Physics is not a popular subject in Polish schools. It seems difficult and not interesting for many students. This year only about 9% of them have taken leaving high school (matura) examination in physics. How to change it? How to engage students to learn physics?
Physics is an experimental subject and it is easier to understand the laws of nature while doing laboratory experiments. There is a list of obligatory experiments in the physics core national curriculum for lower and upper secondary schools. But they are only simple traditional experiments, not connected to real life, which could be done without using ICT.
Nowadays, in the digital age, it seems interesting to make measurements using mobile data-logging equipment (interface, sensors, educational software). It allows us to carry out outdoor science experiments and analyze their results. You can choose different types of portable data-logger, e.g. CMA MoLab – Mobile Data-logger for Science, CMA VinciLab, Vernier or Pasco mobile interfaces with sensors.
Many of interesting science experiments can be done with temperature sensors. The discussion about the results and how to explain them engage students to think about physics laws.
Look at the exemplary result of outdoor temperature measurements:
-Changes of air (T1 – blue line) and soil (T2 – green line) temperatures during a sunny day (up) and night (down).
-Changes of temperature measured by sensors placed in white (red line) and black (blue line) plastic cups during a sunny day.
Based on these data you can discuss absorption and reflection of solar radiation.
Interesting measurements could be done during the solar eclipse. I took the light, UVA and UVB intensity measurements during the solar eclipse in Warsaw on March 20, 2015.
But it is very important to remember that viewing the Sun during partial and total eclipses requires special eye protection, e.g. special filters. It is possible to check filters measuring light, UVA and UVB intensity without and through different filters.
The real event can be physics lesson conducted at an amusement park, elevator or public transport. You can check how the atmospheric pressure depends on height or you can measure inertial forces. The graph below presents the results of measurements – the changes of inertial force acting on a mass of 0,9 kg hanging on a force sensor while riding the elevator up and down (a short stop at 18th floor).
Further graph analysis and processing allows to create acceleration and velocity vs time graphs. To explain the graphs a student must demonstrate similar skills in solving tasks as in text problems, but computer tools make it easier for him to prepare graphs and describe them, and provide a better understanding of the phenomena studied.
Performing computer-assisted experiments in the field is not only an attractive form of teaching science, especially physics. It brings many educational benefits, such as:
-awaking of students’ scientific interests and cognitive inquisitiveness,
-easy control of experiment,
-fast visualizing of studied processes and phenomena,
-fast processing and analysis of the data,
– the possibility of multiple playback of recorded results of the experiment.
Outdoor activities should be well prepared. Students must work together to plan experiment, carry out measurements and take care of appropriate documentation (take a picture or video) and interpretation of the results. This requires an appropriate division of tasks and cooperation of all students in the group. The results of the project should be prepared in an electronic form and presented to a larger group of students in the classroom, and also published on-line. This is therefore an opportunity to develop a variety of student competence.
Article written by: Elzbieta Kawecka, Scientix Deputy Ambassador