We have found that using computers with our introductory physics students is neither trivial nor obvious and have developed Physlet Physics in response to our students’ own educational needs. Our goal has been to develop computer-based material that is adaptable to a wide variety of student learning modes, uses a standard easy-to-understand interface, and covers a wide variety of topics. We hope to engage students in ways that are fundamentally different from traditional physics problems by requiring the use of multimedia elements in the course of solving the problem. When we ask students what they think of Physlets, or review end-of-semester evaluations, what is striking is how often they mention that Physlet-based exercises help them to visualize situations.
“Physlets do help me visualize problems at hand and are quite a bit more interesting than the text.”
“The [Physlet-based] problems show one what actually occurs and just doesn’t force one to guess what may be happening.”
“[Physlets] help to see a practical use of physics and they do emulate real life situations.”
“The material in interactive problems tends to be more challenging, however because they can be seen it is slightly easier to do. Being able to actually see the problem is beneficial.”
“Use of Physlets on the computer is good for experimenting and observing.”
“In addition to class demonstrations, the Physlets help bring to life sterile mathematical equations.”
“As individuals learn in different ways, little harm is done by presenting a different perspective on a given problem.”
This appears to be the most obvious benefit to students.
Although Physlet problems often appear to be simple, they are usually more challenging than traditional problems because you must first figure out a problem-solving strategy before determining what to measure in a Physlet-based exercise. In addition, small technical problems are bound to occur if you are not familiar with the ways you can interact with the Physlet-based materials.
In response to these possible difficulties, we have written Chapter 1: Introduction to Physlets. This chapter provides students with a guided tutorial through the basic functionality of Physlets. After completing the exercises in Chapter 1, you should be in a position to complete the exercises in the rest of the book without technical difficulty.
Before you begin, you should read the following section on Browser Tests and System Requirements.