From the Chair
Kenneth J. Heller
Welcome to the first all electronic edition of the Forum on Education
Newsletter. This is part of the continuing effort to fashion the Forum
on Education into a tool to help you directly affect education
in this country. APS members do not necessarily agree on what should
be done in education or how it should be done. But we do agree that
something needs to be done. Our Society has no unifying educational
philosophy except that improved science and mathematics education is
essential for all citizens.
The APS is not a large, rich, or politically powerful organization.
We will never be able to mobilize a Million Physicist March or rival
the lobbying power of AARP or the NRA. Our strength is in the talent
and interests of our individual members. Even more than politics, education
is local. There are APS members in every state. Each member of the
APS makes an important contribution to education every time they convince
a teacher that science is interesting and important, teach a college
class that is meaningful to students, show a middle school student
that interesting and rewarding jobs exist for those with science and
mathematics skills, work with a teacher in an industrial laboratory
for the summer, judge a local science fair, talk with a local member
of congress, convince a graduate student that teaching is important,
or volunteer at a local science museum.
The Forum's job is to help members communicate their accomplishments
and challenges in the field of education so that we can build on the
experience and ideas in our community. The Forum also alerts members
to national educational issues or new developments and helps them organize
efforts for more extensive initiatives at the state or national level.
Electronic communication by email and the web is making this task
more possible. With this edition of the Newsletter, the Forum takes
the step of going totally electronic. I must admit that we were motivated
in this direction by financial considerations. Printing and mailing
three issues of the Newsletter was causing the Forum to run a deficit.
Rather than cut down on the number of Newsletters, the Executive Committee
decided to try the electronic format. From our survey,
we know a significant fraction of our members prefer the current paper
version of the Newsletter. We hope everyone will give the electronic
version a try and let us know what you think. Perhaps people will like
this format better once they have experienced it, perhaps not. Specific
suggestions for improvement are always welcome. We have tried to make
it easy to print the entire Newsletter or just specific articles.
An electronic format will permit the Newsletter to have longer articles
with embedded links to web sites and color pictures and more graphics.
Without a space limitation imposed by paper, the Newsletter can have
more contributions from APS members. Over time, we expect that an electronic
Newsletter will develop into a more effective mode of communication
at a lower cost than paper. Ernest Malamud has edited the first
of what will be many issues in this format. Please send him, or any
of the Forum officers feedback
that can be used to improve future editions. Your contributions of
articles are always welcome.
Another example of the Forum's use of electronic communication is
our web-based survey described in this Newsletter by Ken Lyons. If you have not yet
participated in the survey please take a few minutes
to do so. The database from this questionnaire will facilitate better
contact among members with similar educational interests. Last year,
the Forum also began using the web for voting for its officers, a practice
that continues with the upcoming election described in the article
by Ken Krane.
The Forum has not abandoned its more traditional forms of communication.
We sponsor sessions at APS meetings that highlight issues of education.
These sessions cover a range of issues including communicating physics
through community organizations such as museums and newspapers, preparing
new and future faculty to teach at the university level, preparing
elementary teachers to teach science, improving university physics
classes, and communicating with Congress. We hope you will make time
in your busy conference schedule to attend some of them. The Program
Committee believes that these sessions have information important to
all of us. Currently most of these sessions are at the April meeting
although we would be happy to schedule education sessions at other
APS meetings if there is an interest. Please contact me or next year's
Forum Program Committee Chairman, Ken
Krane with suggestions.
I know that everyone is swamped with tasks that needed to by done
yesterday. For most of us education is in our long-term interest but
is not as urgent as the request for funding that must be in at the
end of the week or the analysis that has to be finalized. Convenient
communication will make it easier to use your limited time to contribute
to improving education in this country. Please take the time to visit
the Forum web pages and send your officers
email suggesting improvements, APS meeting sessions, Newsletter articles,
or other actions that you think would help.
Kenneth J. Heller is the Chair
of the Forum on Education and Morse-Alumni Professor of Physics at
the University of Minnesota