USING INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES TO MOTIVATE STUDENTS MAJORING IN NON-PHYSICS DEGREES TO STUDY PHYSICS
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (MEXICO)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2011 Proceedings
Publication year: 2011
Conference name: 5th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2011
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:Information technologies are reshaping professional profiles forcing schools to re-design their courses. That is the case of two new degrees in the pharmaceutical field developed at the Facultad de Estudios Superiores Cuautitlan of Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México. Each one of these to new degrees has only one Physics course in their curricula, which means that the content is arranged in a very compact manner; none of the courses include laboratory sessions. This situation represents a challenge to the teacher, as he/she has to capture the attention of students whose main scholar interest is not Physics.
Although there are no laboratory lectures in the course syllabus the school has computer laboratories and teachers have access to software that can be used to improve the learning experience. What is lacking is a methodology to take full advantage of these resources in the everyday work, especially in a case such as that described above. In this paper we present the methodology applied to teach this course last year. It was aimed at enhancing the student’s interest on the field of physics and consequently improving the course success rate.
The Physics course is designed a one semester subject, has two weekly sessions of two hours each and extends for 16 weeks. The first thing we did was to classify the course syllabus into 16 independent lessons such that each one of these lessons could be covered in each one of the 16 weeks of the semester. For each week, the first session was devoted to a traditional lecture around the topic of study while the second session was “practical” work at the computer laboratory. In the latter, taking advantage of the students’ ability using spreadsheets, the students worked with Microsoft Excel worksheets designed by us to analyze the role of different parameters on the response of a physical system.
In addition to their work at the classroom, the students were asked to complete a final project and to conduct an activity. Examples of the final projects presented by the students were: organizing a race (measuring instantaneous velocities using a GPS and computing the average velocities) or taking a ride on a roller coaster (recording data related to velocity, slope and height with a GPS). An example of a learning activity was a visit to a Science Museum and writing a report about what of the things he/she saw at the museum were related to the concepts studied in the course.
This learning methodology was well accepted among the students who were asked to evaluate it in terms of the perception of possible gains obtained with it. Finally, bringing the fundamentals of this methodology to other courses cannot be the sole responsibility of a single teacher; it is mandatory that an institutional training program for teachers as well as a maintenance program for the facilities must be implemented by the authorities.
Keywords: Spreadsheet, physics, information Technologies.