Thursday, 17 March 2016

Adding simulations to physics lectures (UKPSF: K1, K2, K4,A1)

In the School of Computing, Electronics and Mathematics, the rule is that a teaching activity is reviewed by another member of staff one a year. Last year, in my course on foundation level physics was reviewed. The lectures were on the topic of  alternating current .  The lectures notes I am using have been used for over 5 years and were not written by me.  Normally they contain many inline exercises that the students can work through in class.

Unfortunately,  the lectures on alternating current didn't contain many inline exercises. Also I started the lecture with a long review of what we did in the previous lecture. I didn't put in too much detail in the review, because that had been covered in the first lecture on the topic.  The reviewer didn't like the lecture too much, because it wasn't very interactive. Also he wanted more background information for the review material.

I am going to rewrite some of the material on the alternating current. I have started to use a set of web based simulation codes called PHET from the University of Colorado. In principle these can be used to explore questions with the students. One direction the work on reviewing alternating current can go, is to look at Electromagnetic waves. The simulations are designed using ideas from Physics Education Research. For example, they use "think aloud" techniques to find out how the students approach problem solving.

One way to understand electromagnetic waves is to first start with waves on a string, so  this simulation can be used.