NSF TYC Physics Workshops for 1995

1. Implementing Effective Microcomputer-Based Laboratories (MBL) in Introductory College-Level Physics Courses Workshop

2. Building a Better Understanding Of Physics And Developing Effective Problem Solving Skills In Introductory College-Level Physics Courses Using Conceptual Exercises and Overview Case-Studies (CE/OCS) Workshop

3. Constructing and Integrating Microcomputer Simulations in Introductory College-Level Physics Courses Workshop

The Objectives of these Workshops are to:

provide community college physics teachers with knowledge of, and solid experience with, recent major advances in the applications of microcomputers and cognitive research in physics education;

identify the appropriateness and the role of these workshop ideas in meeting the needs of community college students and faculty; and

develop or revise, share, and incorporate sui able materials into community college physics courses and programs.

Workshop Materials:

Participants will receive all instructional materials required for each workshop. This includes some background materials prior to the workshops as well as a substantial amount of materials for use during and after the workshops.

As a result of attending one of these workshops, participants will receive free access to PINET's electronic mail system as well as a computer bulletin board system at Joliet as part of the networking follow-up system. Additionally, newsletters will be provided to aid in the exchange of ideas and materials related to the workshops.

Workshop Schedule:

These workshops will consist of approximately 30 scheduled hours of activities over three days, of which 21 hours will be in typical three-hour sessions. Workshop sessions meet from Thursday morning (10:30 AM) through Saturday afternoon (3:30 PM). Evening workshop sessions are also scheduled. For the microcomputer workshops, there will be a short pre-workshop session at 8:30 AM on Thursday for those participants unfamiliar with the use of computers.

Workshop Fees:

There are no fees or costs directly associated with participation during these workshops due to the support of the National Science Foundation, Joliet Junior College, and Lee College.

Meals and Lodging:

Participants will be provided a room (shared with one other participant) for Thursday and Friday evenings at a nearby motel.

Meals will also be provided from Thursday noon through Saturday afternoon. Pre- and post-workshop expenses will be the responsibility of the participant or their college.

Travel to the Workshop Site:

Travel costs to the workshop site are expected to be provided by the participants¹ college. There will also be an attempt to provide transportation to and from the nearest airport.


There are no stipends for attending the workshops. However, participants can receive support of up to $150 for contributions submitted following the workshops.

Eligibility and Selection of Participants:

All physics instructors currently teaching full-time at a recognized two-year college in the United States are eligible for this program.

Participants will be selected from the pool of qualified applicants based on the following criteria

those who appear to be most likely to benefit directly from the workshop(s) in terms of using workshop materials, as evidenced by administrative support and/or personal interest statement;

those who teach significant numbers of women, minorities, and the physically disabled;

those who have some full-time teaching experience at the two-year college level (at least three years preferred )

those who seem to be able and likely to help other community college teachers become familiar with the workshop information;

those who will balance out the geographic distribution of the participants;

those who are most enthusiastic about the workshop(s), as evidenced by their date of application.

Follow-up workshop participants will be selected from previous workshop participants on the basis of their experience and application of previous workshop contents.

This program is open to all qualified individuals regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, or educationally unrelated handicaps.

Application Selection Dates:

The target date for selection of participants is 45 days prior to a particular workshop. However, early submission is highly recommended since the workshop participants may be selected sooner if a reasonable pool of applicants has been received.

Mail applications to: (or fax (815) 773-6671)

TYC '95 Physics Workshops
Natural Science Department
Joliet Junior College
1215 Houbolt Road
Joliet, IL 60436-9352

Implementing Effective Microcomputer-Based Laboratories (MBL) in Introductory College-Level Physics Courses Workshop

Lead by

Ron Thornton Tufts University, Medford, MA
Priscilla Laws Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA
Curtis Hieggelke Joliet Junior College, Joliet, IL
Tom O¹Kuma Lee College, Baytown, TX

Workshop Description

Recently developed microcomputer-based laboratory (MBL) tools provide a better means of teaching physics concepts by enabling the teaching/learning process to begin with students¹ direct experiences of the familiar physical world. Using MBL sensors, students can simultaneously measure and graph physical quantities such as position, velocity, acceleration, force, temperature, light intensity, sound, angular rotation, radiation, magnetic field, electric current and potential difference.

These tools give students immediate feedback by presenting data graphically in a manner that can be easily and immediately understood. The ease of data collection and presentation afforded by MBL tools invites students to ask and answer their own questions. Thus, students acquire more readily an understanding of the scientific principles and concepts which underlie their experiences and an increased competence in the use and interpretation of graphs.

In this hands-on workshop, participants will use MBL tools to explore methods of learning physics selected from areas involving force, motion, sound, heat and temperature, radiation, and light. Examples of the use of microcomputers in physics for simulation, numerical problem solving, real-time data collection and display, and for the analysis and modeling of data will be presented.

The primary emphasis of this workshop will be on applying MBL tools (available for Mac and DOS systems) to teach physics effectively to community college students. There will be extensive discussions on how to use these tools in community college courses, and tactics to overcome problems at community colleges. In addition, this workshop will be concerned with the application of the research findings in cognitive science and physics education as applied to students¹ learning of introductory physics, particularly in the context of the use of the microcomputer and community colleges.


Ron Thornton & Priscilla Laws

have received awards for their innovative development and use of software in physics education from Computer's in Physics and the American Association of Physics Teachers. In 1993, they were awarded the Charles A. Dana Award for Pioneering Achievement in Education and Ron Thornton was honored with the 1992 Smithsonian Award for Computers in Education.

Building a Better Understanding Of Physics And Developing Effective Problem Solving Skills In Introductory College-Level Physics Courses Using Conceptual Exercises and Overview Case-Studies (CE/OCS) Workshop

Workshop led by

Alan Van Heuvelen Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
David P. Maloney Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, IN
Curtis Hieggelke Joliet Junior College, Joliet, IL
Tom O'Kuma Lee College, Baytown, TX

Workshop description

Recent research findings indicate that "traditional" lecture-style passive learning does not substantially impact the learning of most students who take introductory physics. The research also indicates that most students enter introductory physics with alternative conceptions to many of the basic concepts that are taught in introductory physics. For most students, passive learning techniques generally do not replace these "misconceptions" with concepts that are more consistent with our understanding of nature. Results from physics education research has indicated several different active learning techniques that have substantially increased student conceptual understanding in introductory physics at two year colleges.

During this workshop, participants will become familiar with several active learning techniques for enhancing conceptual understanding and problem solving skills of students. Participants will have an opportunity not only to be exposed to the most recent cognitive physics education research findings, but will also have an opportunity to develop in a collaborative group of two-year college educators their own new materials for their students.

Three approaches - using a uniform format, cognitive task analysis, and conceptual demonstrations - to developing conceptual exercises (CE) will be presented, and exercises using these techniques will be developed. In addition, the Overview Case-Study (OCS) model which uses the results of physics education research in producing a flexible, spiral format that helps students build a knowledge hierarchy on a foundation of analogic and qualitative understanding will be explained and examined. The use of multiple-representation problem-solving techniques employing problem definition, sketches, and divide-and-conquer strategies will be presented. The utilization and development of effective worksheets for making lecture instruction an active student experience will be constructed.

One of the primary goals of this workshop is to show how these conceptual tasks and curriculum ideas can be implemented at two year colleges. Several different methods of integrating the ideas presented at this workshop into the curriculum will be discussed with results from a variety of two year college settings.


David P. Maloney & Alan Van Heuvelen

have been recognized by the physics community for their work in developing conceptual tools to aid student understanding of introductory physics. One of the tasks developed by David Maloney, the ranking task, is used widely at two-year colleges as well as universities to develop and test student understanding of introductory physics. One of the curriculum approaches, the OCS approach, was developed by Alan Van Heuvelen while at New Mexico State University. This approach has been used very successfully by Van Heuvelen and at two year colleges around the nation.

Constructing and Integrating Microcomputer Simulations in Introductory College-Level Physics Courses Workshop

Workshop led by

Cindy Schwarz Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
David Winch Kalamazoo College, Kalamazoo, MI
Curtis Hieggelke Joliet Junior College, Joliet, IL
Tom O'Kuma Lee College, Baytown, TX

Traditional textbook problems, test questions, and class problem solutions teach students how to manipulate equations. Educational research has shown that most students do not see how objects actually move in time and space in simple situations even after taking a good traditional physics course. Computer simulations expand the range and nature of student experiences - and, if properly designed and used, will extend and expand their understanding of physics. Now with the development of the new generation of simulation construction software and tools, physics educators are no longer limited by the available "canned" simulation software.

Computer simulations give a much better visualization of the solutions to the equations of motion by presenting time graphs of quantities such as position, velocity, and acceleration while animating the motion of the object. The student can then change parameters (mass, charge, shape, etc.) and observe the effects on the system by observing the resulting animation of its motion. The ability to change parameters and to easily redo a situation allows more experience and, eventually, a better understanding of the physics involved. Computer simulations, appropriately used, should supplement and enhance experiments rather than replace real labs that measure the properties of real objects which fosters a better understanding of the underlying principles.

This workshop will focus on the creation of good simulations and how to blend these simulations into an effective, active learning environment at community colleges. Participants will also gain experience and insight by being exposed to a variety of existing good physics simulations and tools.

Interactive Physics II  (from Knowledge Revolution) will be featured along with the HyperCard stack software from Apple Computer. Interactive Physics II software allows direct simulation of physical processes through the construction of virtual computer models. The program is an easy-to-use object-oriented, general purpose simulation tool that simulates the fundamentals of physics. When objects are arranged into a system, the program executes a visual simulation animation of the system complete with graphs and fully exporable data. Interactive Physics won the 1989 MacUser award for best educational exploration program.

Workshop participants will be working in small groups to create new simulations. The new workshop simulations will be shared and critiqued by the participants and workshop leaders. The workshop will include how to obtain and setup the hardware/software needed to construct, and run these simulations and how to effectively incorporate these computer simulations into the classrooms and laboratories at community colleges.

The focus of this workshop is that participants will develop the ability and skills to: (1) use simulations effectively, (2) evaluate or select good simulations, and (3) to construct good and useful simulations. It is also expect that participants will continue this process after the workshop.

David Winch

is well known in the physics education community for his work in developing software and video disk technology. The software he co-authored "Guilty or Innocent," received the MacWorld Prize for best educational HyperCard stack in 1988. He recently developed a new piece of educational simulation,"An Introduction to Electrostatic Force & Coulomb's Law," with M.D. Squiers and R Fuller, which is being distributed by Intellimation (1992). He was recently director of software development for the "National Interactive Media Project for the Physical Sciences" (U.S. DOE) and the co-director of "A College Faculty Leadership Workshop on Transforming Physics Content Using New Technologies" project.

Cindy Schwarz

is an associate professor of physics at Vassar College. She is active in the American Association of Physics Teachers and devotes much of her time to improving the quality of undergraduate education in physics. She is particularly interested in integrating computers into all levels of the curriculum, including collection and analysis of data, and using Interactive Physics and other simulation software. She is the author of an article on using Interactive Physics for Campus Tech magazine and the author of a book, A Tour of the Subatomic Zoo, a guide to particle physics published in 1992 by the American Institute of Physics. Her second book, An Interactive Physics Workbook will be published in the spring of 1995 by Prentice Hall.