Interactivity and Learning

Our vision of the future of science education has e-learning at its core.  Students are increasingly using electronic resources in how they learn a subject, so we believe the curriculum should exploit the full power of the electronic medium in their learning.

Central to e-learning of the future is a suite of interactive tools that are virtual extensions to the real-world.  Students will learn about vectors by drawing them on their computer screen; they learn about vector addition by drawing two vectors and then aligning them head-to-tail.  Students learn about projectile motion by changing the launch angle for a quarterback throwing a football; the interactive element then shows them how far the ball travels so that they can change the launch angle to optimize the range.  Students learn about the size of an atomic nucleus by interacting with a simulation of Rutherford's scattering experiment, allowing them to perform an important historical experiment beyond the means of most high school budgets.

Ergopedia regularly uses both physical and virtual investigations to make learning physics into a hands-on activity.  Interactive elements are designed to be integrated within the Essential Physics curriculum, but educators can also use them as stand-alone investigations to extend their curriculum. 

Interactive simulations with LabVIEW
Students learn about waves through simulations using National Instruments' LabVIEW.
Full simulations that look and feel just like a physical investigation are created using the LabVIEW package environment and integrated directly into the Essential Physics curriculum.  Our use of National Instruments' LabVIEW software allows students to move seamlessly between physical investigations and virtual investigations.

Interactive simulations make an abstract physical concept into a graphical tool that students can see.  Electric charge and electricity are often difficult concepts for students because they cannot see the charge itself; an interactive simulation can show where the charges are and how they move in response to their environment.  Students are often confused about wave parameters of amplitude, period, frequency, and phase; with an interactive simulation, they can adjust each of these parameters for a sound wave, listen to it, and then add multiple waves together to explore the interference of waves and beats.

Interactive elements created in HTML5 with canvas layers

Canvas layers are used in the Essential Physics e-Book to provide an immediate, interactive tool for extending how students learn a concept.  Canvas elements operate in-place by creating an interactive layer within the browser window itself.  There is no need to install new software, operate a stand-alone program, or navigate between different websites; canvas elements provide an interactive solution embedded directly into the browser window viewing the e-Book.

In HTML5 the  <canvas> element tag is designed to allow script-driven graphics on web pages without using proprietary plugins like the Flash® player.  Canvas was first developed by Apple in their Dashboard application, was subsequently adopted as part of HTML5, and now works in all the standard browsers (Firefox, Safari, IE, etc.).

Students learn about static equilibrium and free-body diagrams using a canvas layer embedded directly into the Essential Physics e-Book.