FEd Fall 2001 Newsletter - From the Chair

Spring 2001



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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 onchair.jpg (7294 bytes) 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