E-Resource Feature Focus: Physics

February 23, 2010 at 2:46 pm 2 comments

Each month, we will feature the online e-resources available to teachers and students at Hwa Chong Institution, grouped by academic subject. The aim of such a feature focus is to shine attention on the variety of resources available in order to increase exposure and usage. This month’s resources pertain specifically to Physics.

The Physics Teacher is published by the American Association of Physics Teachers, which publishes papers and articles related to physics topics. It contains not only articles but also guides on pedagogy, curricula and book reviews, and also has a “challenge” problem every issue to which the answer is given in the next. However, as this is also a paid-for physical publication, non-subscribers are only able to view the Featured Articles for the current issue, and require a subscription to utilise certain functions and view full content, including archives of previous issues. Many sources are also listed for the articles which would be useful for research, but these too require a subscription. All in all, if one were to subscribe to the service, it would be comprehensive and useful, but the resource currently serves only as a preview of its full features.

Physics Education is specially targeted at secondary school teachers (and students to an extent). It is updated with the latest developments and teaching methods in Physics. Physics Education is an e-zine with 45 volumes and approximately 23 articles in each volume. Each article discusses a specific aspect of Physics; for example, one who is interested in finding out about solar energy might find the title “Solar power: is it worth the energy?” useful to their research. One can use the search engine located on-site to search for an article of choice quickly and efficiently. It also features popular articles for all to view.

Ms Adeline Tan, one of several excellent physics teachers at HCI, has found The Physics Teacher very helpful for her teaching, and has the following to say:

I have been subscribing to The Physics Teacher journal for two years. Every month, I look forward to the hard copy magazines delivered to my table.  Last year, while doing a research project, I realised our school has been subscribing to The Physics Teacher e-journals, and that all teachers have access to the monthly issues and the archives online. This discovery was a relief to me, as it means I now have access to the old issues beyond my two-year subscription.

The Physics Teacher has been a wonderful teaching resource for me, a source of inspiration for innovative ideas for teaching and learning. These ideas have varied from making Physics more relatable to real life (Physics of Popping Corn) to teaching students critical thinking skills (Conductive Critical Thinking) and to exposing students to discrepant events/phenomenon to arouse their curiosity.

Using “The Physics of Popping Corn” by Robert G. Hunt (April 1991), I introduced specific heat capacity, latent heat, gas laws and superheating to my Thermal Physics module class. In the first week, students carried out a lab experiment to find the specific heat capacity of popcorn.  Afterward the research they conducted on the mechanism of popping corn (including discussion on pressure in the corn (acting as a pressure vessel), latent heat of vaporization of moisture in corn, superheating of water at popping temperature (170C) and volume increase due to expanding steam) led them to understand the usual topics in thermodynamics in a fun and  relatable manner.

Building on this theoretical knowledge, the students will next get to cook popcorn in three different ways: conduction on a pan, convection in a popcorn popper, and radiation by microwave. By taking measurements during their cooking sessions, they will calculate the energy efficiency and global efficiency (how many joules of energy must be obtained from natural resources to pop popcorn). The module will end with the students researching and understanding finite energy resources and energy efficiency.

Though my module has not yet been completed, the use of the e-journal material as a teaching guide has been an unqualified success. The true value of using Physics applications to student life can be seen in the attitudes and enthusiasm of my students during lessons. The planning of this module has only been possible with the tips and teaching guides I received from the e-journal.

Many thanks to Matthew Lee (3I1), Jeremy Yeo (3P1), Gary Leong (2A1), and Zach Wang (2A1) for their write-ups of the two e-resources featured above. And especial thanks go to Ms Adeline Tan for her testimonial about The Physics Teacher.


Entry filed under: E-Resources.

Do School Libraries Need Books? Review: Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. deckard  |  February 24, 2010 at 8:21 am

    How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? How many joules does it take to pop popcorn? Enquiring minds want to know and the answer to question two can be found in the e-resources section of Kong Chian library! Great idea highlighting an academic subject and how the library supports it. Keep up the good work. Now if this section could be expanded to include the removal of butter stains from my shirt AFTER I’ve eaten my sufficiently jouled popcorn, life would be good.

    • 2. Jason Erik Lundberg  |  February 24, 2010 at 8:54 pm

      LOL! You may have to visit the e-resources for Chemistry to solve that problem!


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