At the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, Soulsville Charter School teacher Jack Replinger made the difficult decision to start charging a subscription fee for his wildly popular PositivePhysics.org website,
While he was understandably apprehensive about the move, the site doubled in users from about 1,500 users per week in (2018-2019) to 3,000 users per week (2019-2020).
And then came the COVID-19 coronavirus and the March 13th closing of all Shelby County Schools (SCS), which was first expected to last two weeks and has now been extended to the end of the school year. It changed the world of education in that schools, including The Soulsville Charter School, are now implementing distance-learning measures to keep educating students who are homebound under the City of Memphis’ “Safer at Home” order. The COVID-19 crisis would also have an effect on how PositivePhysics.org would be used by students and teachers moving forward.
It erupted into something of physics frenzy.
In the first two weeks after March 12th, when Replinger made the site free of charge, 2,800 new teachers had signed up to use the site. Before March 12th the site had approximately 3,000 users per week. During the first week of school closure, that number jumped to 7,000 weekly users and during week two of closure, it peaked at approximately 9,000 weekly users.
As of this update (May 4, 2020), the site now has some 35,000 students signed on with a weekly user average of 12,000 students. The site has now reached 5,400 schools in more than 100 countries with a staggering 2.4 million problems solved in this school year.
In September 2019, the Shelby County Commission passed a resolution recognizing Replinger and his web developer, Hamilton High School and Rhodes College graduate Anthony Fizer, for reaching so many students in all varieties of schools, including predominantly low-income schools in minority communities, private schools, and international schools.
More recently, Replinger was named among five finalists for the prestigious Teach for America Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Social Innovation Award, which helps to elevate and support the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders who are coming up with bold, new innovations that expand opportunities for students in low-income communities and address the root causes of educational inequity. Now entering its ninth year, the annual competition brings together alumni and corps member early-stage entrepreneurs to compete for up to $100,000 in funding to accelerate social ventures focused on eliminating barriers to educational equity and excellence. Winners also have the opportunity to join a supportive community of social innovation leaders and receive national and local recognition through Teach For America.
Replinger, recipient of the 2018 Teach For America’s (TFA) Barbara Rosser Hyde Alumni Leadership Award for the website, attributes the upswing in usage not only to students’ hunger for education even in times like COVID-19, but also in teachers around the world wanting to offer as much opportunity for students to learn during this new reality. He has conducted several webinars recently to help teach teachers how to use the site, with one webinar alone garnering more than 90 teachers participating from around the world.
Just a few of the comments from teachers he received include:
“I was just in your zoom meeting! Thanks so much for creating this entire website and being so helpful during this bizarre time… I honestly do not know what I would do right now without positive physics.” – Kim from PA
“I just wanted to say thank you to you and the company for providing this access to my students!!! We have just really started jumping into the last units as they work through the end of AP concepts and then we will review with the other units – the students like the variety and the challenge” – Teresa from CT
“If anything good has come out of this pandemic it’s that I finally started using your website on a regular basis! Its great and I’m getting great feedback from the kids.” -Pam from NJ
“The site has been great… I wish I would have started using it earlier!”
-Justin from TN (Collegiate School Memphis)
With this surge in popularity for learning more about physics, Replinger says the site will remain free for the rest of the school year and that he other Soulsville Charter School teachers are working on a plan to expand to other subjects, because, “We realized that the best materials are created by teachers and would love to see other teachers, especially those who have experience working with students from a wide range of backgrounds, to use the platform to create and share their own materials. This seems like a perfect time for that.”