Using Digital Humanities in Physics Education

This past semester in our Digital Humanities seminar, I have learned that technology can be used to communicate important information between individuals, and those individuals can utilize this communication to build for the future. In my stance, I believe that the digital humanities can really be utilized in education. In the future, I would like to become a high school physics teacher, and physics is one of the hardest teaching subjects to teach in our country. In my project, I wanted to analyze our current statistics regarding physics education in the United States, and then I wanted to apply various pieces of technology to bring physics teaching into the world of digital humanities.

As mentioned before, physics is one of the hardest subjects to grasp in our country right now. This can be explained by many factors. First, a teacher with a physics degree is teaching only 47% of physics classes. About 35% of new physics educators each year have a degree in physics or physics education. In a 2012-2013 study, 59% of physics teachers do not identify their area of specialty as physics. These statistics are somewhat shocking but can also be explained. Most physicists after graduating seek a research position or an opportunity to apply their physics knowledge in a laboratory setting. A small percentage of physics majors choose to teach right out of the gate. When teachers enter a school, they are not only teaching their primary subject. They will also be told they need to teach a second subject so all areas are being covered by the school. That is why a good percentage of physics professors do not identify their area of specialty as physics. They have no choice but to teach this subject, regardless or not if it is what they got their degree in or not. A final shocking statistic about physics education relates to the number of students enrolling in physics courses. As time has progressed, physics has risen by over 400,000 students between 2001 and 2013. With that rise, more and more students are requesting to take AP or honors physics. This need for more physics teachers needs to be compensated with physics teachers who are confident to teach this subject.

What about the grades of physics students currently? In 2015, of the students who took the AP Physics 1 Exam, only 4.1% of students got a 5, which is the lowest percentage to get a 5 out of all of the AP exams. 12.8% of those students got a 4, which is the third lowest to get a 4 out of all of the AP exams. A general assessment test, known as the Victorian Curriculum Assessment Authority, assessed physics scores in their exams. The median score was a C+ and the average was a 49.1. Clearly, these scores reflect the need for better physics teachers in our high schools across the country.

A great way to educate students in a physics classroom is to apply theories and concepts in a lab. The purposes of a lab are to ask questions, perform procedures, learn how to collect data, analyze that data, answer questions, and think of new ways to understand concepts. With these purposes, we can try to make them more attainable through the use of two pieces of technology: Google Glass and Structure Sensor. One of the leading problems in physics education is replicating reports, but Google Glass and Structure Sensor can help with this. With the Google Glass, the teacher can record experiments and lectures in the moment. Using the Structure Sensor, the teacher can capture the dimensions and supplies in a room during a lab. Finally, teachers can upload these final products to blogs online to share with the physics education community.

To test out these theories, I asked a few friends to do a physics experiment with me. We performed a simple incline experiment. If you place an object at the top of an incline (and if it can roll), it will roll to the bottom of the incline. If you change the angle of the slope, the experimenter can change the speed of the object rolling down the incline. Here are the videos and pictures from the Google Glass and Structure Sensor:

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From these pieces of technology, we can apply digital humanities in many ways into education. It will be easier to replicate lab experiments when you can see them first hand through Google Glass. You will be able to replicate a lab setting with knowing the dimensions of the original lab environment using the Structure Sensor. Professors can discuss problems and solutions on a blog post regarding these lab videos. Students can even wear the Google Glass if a student’s point of view is needed. Finally, professors can look back at their own recordings and see if errors occurred or if the class was receptive to the lab.

I firmly believe that digital humanities are making a significant impact on society. It’s just a matter of time until it can impact education in our public schools. I am extremely grateful I could learn about the digital humanities, and I hope I can apply what I learned here to teaching in the future.


“2015 AP Exam Score Distributions.” 2015 AP Exam Score Distributions. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.


“Data on High School Physics.” Data on High School Physics. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.


“High School Physics Teachers in Short Supply.” High School Physics Teachers in Short Supply. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.


“[infographic] How Google Glass Can Be Used In Education – InformED.”InformED. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.


“U.S. Physics Teacher Shortage and the Need for PhysTEC.” U.S. Physics Teacher Shortage and the Need for PhysTEC. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.


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