The average high school physics class in Virginia traverses 2,000 years of thinking, encompassing the Archimedes principle of buoyancy and Newton’s laws of motion, and stopping abruptly at about the turn of the 20th century. Educators want the course to advance to today’s string theorists and atom-smashing particle physicists.
But before they can modernize physics education, they need a breakthrough in a textbook system that often leaves courses in physics and other subjects decades behind the times.
Rather than waiting two years for the Virginia Board of Education to review its science standards, then another year for publishers to print new physics texts, the state secretaries of education and technology asked a dozen teachers to write their own chapters in biophysics, nanotechnology and other emerging fields and post them online.
By February, physics teachers from Vienna to Tappahanock should be able to rip, mash and burn new chapters in real-time physics, said Secretary of Technology Aneesh P. Chopra. The virtual pages, which cost the state and schools nothing except teacher time, will be an optional, free supplement to hardbound books.