Technology has never been a stranger to science. Think of Millikan's oil drop experiment or Newton's study on light. Even though the technology these scientists used was primitive, it was necessary. Thermometers, dissection kits, spectrophotometers, and similar specialized tools have played a vital role throughout modern times in helping scientists investigate everything from the human body to leaf structure to the nucleus of a cell.
The past 20 years have seen an unprecedented leap in technology. In fact, strides made in this short period of time far exceed the rate of technological advances of the entire 350-year span since Newton's time. And much of the potential and power of this technology lies in its accessibility to us all. In the classroom of 2003, there is nothing surprising in seeing students use a drag-and-drop software program to experiment with forming molecular compounds or generating their own animations to learn about collision theory and chemical reactions. As educators, wouldn't we be remiss in not harnessing the 21st century tools at our disposal to add rich new dimensions to our science curriculum? Indeed, we would.
Although there are numerous tools available--from hardware devices such as digital microscopes (see "Digital Microscopes," page 32) to graphing calculators, handheld computers, digital tablets, and more--we narrowed the field for a look at how some widely used and accessible software, Internet tools, and probeware can open up a whole new world of opportunities for students.
Chapter 1: Subject-Specific Software Simulations
Lesson Plan 1: Energy Lab Simulation
Subject Area: Physics
Objective: To investigate the force and distance involved in moving an object up an incline
Equipment needed: Computers and Interactive Physics program
Before: Before you set your students loose on the simulation, get them to solve the following problem. This will get them thinking about the situation they want to solve with their simulation.
A hill has three paths up its sides to a flat summit area D as shown below. The three path lengths AD, BD, and CD are all different, but the vertical height is the same. Not including the energy used to overcome the internal friction of the car, which path requires the most energy (gasoline) for a car driving up it?
After they solve this problem, they should be ready to go on to generate the simulation.
During: Get your students to create a simulation that proves that the same amount of energy or work is required to get from point A, 13, or C to point D, independent of the pathway. They will be using the Circle, Rectangle, Anchor, and Force tools from the Interactive Physics program. If the students are really having difficulty, here are other suggestions to help them generate the simulation: create a ramp and set the ramp at four different angles (10,30,45, and 60 degrees); the parameters needed are force, distance, time, and wore
Alter: Have the students create a multimedia report that includes the patterns or relationships between forces and distances as well as the simulation that you have generated.
The following sites provide more simulations and lesson plans: Computer Experimenter's Guide (ist-socrates.berkeley.edu:7521 projects/IPPS/SimGuide.html)
Interactive Physics and Math with Java (www.lightlink.com/sergey/java) Interactive Physics: Simulation Library (www.interactivephysics.com/simulations.html)
Software developed for a particular area within a particular subject might include a program on electricity in physics, molecular structure in chemistry, or genetics in biology. Either as networked or stand-alone offerings, these types of programs can augment off-computer learning by allowing students additional interactive, hands-on experiences in safe, controlled environments. …