About the Audio Help Pages
Physics is an active sport. Like most subjects in math and science, you can't learn it by being passive; you must participate. And like any sport, you must practice if you wish to be good at it. The Physics 163 curriculum is designed to allow students plenty of opportunities to actively put into practice the mathematical relationships which they read about in the textbook and hear about in class.
One means by which students actively practice physics is by the completion of Internet Problem Sets. Nearly every unit in the course has one or more sets of problems which students must solve. These problem sets are created by databases which reside on a web server. The database creates a unique set of problems for every student, displays the problems on a web page, collects student answers to the problems, evaluates the correctness of those answers, provides immediate feedback to the student, and keeps track of student progress on the set. The use of these problem sets provides students with plenty of exercise in problem-solving, critical thinking and analysis, and application of physics concepts. The format of the problem sets as individual exercises for which students are held accountable forces them to take charge of their learning. Students must utilize both paper and electronic resources in a self-paced manner as they solve problems and make corrections in both their thinking and their mathematics.
There are very few students who are able to complete problem sets with ease on the first attempt; physics problem-solving is rarely that painless. The database format of the problem sets provides students with multiple opportunities to correct the errors and eliminate mistakes without a penalty. The use of links to online resources guide students to prerequisite information and knowledge. Yet even with an understanding of the physics targeted by the problem set, it is common for a sincere student to have difficulty getting started on a problem or to simply get stuck once they have started. Sometimes, the written resources are insufficient even for those who are faithful about reading them; more help is still needed. Enter the Audio Help section.
About the Audio Help Files
The Audio Help section is intended to meet the need for individual help in order to get a student started or un-stuck. The help is provided in the form of sound files. In class when you ask a teacher for a help on a problem, you receive an answer in the form of a sound file - that is, the teacher talks to you to explain the problem. In the same sense, the audio files are a collection of files in which a teacher talks to you to explain the problem. In this case, the explanations have been pre-recorded and saved on a CD or a web server. Whether at home or at school, whether during Mods 13-14 or at 11 pm at night, all you have to do is ask the teacher for an explanation and you will get it (much like you would in class or during an early morning office visit). The asking for help is done by simply clicking on a link to that sound file with an internet browser windown open. There is very little fancy technology required to do this; it simply requires a computer with a web browser and the willingness of the student to take charge of their own learning. By using the recommended CD version of the Audio Help section, it is not even necessary to have an internet connnection to hear these sound files.
Each problem set is accompanied by a collection of audio files for strategicly chosen problems. The audio files provide explanations, suggestions, hints, diagrams and at times animations for solving the problems. Without a doubt, the audio files will assist any conscientious student in both getting started and getting unstuck. Yet the primary goal of the Audio Help section is to assist students in improving their problem-solving skills. A considerable amount of attention is given in the audio files to how to approach physics problems. Emphasis is given to such habits as the identification of given and requested information, the construction of a diagram or relevant graphic, the listing of pertinent formulas, the asking of critical questions and identification of conceptual knowledge, the referencing of related problems and information, and a degree of consciousness concerning the units associated with numerical information. The audio help is intended to assist students in adopting sound problem-solving habits and strategies. These problem-solving habits are referenced in one way or another in nearly every audio file. The ultimate goal is to help students become more confident of their problem-solving habits and more self-directed in their approach to problem sets. (A thorough explanation of some of the habits of a good problem-solver are provided elsewhere.)
How to Use the Audio Help Files
There are a few helpful suggestions to assist students in making the most of this resource. First of all, you should get yourself organized: get a paper copy of your problem set out and several sheets of notebook paper of scratch paper on which you can organize your solution. Have a writing utensil and a calculator handy. Have your class notes, packet and/or textbook available to reference. Open a web browser window, insert the CD and open the home.html filed (see directions elsewhere).
Once organized, it is instructive to read through the problem you're trying to solve and to make an honest effort to solve it on your own. Do your own thinking first; practice the habits of solving problems; take charge of your learning. Only use the Audio Help section when you need it - that is, when you get stuck or after the database has indicated that your answer is incorrect. Once that you have determined that you need to use the Audio Help section, navigate through the CD to the page for the problem you are trying to solve and listen to the audio file. You can pause and continue the file in order to hear it at a comfortable pace or to provide time to make a note or look something up in your packet or class notes. You can rewind the file by dragging the slider backwards along the progress bar (see graphic below). As you listen or after you have listened to the file, conduct the solution as suggested. If necessary, use an online connection to view the referenced pages at The Physics Classroom; these pages provide discussion, graphics, and examples to further assist you in taking charge of your learning in a self-paced manner.
How NOT to Use the Audio Help Files
The goal of the Audio Help section is to help students become more confident of their problem-solving habits and more self-directed in their approach to problem sets. It is important that you consider this goal and buy into it or order to be successful on quizzes and tests which are given at the end of topic coverage. As such, it is important to not mis-use this resource. If it is intended to help you become a self-directed problem-solver, then you must ultimately make efforts to solve the problems on your own. Avoid the habit of listening to the files prior to trying the problems on your own. Over-relying on the Audio Help file would be a sign of an under-developed problem-solver. If you use the files in the manner in which they were intended, then you should be using the files less and less each unit - not because you are getting sick of them but rather because you have less of a need for them. As you become a more confident, proficient problem-solver, you become increasingly more self-directed and have a lesser need of dependence upon help from others. In effect, you have learned to solve problems and now know that any future problem can be approached in the same manner by utilizing good problem-solving habits. Avoid over-relying on the Audio Help section; learn to confidently rely on your own problem-solving abilities.
About the Audio Help Project
The Audio Help files for Units 1-5 were created during the summer of 2004. Support and funding for the project were provided by grant money acquired by the Glenbrook School District. Thanks to the generosity of Brian Wegley, Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction at Glenbrook South High School and the Administrative Council, a portion of that grant money was dispensed to Tom Henderson for the completion of the first five units of the course. Plans to create additional audio files for the remaining units are underway; those files should be completed by the Spring Semester of the 2004-5 academic year.
Teachers and students from other schools who are interested in this section of our site are asked to first read about the look and don't touch policy explained on the Usage Policy page. Thanks.
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