PTEE 2005
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W 1

Using Research–Based Instructional Materials to Address Common Student Difficulties in Physics:
An Example from "Tutorials in Introductory Physics"


C. Kautz,
Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), Germany
G. Kurz
University of Applied Sciences Esslingen (FHTE) , Germany


Research on the teaching and learning of physics has identified specific conceptual and reasoning difficulties that often prevent students from developing a functional understanding of various topics taught in introductory physics courses. There is evidence that instructional materials that take into account such difficulties can improve student learning. This workshop will introduce participants to Tutorials in Introductory Physics [1], a set of materials intended to supplement the lecture, textbook, and laboratory of standard introductory physics courses for students in physics, engineering, and other fields. In addition to providing hands-on experience with the instructional materials, the workshop will cover various aspects of incorporating the tutorials into an introductory course.
Copies of Tutorials in Introductory Physics will be provided to participants. The development of the Tutorials has originally been in English. Translations into Spanish and Greek are available. Editions in other languages are in preparation.

  [1] L. C. McDermott, P. S. Shaffer, and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington, Tutorials in Introductory Physics, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, 1998.

W 2

A Computer Based Course of General Physics


A. Sedov, V. Belokopytov, M. Gubkin, D. Ivanov, I. Ivanova, M. Timoshin
Moscow Power Engineering Institute ( Technical University), Russia


The computer-based study course represents an integrated interactive educational complex, which allows students to get a fundamental basic background in physics, within the bounds of educational standards, for different specializations in studying for Bachelors Degree in Technical Colleges. The curriculum is planned, in total, for 550 study hours, which includes both the lectures and self-study, within 3 study semesters. This course can be used in a system of open education and for self-study.
The course of physics consists of three parts.
Part I «Mechanics. Molecular physics and thermodynamics». It includes the summary of lectures, a set of 144 problems for independent study, 8 laboratory works in mechanics and 4 laboratory works in molecular physics and thermodynamics.
Part II «Electricity and magnetism». It includes the summary of lectures, a set of 102 problems for independent study and 12 laboratory works.
Part III «Optics. Nuclear physics». It includes the summary of lectures, a set of 30 problems for independent study and 8 laboratory works.
The course of physics is structured by topics, several of the topics are separated into different sessions, which include relevant lectures, problem sets and laboratory works. Besides that, there is a direct access to the study components – summary of lectures, online problem set book and laboratory practical works.
The main course activity is a self study of academic materials using the lecture summaries and additional sources, solving problem sets and fulfillments of laboratory works.
The summary of lectures consists of all required academic materials. At the end of each section there are self-test questions.
Practical tasks include a brief theoretical summary of the relevant topic, 3 typical examples of problems with solutions and 4 sets of 3 problems for self-study. There are also 3 levels of assistance available for problem solving – an illustration lookup, mathematical transcription of physical laws and finally a system of equations, which shows a path to a solution of a problem. A student can enter the answers both in numeral and symbolic ways. When necessary, they can use a calculator and a program for building the graphs.
Laboratory works are based on mathematical models, which reproduce all parameters of real laboratory installations and allow students to conduct experiments, perform statistical processing of the results and print out the outcome of their work. It is also possible to perform statistical processing of the measurements obtained in real experimental conditions. For each laboratory work there is a set of teachers’ notes, which gives theoretical thesis for each physical effect, description of the experimental installations, instructions for each laboratory work, as well as instructions for statistical processing of the results obtained in the experiments.


W 3

Modern Computer Technology in Physics Education.
I. New Possibilities for Demonstration Experiments.


A. I. Fishman, A. I. Skvortzov
Kazan State University , Russia


It is well known that experiments play a key role in the acquisition of new knowledge in the natural sciences, but to gain deeper understanding of physical phenomena, it is necessary to go from observation and qualitative analysis, to the next step – quantification of the observable properties and the building of relationships between these quantities. The relationships are important, but if students are to gain the best possible understanding the experimental character of physics must be stressed in lectures, practical training and laboratory exercises.
Lectures. Demonstration experiments play an important didactic role; they help the teacher to illustrate the phenomena discussed during the lecture. Usually, the qualitative connections between the physical magnitudes are shown, but it is important to have the opportunity to get quantitative experimental data in real time, during the lecture.
Modern information technology opens new possibilities in data collection, processing, and presentation. The PC has become the practical teacher's assistant. The computer itself can replace some expensive physical devices: oscilloscope, sound generator, ammeter, voltmeter etc.
During a long period of physics teaching a certain set of the lecture demonstrations has been developed. They have been selected over time. As a rule, they are simple, visual and serve to illustrate the principles very well.
If a teacher wanted to get quantitative data he was forced to build special apparatus. The demonstration setup was bulky, and the student's attention wandered.
It is now possible to improve the situation with modern computer technology, using sensors to display video and sound effects. It is necessary to supply the PC with sensors: eyes and ears, and “to teach” the PC to process both sound and video information. For that, the setup “camera-recorder + PC” can be used. This system allows the lecturer to analyze the video clips, to input video and sound information to the PC, and display the experimental results in a convenient form. The application of this system to lectures in Mechanics and Optics, and the possibilities for the treatment of experimental data will be demonstrated.
Laboratory exercises. The application of the system, “camera-recorder + PC”, for organizing laboratory training will be discussed. It will be shown how the computer can be used for the investigation of real physical processes. Our CD “Physics experiments” with experimental exercises will be presented. The simple user interface gives students the opportunity to record their own experiments. Coordinates, angles and times can be measured on the frames. The results can be manipulated and presented in tables and graphs; the students can do real scientific research.


W 4

Modern Computer Technology in Physics Education.
II. A Multimedia Videobook of Physical Problems.


A. I. Fishman, A. I. Skvortzov
Kazan State University , Russia
I. Jacobs
International School Bangkok, Thailand


Among the challenges of physics teaching is the need to develop the thinking and creative abilities of young people, to develop the skills required to analyze, and to find connections between phenomena.
An understanding of the laws of physics can best be achieved via their application to practical problems. The development of modern computer technology offers new ways in which this can be done. The multimedia textbook “Videobook of physical problems” (MVB) helps teachers to organize lessons in problem solving. The MVB contains about 100 physical problems on two CD’s. The problems are formulated in a novel way: Students look at the video clips in which the different experiments are shown. They are asked to find answers to questions by analyzing the video and sound information which they have observed. The principle «to see once is better than to hear a hundred times» is used. The students are encouraged to follow the way of the researcher: observation - surprise - analysis and model construction - mathematical description - recognition of the practical application of the phenomenon.
The computer technology allows the clip to be stopped at any moment. All the necessary quantities can be measured on the frames: distances, coordinates and angles, intervals of time and loudness level. This essentially expands the class of problems, for which students can find numerical answers. All problems have detailed solutions. Any problem can be found easily and quickly, and the teacher or student can return to the problem after having read the solution. The use of interactive possibilities raises the efficiency of MVB usage.
Experience with MVB usage in many schools, with different levels of physics teaching, has shown that the activity of the students and their motivation to study rises sufficiently. Interest in physics as a discipline is improved.


W 5

Designing Conceptual Labs


J. Bernhard
Linköping University , Sweden
A.–K. Carstensen
Jönköping University , Sweden


During labwork students are expected to link observed data, to either theoretical models, or to the real world they are exploring. A large body of research (See for example [1]) has shown that these links do not occur spontaneously.
In this workshop the participants will be given the possibility to explore conceptual labs [2–4] that we have developed with the aim to help students establish these links. We will give participants insight in the principles [4–6] that have guided our design. In line with suggestions from Marton’s theory of variation [5] and Tiberghien’s work [6] we claim that it is necessary to introduce systematic variation and we will give concrete examples how this can be implemented into lab instructions. We have demonstrated elsewhere [2–4, 7] that we have had some success in enhancing student’s conceptual understanding.

  [1] Tiberghien A., Veillard L., Buty C. and Le Maréchal J-F. (1998) Analysis of labwork sheets used at the upper secondary school and the first years of university, Working Paper LSE-Project. Accessed at
  [2] Bernhard, J. (2000) Teaching engineering mechanics courses using active engagement methods.Proc. of PTEE2000, Budapest 2000.
  [3] Bernhard, J. (2003) Physics learning and microcomputer based laboratory (MBL): Learning effects of using MBL as a technological and as a cognitive tool. In D. Psillos et al. (Eds.), Science education research in the knowledge based society ( Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Press) 313-321.
  [4] Carstensen, A-K and Bernhard, J. (2004) Laplace transforms - too difficult to teach learn and apply, or just matter of how to do it. Paper presented at EARLI sig#9 Conference Gothenburg 2004
  [5] Marton, F. et al. (2004). Classroom Discourse and the Space of Learning. Lawrence Erlbaum.
  [6] Tiberghien, A. (2000) Designing Teaching Situations in the Secondary School. In Millar R., Leach J. and Osborne J. (eds.) Improving Science Education- The Contribution of Research. (Buckingham: Open University Press) 27-47.
  [7] Carstensen, A-K, Degerman, M., González, M. and Bernhard, J. Labwork interaction - linking the object/event world to the theory/model world. Paper submitted to PTEE2005.

W 6

Computer–Based Measurements in Laboratory Work


K. Holá, P. Demkanin
Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovak Republic
S. Halusková, P. Benco
Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, Slovak Republic


Computer-based experimental systems (MBL) provide illustrative and express approach to measurements, particularly to data acquisition by means of various sensors connected to computers via an interface. Using MBL offers almost immediate feedback on the acquired data as concerns their graph representations. The opportunity of high sampling rate when compared to traditional forms of measurements together with quite adequate accuracy are also important characteristics. In addition, such systems facilitate data processing and enable us to perform advanced graphical and spreadsheet data analysis.
At the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics as well the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering the system Coach [1] has been used for more than ten years. Coach is a versatile teaching-learning system for Science, Technology and Mathematics, predominantly designed for secondary-school usage, however effectively applicable at universities as well. Besides performing experiments the recent version of the system, Coach 5, enables us to control actuators, create dynamical models of various phenomena, compare experimental data and modeled theoretical dependencies, and perform scientific video analyses.
The Department of Theoretical Physics and Physics Education has long experience in the preparation of undergraduate teacher trainees in handling computer-based systems and their reasonable usage at schools. Since 2002 it has been organizing distance e-learning courses for in-service Physics teachers in the project of lifelong learning dealing with ICT tools in education. The Department has been involved in the training of secondary-school in-service Science teachers for the National Project Infovek [2].
Coach is used in laboratory exercises at the Department of Physics at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering. Here the above mentioned software is applied in the investigation of various types of pendulums, in the process of charging and discharging the capacitor, measurement of the magnetic field in a solenoid, V-A characteristics of thermistors, etc.
The workshop will be concentrated on hands-on experiments. Participants to the workshop will be introduced to various functions, tools and settings of the system. However the focus of the workshop will be on individual or team work on a variety of experiments. The experiments will include the topics relevant to engineering studies selected especially according to the well-tried pattern of the laboratory exercises at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of STU in Bratislava.



Infovek – project devoted to informatization of schools,
W 7

Gold Wave for Sonification of Oscillations and Waves


M. Doložílek, J. Pilch
Brno University of Technology, Czech Republic


GoldWave is a sound editor, player, recorder, and converter. It creates sound files for CDs, websites or Windows sounds. A full set of effects and editing features are included for professional sound production. GoldWave also includes an expression evaluator, which allows user to generate the sounds by means of analytical formula defined by conventional expressions. The sound files in standard wav format can be generated for mono or stereo reproduction and the sound file can be composed from several different sounds. It can be a simple way to realize the oscillation and wave propagation experiments [1]. For reproduction of the sound file we can use the standard sound card and loudspeakers, which belong among basic facility of the every PC. GoldWave is available on the as a shareware program. The aim of the workshop is to get acquainted with basic features of this software and test the tools for generation and reproduction of the sounds by expression evaluator.

  [1] H. G. Kapper, E. Wiebel and S. Tipei , Data sonification and sound visualization, Computing in science & Engineering, Vol.1, No.4 (1999) 48-58.

W 8

Music by the Ears of Physics: Tuning Theory


J. Obdržálek
Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic


Basic concepts of music from their point of view of physics. A CD with demonstrations and explaining of different music tunings (more than 1 hour) will be available to be copied for participants.