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VideoGraph Development Project

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 teacher.

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 OS.

A kinematics 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 Ayars
Last updated: 5/9/96

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