On Academic Practice

On Academic Practice

In class

What to do in class (at least mine)

Class time should not be a passive experience. There are some styles of instruction that ask you to copy everything off a board and expect that by performing that action, you will obtain understanding. That never worked for me, so I wouldn't expect it to work for others. I try to make class time a more active experience. Sure, you should write some things down, but 90% of the content is available on the course page, so copying down problems word for word is likely to be a wasted effort. Instead, use class time to think about the material. Engage with the problems I give you. Ask questions. (I know it's tough, but it usually makes it better for everyone)


When I was in school, there might have been one kid who had a laptop and would bring it to class to take notes. That's clearly not the case now. Nearly everyone now has an electronic device and it's completely to normal to use it throughout the day. I'm not going to be militant about devices and their use in the classroom. If you feel that you need to use one during class, go ahead. If you want to take notes on one, go ahead. However, if your actions on the device are distracting to other students, then I will ask you refrain from such activities. Playing games: not cool. Watching shows: not cool. Watching other people place games: super not cool. Typing up other assignments: also not cool. Manage your time better. If you're addicted to social media, then I would advise attempting to curtail these activities during class. Studies have shown you're probably not doing yourselves any favors:

"Comparisons indicated that participants in the Facebook™ and MSN conditions performed more poorly than those in the paper-and-pencil use control."

Paper 1

So, while I'm all for using technology to help your learning, be warned, you better use it wisely.

Here's a recent Opinion piece from the NYT that has mor links to other studies:

Laptop's effect

Additionally, some recent studies suggest that note taking on paper is better for learning:

Chronicle article

Paper 2

Also, the tests that determine your grade will be given on paper, so the more you practice doing physics on paper, the less shocking the tests will be.


General Communication

I know you're are likely part of the generation that shares. However, this does mean you need to share personal matters with me. I'm a physics teacher, not a counselor. So, for example, if you need to miss a class or exam due to some thing health related, or because of family matters, please leave it at that. For example:

Dear Prof. Hedberg

I will be unable to attend the exam tomorrow due to a medical condition affecting me (or my family). I will present you a note from the hospital indicated my inability to perform my school functions.


Alice B. Student

An example of unacceptable communication might go something like this:


im having trouble keeping solid foods down and am vomiting every 20 minutes. on top of that, my little brother is also sick and needs me to take him to the doctor because my uncle, who normally would do this, is in jail on charges of horse theft. also, my house is on fire right now and all my possessions are lost. lastly, my boyfriend has broken up with me and I am distraught and unable to concentrate.

what can u do for me?

(no name)

Again, the reason is not that I don't care, (I do care immensely) but that I am not professionally trained to handle the tragedies and downfalls of your lives. There are offices on campus and in the neighborhood that are much better suited to assist you through these issues.

Communication - Technical

Please use your CCNY or CUNY email to communicate with me regarding class issues. There are various options available to make this easier: https://citymail.ccny.cuny.edu/faqs.html.

I will likely reply to most emails within 24 hours, if not sooner. If you don't hear back in 72, then feel free to resend - every now and then one slips through.

Please don't call me. I have bad phone manners and prefer to correspond via email.

Letters of Recommendation

If you are interested in applying for positions in the world, then you more than likely will need a letter of recommendation. I'm happy to write them for deserving students, with however, a few points worth mentioning. These classes are large. If you want me to be able to write something more than a one sentence paragraph indicating that you were in my class and that you got a certain grade, then you need to exercise your interpersonal skills and form a relationship. Come to office hours at least once, preferably a few times. Introduce yourself in the beginning. Ask questions. Do something besides just sit there during class. Otherwise, I'll have nothing to write about.


You have a lot of rights when it comes to your privacy - some of which get trampled on indiscriminately. I like my privacy and would like to help you protect yours. For one, please don't use your social security number on anything related to course work. That is reserved for financial aid and employment purposes only and should not be give to me or anyone else who is not authorized.

Social Media

Don't be offended if I don't acknowledge your friend request on Facebook. I prefer to keep some boundaries, and so should you. If you think your life will be better if we are connected on LinkedIn, then you can try me there. (I don't think it will do much for you though.)


Things that are lame:

"I didn't check my email."