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Oersted Medal Lecture 2007: Interactive simulations for teaching physics: What works, what doesn’t, and why
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View: Figures


Image of Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

In Gas Properties users can pump the handle to add heavy or light particles to the box and see them move about, colliding with each other and the walls. Users can cool the box with “ice” and see the particles’ motion slow as the thermometer and pressure gauge readings fall. Users can also increase gravity and see a pressure gradient form.

Image of Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

In Moving Man users control the man’s motion either by dragging the man or using the position, velocity, or acceleration controls. By graphing the motion simultaneously and including a “playback” feature, this simulation helps students build connections between actual motions and their graphical representation.

Image of Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

(a) View on start-up of an early version of Radio Waves and Electromagnetic Fields. When the program first opens, the transmitting electron moves up and down along the antenna producing an electromagnetic wave. (b) View on start-up of current version of Radio Waves and Electromagnetic Fields. The only motion is the “wiggle the electron” moving in and stopping. When students wiggle the electron, only the curve with vectors along the line is shown.

Image of Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.

In Circuit Construction Kit students can construct these circuits, close the switch, and immediately see the response—the electrons flow faster from the battery, the ammeter reads higher, the voltage meter reads lower, and one bulb dims while the other bulb glows brighter. Results from a recent study (inset) show improved performance on the final examination by students using CCK in lab, compared to students doing same lab with real equipment (see Ref. 8).

Image of Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.

In Wave-on-a-String, users can wiggle the end of the string with the mouse or a piston to create a wave and explore the effects of tension and damping. Here we use the simulation (a) to help students visualize a standing wave, then follow up with a concept test (b). Only 27% of the students shown the traditional tygon tube demonstration answered correctly, compared with 71% of the students shown the simulation.


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Scitation: Oersted Medal Lecture 2007: Interactive simulations for teaching physics: What works, what doesn’t, and why