Posts Tagged “physics”
Posted by: Peter Rillero in All Grade Levels, Classroom Best Practices, Elementary School Science, Great Science Software, High School Science, Instructional Leadership, Middle School Science, Science Activities, tags: biology, chemistry, Microsoft, physics, PowerPoint, science instruction
As the novelty of PowerPoint presentations in the K-12 classroom fades, the dim lights and streams of text could inspire sleep instead of excitement in science. There are ways that science can be made interesting through PowerPoints. Interactions, great pictures and graphics can really help make a point and share a story.
Fortunately many teachers and people who support education are willing to share their efforts. Here are several powerful sites for science PowerPoint presentations. Of course, with any collections of resources, not all are great so you must browse through and pick and modify. I think combinations of interactive and exciting elements from diverse PowerPoints can make you have a presentation with many strong elements but that is tailored for your students and curriculum.
Impressive Large Collections
Pete's Science PPTs
Pete’s Science PowerPoints This site has layers and layers of ppt resources.
World of Teaching: Science Good PowerPoint presentations that are rated and organized by biology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, and physics.
Science by Jefferson County Schools
Earth Science and Astronomy and Elementry Science at Nebo School District
Smaller Niche Collections
Chalkbored PPT Title
Powerpoint Physics These present high school level physics PPTs that are animated.
Neuro-Jeopardy - Jeopardy games are a popular review mechanism. This one is on neurobiology.
Normal Community High School Biology Powerpoints I honestly thought this was a national organization when I saw the layout and the biology PowerPoints. This is a great achievement!
Chalkbored Chemistry Powerpoints These folks show some of the promise in this medium.
Our Solar System: Tech Learning Center
Resources for Sharing PowerPoints
Assigning Activity Objects and PPTs with Adaptive Curriculum
Adaptive Curriculum. With student subscriptions teachers not only assign great interactive science Activity Objects but they can also assign or provide any online resources. So students can easily access great PowerPoint presentations without remembering complicated addresses. For instance in the picture to the right a lesson plan is being created with the Activity Object “Color Mixing: Paints and Lights” and is combined with two PowerPoint presentations.
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Posted by: Peter Rillero in Classroom Best Practices, Great Science Software, High School Science, Middle School Science, On-Line Learning, Science Activities, Simulations, Software Reviews, tags: confusing topics, displacement, distance, distant-time graphs, elearning software, elearning tools, flash activities, gradient slope, graphs, mathematics education, misconceptions, motion graphs, online activities, physics, s-t graphs, science education, science instruction, science teaching, virtual activities
Whether at the high school or middle school level, students studying graphs of motion are often confused. One area of confusion occurs in the difference between distance-time graphs and displacement-time graphs. Virtual activities can cause more confusion, unless the right ones are chosen.
Distance-time graphs are a part of many middle school math and science curricula. A Google search for “distance-time graphs” reveals about 10,500 websites with many Java-based and Flash-based online activities. The problem for physics learners and teachers is that in many cases, the developers call their graph a distance-time graph but in reality they are displacement-time graphs.
Here are some examples of (otherwise) good websites making this error:
Football (soccer) Distance Time Graph
There are a few good sites that accurately portray distance-time graphs.
“Crocodile-clips” is a simple, free site where students move a helicopter and create a real-time distance-time graph. It doesn’t matter if the helicopter is moved away from or closer to the starting point. The true distance traveled is displayed on the graph. It is simple but effective.
Commonwealth Curriculum Pack (CCP) is a more involved site. I used this with my mixed age physics class last week and it made the point and kept their interest.
This site uses the context of the 100-meter race to show different arrival speeds. Quickly, my students learned that the steeper the slope (gradient), the greater the speed of the runner. Then we viewed several nice animated sequences of interpolation, which they then interpreted.
PBS Teacher Line http://www.pbs.org/teacherline/resources/activities/race/readings/race.htm.
Students observe stick figures run 400-meter races. They can see the runners move at actual speeds or average speeds, so this serves as a good way to help students understand instantaneous speed versus average speed.
Motion graphs will probably always be confusing for some students. We can reduce confusion with distance-time and displacement-time graphs by using internet resources that accurately portray the difference.
Adaptive Curriculum’s Activity Object: “Truck On: Position and Velocity-Time Graphs”
The Physics Classroom Tutorial: Distance and Displacement
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Posted by: Peter Rillero in Middle School Science, On-Line Learning, Science Activities, Simulations, tags: computer assisted learning, electricity, electrons, Engagement, free activity, free resources, Halloween, insulator, JAVA, learning objects, PhET, physics, Physics Education Technology, Resistance, Science Activities, science instruction, Science Teachers, Simulations, static electricity, University of Colorado at Boulder, virtual education software
I was teaching a middle school lesson on static electricity on Halloween so I dressed up as “StaticElectricity.” We did the usual activities with balloons, such as picking up paper, rice crispies, and coffee grounds. I used water balloons, but of course, we filled them with air. I liked their shape better, but some students had difficulty blowing them up. One variation that one of my university students found was to draw two circles on opposite sides of a balloon. After that, one side was rubbed on hair, and the other was not. Students could accurately predict that the circle rubbed would pick up stuff, but most did not accurately predict about the other circle. It didn’t pick up anything, as the balloon was an insulator and the charges stayed where they were placed.
I found a good applet on static electricity. It is from PhET, the makers of The Circuit Construction Kit, which I positively reviewed in a previous blog. It is fine for a teacher to demonstrate that electrons move but positive charges do not, however, as a student activity it has limited potential. When you start, the balloon has no net charge. When you rub it on the wool sweater the balloon picks up electrons (shown in blue) and the sweater loses electrons. Now the balloon will stick to the sweater because positive and negative charges attract. if you move the balloon towards the wall it repels the electrons in the wall and it sticks to the wall.
Other Resources for Static Electricity
Adaptive Curriculum’s Activity Object “Electric Force“
Kurtus, Ron. (2008). “Basics of Static Electricity.”
NASA, “Cling On“
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Posted by: Peter Rillero in All Grade Levels, Elementary School Science, Great Science Software, High School Science, Middle School Science, On-Line Learning, Science Activities, Software Reviews, tags: Add new tag, applets, Circuits, electricity, java applications, Learning Strategies, Multimedia Materials, physics, Science Activities, science education, science instruction, science vocabulary, Secondary School Science, software, Teaching Methods, terminology, vocabulary, word frequency
Wordle is a tool for displaying words as a graphic image that has implications for science education. The size of the words is a relative indicator of their frequency of use. At the Wordle website I entered the URL for this blog, and received a JAVA-produced image. This image is presented above.
Wordle was developed by Jonathan Feinberg who has produced other science education tools including physics applets and the Secret Lives of Numbers.
Software applications seem to be a creative playground for Feinberg in that he produces what he is interested in and let’s others play with them depending upon their interest. I think Wordle is the most promising classroom tool he has created. But of course, he leaves it to us science educators to explore how to use the tool.
I have just completed 11 days of electricity explorations with a middle school class. I put the text for all my lesson plans into Wordle’s create page and it produced an interesting word art graphic. Teachers will have to take a screen shot of the image to share it with students. (Macintosh: command-shift-4 produces cross-hairs to capture the image, which then appears on your desktop.)
It was interesting to see words such as day, one, and two appear prominently. In checking the word count (see image to left), I realized how often I used the term “one” (apparently it is found in terms such as “someone” as well as pure uses) as I had it over 40 times. These words are not related to electricity, so in MS Word, I deleted (through find and replace) these terms and redid the Wordle image. It is presented below. I will share the image with my students for their review and reaction. It does present an interesting way to view key vocabulary in science.
I am excited by the potential of Wordle as I stand along the shore. Teachers can make their own “Word Art” or borrow creations of others. There is an ocean of potential waiting to be explored by creative science educators.
Useful Resources for Electricity and Electricity Science Activities
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Posted by: Peter Rillero in Classroom Best Practices, Elementary School Science, Great Science Software, High School Science, Middle School Science, On-Line Learning, Science Activities, Science Experiments, Simulations, Software Reviews, tags: Ammeter, Battery, Circuits, computer assisted learning, Current, electricity, free activity, free resources, JAVA, learning objects, Light Bulbs, Ohm's Law, Parallel Circuit, PhET, physics, Physics Education Technology, quantitative, Resistance, Resistor, science experiments, science instruction, Science Teachers, Series Circuit, Simulations, University of Colorado at Boulder, virtual education software, Voltage, Voltmeter
The Circuit Construction Kit (CCK) is a great electricity resource for middle grade and high school students to conduct science investigations and learn about electricity. This FREE resource allows students to produce simple circuits using cells, light bulbs, resistors, and switches. Students can complete series and parallel circuits and they can observe the varying brightness of the light bulbs. CCK also allows students to move into the quantitative realm. Clicking on some additional buttons enables voltmeters and ammeters, and thus measurements of voltage and current can enhance investigations.
Well equipped elementary and middle schools will have batteries, light bulbs, switches, and wires to give students real experiences in constructing circuits. CCK can compliment the physical activities with virtual activities to enhance understanding. Unfortunatley, many schools will not have these physical resources so CCK is a way to help students explore electricity. And, I have not yet come across elementary or middle schools that have class sets of ammeters or voltmeters, so this is a welcome component.
Putting CCK to use
With my middle grade students we are using CCK to discover how to make series and parallel circuits, how to use ammeters and voltmeters, how current and voltage vary in different types of circuits, what are short circuits, and to observe that the ratio voltage/current is equal to resistance (Ohm’s Law).
Of course, the possibilities of how to use CCK are vast. Teacher goals, creativity, and experience level will make this a great resource in some classrooms. Most high school physics teachers will be able to instantly employ this tool. I wish that there were more structured lesson plans for using this tool at the elementary and middle school level so that teachers who are not yet comfortable with electricity could help their students have meaningful experiences. Some lessons can be found at the teaching idea page but these are almost all high school and university lessons.
The diagram above is one of the circuits I asked my middle grade students to construct. Then using a non-contact ammeter, they measured the current through all the branches of the circuit. They later used the voltmeter to measure the voltage across each of the branches.
Reflections in teaching
Working with middle school students, I found that they had few problems in using CCK. We started off constructing real circuits and then reproducing them in CCK where they used the ammeter to measure current at different places in the circuit. Although I know the importance of “free exploration” and wrote about it before in this blog, my regret is that I didn’t allow for free exploration with this virtual tool. Students really wanted to explore lots of things on their own, without me specifying what circuits to create. So, I should have allowed time for this before directing their explorations.
The Circuit Construction Kit is a simple but powerful tool that has a lot of utility in the upper elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms. It is a rich environment for free exploration and it presents many possibilities for guided-inquiry investigations.
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Posted by: Peter Rillero in Classroom Best Practices, Elementary School Science, Great Science Software, High School Science, Middle School Science, tags: astronomy, computer assisted learning, FLASH programming, free exploration, gravity, learning cycle, Newton's Law of Gravitation, orbits, physics, planets, science education, science experiments, science instruction, science lessons, Science Software for Kids, Technology and Science Education, trial and error, trial-and-error learning, velocity
“Teaching means creating situations where structure can be discovered.” –Jean Piaget
Many science teachers struggle with the idea of free exploration. Free exploration takes advantage of the natural tendency for children to just mess around with materials, without following any rigid procedures. If you have ever watched a child playing in sand, you have seen free exploration.
I have observed some preservice teachers struggle with a hands-on science lesson because they pass out the materials to the children and then they try to explain what they should do with them. More experienced teachers know that once children start to interact with the materials, they begin to tune the teacher out. A better strategy, therefore, is to explain to the children all that they need to know before passing out the materials.
Free exploration purposely allows students to mess around with the materials. It is a shame that for so many teachers, science experiences are always canned (first do this, and then do this). I have no objections to well articulated experiences that lead to discovery, but students also need opportunities to mess about. Each time they change something and see the result, they are developing ideas and approaches that will deepen their abilities to design and understand experiments.
The virtual world can be a great place to mess around without causing a great mess! The activity object, “Space Objects Interaction Explorer,” presents a great canvas to mess around with. Students are presented with two celestial objects, larger than the other. By changing the size and direction of the arrow, they control their initial velocities. Then they hit the play button and the objects move according to their initial velocities, and their motion is immediately influenced by gravity. Lines are drawn as the planets move so the orbital paths are evident.
Experienced teachers also are aware that challenges can really keep students engaged, such as with GEM’s Bubble-ology, where the teacher walks around and says, “Okay, let’s see who can produce the largest bubble!” or “Wow, great! Now, can you blow a bubble within a bubble?”
In “Space Objects Interaction Explorer,” the first challenge is easy. Make the objects collide. A fiery explosion rewards success, but there is no big bang—of course, contrary to Hollywood misconceptions, sound does not travel in the vacuum of outer space.
The second challenge is to make the smaller object orbit the bigger one. Most children can’t do this at first, but neither can most adults. It is interesting that most adults know what an orbit is, but they can’t at first produce one. It is very different being able to define the term orbit versus being able to explain why an object orbits another. Through trial-and-error learning, both children and adults can get one object to orbit the other—and develop intuitive ideas about orbits.
Inevitably, the first orbit produced by the learner is not a circle but an elliptical orbit. The third challenge is to achieve a circular orbit. When this task is completed it helps students really understand that orbits are an interplay between velocity (moving tangentially to the orbit) and gravitational interaction. Then, when orbits are explained, students have the experiences to understand why they occur.
The fourth challenge involves three objects and asks that two of the objects orbit the largest one, which I will call the star. In putting this together, students (and adults) usually place one object closer and one farther from the star. And they initially make the farthest one have the bigger initial velocity. When they hit play, the nearest object crashes into the star and the larger object shoots out of the star system. Through trial-and-error learning, students will get it right, and later when they learn that Mercury is the fastest moving planet, it isn’t just an isolated fact to be memorized, but becomes an example of a concept they already know.
The last challenge is, appropriately enough, the most difficult to achieve. Appropriate because the really smart kids that solved the other challenges with great speed are fully engaged as everyone else catches up. The challenge is to make the small object orbit the medium object as the medium object orbits the largest object, or in other words, they are challenged to create a moon that orbits a planet, while the planet orbits the star. Students can, of course, adjust the position and velocity of the objects, as well as their masses. Success with this challenge isn’t easy and it takes a lot of messing about, but it is fun to see the interactions and patterns drawn of the paths followed. And when success arrives, it feels sweet!
Adaptive Curriculum. (accessed August 7, 2008). Space Objects Interaction Explorer. https://www.adaptivecurriculum.com/us/details/USSSM150202
Barber, J. (1987) Bubble-ology (Great Explorations in Math and Science). Berkeley: Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California. http://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/gems/
Hawkins, D. (1965). Messing about in science. Science and Children, 2(5), 5-9.
Piaget, J., & Inhelder, B. (1967). The Child’s Conception of Space. New York: W. W. Norton.
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Posted by: Peter Rillero in Classroom Best Practices, Elementary School Science, Great Science Software, High School Science, Middle School Science, Research Findings, tags: experiments, lever, moments, physics, science education, science instruction, torque
Paul Marshall shared an early version of his doctoral thesis with me that is important for science teachers teaching about moments, torque, and levers. His thesis compared physical and virtual environments for balance beam learning. The balances used are made from strips of wood with a fulcrum in the middle and weights that are hung from nails at fixed distances on either side of the fulcrum.
Marshall’s work is impressive and his writing style is refreshingly communicative without the vague obscurity of many contemporary researchers attempting to sound intellectual. Marshall presents key aspects of the long history, starting with Piaget, of balance beam studies. This is important for his coding scheme of the results. In this way, he goes beyond whether there was a difference in physical versus virtual representations of the balance beam on pretest-posttest content gains. I won’t attempt to describe an entire doctoral dissertation in a blog—but I will point out some salient findings.
In Marshall’s own words, “The main question to be addressed by this study was again whether using physical rather than virtual materials while completing the learning task would produce measurable differences in learning outcomes between the groups.” The subjects were 32 college students who worked in pairs on the physical or virtual tasks. They were given the pretest and then asked to explore the balance beam so they could perform better on the posttest. Students were limited to a maximum time of 30 minutes for the explorations. I consider this a “free exploration” situation rather than the typical “guided-inquiry” approach.
The results are similar to a study I described by Klahr, Triona, and Williams (2007). In both studies, all of the students had higher posttest scores, but there were no differences between the physical and virtual groups. Because all the interactions on the task were videotaped, Marshall was able to look at the type and duration of experiments. The physical group did an average of 28.8 experiments versus 37.2 for the control group, but these differences were not statistically significant. The mean time for physical experiments was 24 seconds versus 28 seconds for the virtual group, again not statistically significant.
Marshall classified the student experiments by how rich they were for providing useful data. There were no differences between the physical and virtual groups on this measure. Marshall also classified the experiments based on the Vary One Thing at A Time (VOTAT) protocol (Tschirgi, 1980). Again, there was no significant differences here either.
“In summary, there is little evidence that using physical materials in the balance beam task has a significant effect on participants’ choice of experiment search strategies. This contradicts predictions that subjects using the physical materials might engage in greater and more fluid collaboration with physical materials.” Once again, although for most teachers the virtual environment would be easier to implement in a classroom, the data suggests no significant differences between physical and virtual groups.
Marshall’s study went on to analyze the conversations between the pairs working on the physical and virtual tasks. There were no statistically significant differences in the amount of dialog that was coded as hypothesis, summary of data, prediction, alternate hypothesis, critique of a hypothesis, agreement with a hypothesis, extension of a hypothesis, justification by several experimental results, plan to test hypothesis, discussions about testability, arguments against a justification, or requests for explanation.
The virtual group, however, did have statistically significant more talk about suggestions of new experiments. This result was expected because when one student controls the mouse, there is more need for conversation about what they should do next.
The physical group had statistically significant more talk about description of results. Marshall suggests that this may have been because in the virtual situation both students could easily see what was happening, but in the physical situation, when both were sitting next to each other, each had slightly different perspectives.
“It must be concluded that using physical materials has little effect on learning about the concept of balance as presented in this study.” Marshall’s study adds to the nascent number of studies suggesting that virtual tasks make equivalent gains to physical tasks. Interesting wrinkles are the increased talk for planning experiments in the virtual environment and increased discussion of results in physical situations. Opportunities to extend all elements of discussions in all situations need to be explored.
Klahr, D., Triona, L.M., & Williams, C. (2007) “Hands on What? The Relative Effectiveness of Physical Versus Virtual Materials in an Engineering Design Project by Middle School Children,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44(1), pp 183-203.
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