I suppose there are neat ways to do indexes with a computer, but I'm not too familiar with them, so I have done it by hand. That probably means that I have missed an author or two and misspelled others, and for that I apologize.