VideoGraph Development Project
ROBERT J. BEICHNER
Department of Physics
North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8202, USA
The central task of this project is to develop improved instructional
materials for introductory physics instruction which take advantage of
state-of-the-art technology. A curriculum utilizing a visually-oriented
approach to kinematics data collection and analysis is being written. The
development of the curriculum will be guided by recent findings in cognitive
psychology, the work of researchers in science education, and the experience
of veteran teachers. The hope is that these materials can be used to stimulate
student interest in science, help them become efficient users of technology,
and develop both intuitive and quantitative understanding of the study
of motion-a 'building block' topic in physics.
The approach being used is based on an extension of earlier work. In
a 1987-88 project, we developed a software package called VideoGraph.
This instructional tool was created for use in introductory physics laboratories
at the high school and college level. It allows students to videotape motion
events and use the graphing capabilities of a microcomputer to carefully
examine and analyze the motion. More specifically, the computer replays
the video on its screen while simultaneously creating a graph of position or speed as a function of time--hence the name VideoGraph.
This particular use of the computer as a data collection and analysis tool
derives from several studies of the successful use of microcomputer-based
laboratories. Our contention is that by seeing both the concrete motion event and the abstract graphical representation
of that motion, students will be better able to make the cognitive links
between the two. This has been rigorously examined and our results are
reported in an article soon to appear in the American Journal of Physics: Impact
of Video Motion Analysis on Kinematics Graph Interpretation Skills .
VideoGraph can be used several different ways. Students can still
use images from their own videotaped motion events. The new version also
supports access to videodisc images. And it will be possible for students
to analyze "artificial" motion events produced either through
programming, utilizing a painting program, or by using a simulation environment
like Interactive Physics. So, besides its obvious use as a data gathering
and analysis tool, VideoGraph can be used by students to analyze
previously recorded motion events or even simulated microworlds where the
laws of motion are programmed into the system by either themselves or their
It is important to realize that our purpose is not to eliminate
labs or replace them with simulations. We want to establish a student
tool which can help in the study of lab phenomena and real world
events, and yet still be used (either as homework or in class) to
analyze previously recorded or artificially produced events. In other
words, the same software package would serve as a general motion
data collection and analysis tool and as a simulation for further
study. The project has been favorably reviewed by the teaching community
and has won the 1989 Ohaus Award for Innovation in Science Teaching
from the National Science Teachers Association, an honorable mention
in the 1994 Computers in Physics Instructional Software Contest,
and an honorable mention in the 1995 Computers in Physics Fifth Annual
Educational Software Contest. The program currently runs on the Mac
graphing test, described in an article published in the August 1994 issue of American Journal of Physics,
has been used to evaluate the effectiveness of the materials. Additional
assessments, including participant observations and interviews, are providing
a more detailed picture of student learning.
VideoGraph and its companion utility VideoGrab have now
been tested in classrooms across the country and demonstrated in numerous
workshops and conferences. The positive educational impact of curricula
modified to take advantage of the new tools has been statistically verified.
The package is published by Physics Academic Software.
This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation
(MDR-9154127). Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily
those of the Foundation. Additional support came from RasterOps Corporation,
SONY of America, and Apple Computer.
Written by: Eric
Last updated: 5/9/96