FEd Fall 2001 Newsletter - Time-dependent Permeable Interface and IT-based Physics Education

Fall 2001



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Time-dependent Permeable Interface and IT-based Physics Education*

Jin S. Kima and Keum H. Leeb

Education with interface and feedback. Any system of interest is a part of a larger whole. There is an interface between the system of interest and the rest of the whole. No interface is perfectly insulating so the system interacts with the rest, and the two develop together as one feedback system with changing interface. An educational system/activity, surrounded/divided by interfaces, is often characterized by space (classroom, school, country, etc.) and time (class period, academic year, era, etc.) variables and/or more complex ones (class subject, ethnicity, culture, etc.). Hence the time-dependency and permeability of interfaces must be taken into account for a better result. Thus, any education system should have a feedback mechanism reflecting the societal change/need; physics education is no exception.

Education is an interactive process involving knowledge exchange between the educating and the educated. Developing societies emphasize quantitative expansion of the educated population and productive teaching with fewer streamlined courses. However, demand for a higher quality and diversified offering follows when the paradigm shifts from teaching to learning, including interactive-engagement (IE) among teachers and students.

Paradigm of physics education. The current wave of science education reform is driven in part by a post-cold-war restructuring of the global economy and focuses on a more scientifically literate society. Since physics is the foundation of modern science and technology, physicists are in a unique position to educate people in the basic concepts of modern science. Engineers need better education in physics and industry needs well-trained physicists. However, data indicate that we are not doing what we should. A drastic change in physics education is in demand. Effective solutions have already been offered, yet go unnoticed by large segments of our community. Physics education can be more productive.

Research shows a wide gap between what a teacher teaches and what the students learn and active-learning (AL), including interactive-engagement (IE), is the key to narrowing this gap. Although AL without IT is possible, the catalytic role of IT is well established. IT use is a must for resource sharing at a distance and for IE among the teachers and students in real-time.

IT-based and active-learning solutions. In this era of knowledge-based economies, equal access to scientific knowledge is a fundamental prerequisite for sustainable development and keeping world peace. The use of new IT in promoting AL and IE modes of education, particularly through networking, will contribute greatly to improving educational quality for all, regardless of any barrier such as space and time, available funds/experts among institu-tions/countries. It is no wonder that the Science Agenda - Framework for Action (World Conference on Science, Budapest, 1999) stresses the UNESCO's leading role in spreading IT use for science education.

The curricular solutions given below for introductory physics are distinguished in that they are research-based and often using state-of-the-art IT. The list is not exhaustive, merely representative.

  • Advancing Physics1 is a new course (with CDs) for AS and A level developed by the Institute of Physics (UK).
  • Just-in-Time Teaching2 enhances interactivity and responsiveness among faculty and students, via web-based assignment turned in just in time so the faculty can adjust his/her next lecture reflecting such inputs.
  • Peer Instruction3 actively involves students in large lecture courses by interspersing brief mini-lectures with conceptual questions.
  • Physics by Inquiry4 is an inquiry-based course and it also can be used with a lecture-based course.
  • RealTime Physics5 is a complete set of interactive microcomputer-based labs.
  • Tools for Scientific Thinking6 consist of a small set of interactive microcomputer-based labs.
  • Tutorials in Physics7 are a complete set of carefully designed tutorials and may be used as labs/recitations.
  • Workshop Physics8 is an activity-based course without lectures.

Educational resource sharing. The use of IT for education is too big a job to be done by a few people or done in a short period of time and needs organized concerted efforts. It needs continual updating, should be operated as a feedback system, and needs help from non-physics experts. You need a depository and clearinghouse for all the materials for resource sharing and quality assurance.

In resource sharing among different educational units, be it inter-institutional or international, dedicated human effort is essential for its success since the educational paradigm is position and time dependent. The one-model-fits-all approach is not appropriate and diversity has to be accepted. The Asian Physics Education Network9 has been working for resource sharing to improve university physics education in the Asia-Pacific region, with recent AL emphasis. It is to be noted that the Korean Physical Society has recently been reorganized for strong emphasis on education and strives for educational resource sharing at the national as well as international level.10

  1. http://post16.iop.org/advphys
  2. G. M. Novak et al., Just-in-Time Teaching (Prentice Hall, 1999).
  3. E. Mazur, Peer Instruction (Prentice Hall, 1997).
  4. L. C. McDermott et al., Physics by Inquiry, (John Wiley & Sons, 1996).
  5. D. Sokoloff, P. Laws and R. Thornton, RealTime Physics (Vernier Software, 1995).
  6. D. Sokoloff and R. Thornton, Tools for Scientific Thinking (Vernier Software, 1995).
  7. L. C. McDermott et al., Tutorials in Introductory Physics (Prentice Hall, 1998).
  8. P. Laws, Workshop Physics Activity Guide (John Wiley & Sons, 1997).
  9. http://www.swin.edu.au/physics/aspen/
  10. AAPT Announcer, Vol. 31, p. 10 (Summer 2001).

*Supported by Korea Science and Engineering Foundation
aSecretary of Education, Korean Physical Society (jin@moak.chonbuk.ac.kr)
b Chair, Asian Physics Education Network (khl@moak.chonbuk.ac.kr)

This is a condensed version of the plenary talk delivered at the International Conference on Physics Education in Cultural Context (ICPEC, 13-17 August 2001, Korea), organized by Korean Physical Society with support from IUPAP-ICPE, and at the General Forum of European Physics Education Network (EGF2001, 6-8 September, 2001, K? (Cologne) Germany).