Physics (...in a foreign language)
Physics is not an easy subject! Even if for its more technical aspects a “classical” approach is not avoidable, teachers can use new instruments to stimulate their students' interest. Furthermore, if you have to teach Physics in a foreign language you will invariably need some new ideas, perhaps involving social and web-based instruments.
This section will reflect upon possible routes to introduce new ways of teaching and learning in the physics lesson:
- how to create a virtual platform and some virtual instruments, suitable for teaching physics, and especially for teaching physics in a foreign language;
- how to embed twitter and facebook communities in their physics lessons;
- how to “force” students towards physics-news and physics-hot-topics.
Finding correct information throughout the “web-jungle” is becoming harder and harder. If it is true that students spend most of their time on the web (in general) and on social media (more specifically), it is unfortunately false that they capitalize this over-time on looking for good-quality sites or correct and reliable information. If you want to take advantage of the huge potential of the web, the mediating-role of teachers becomes unavoidable. Students have hundreds of friends on Facebook, and are followers of hundreds of people on Twitter: but is it possible to “force” them to become friends and followers of Physics?
We suggest some steps:
- Creating a suitable platform;
- Filling it with interactive instruments;
- Embedding Youtube videos;
- Suggesting Physics-related sites, or Facebook-pages, or twitter-contacts;
- Make your students be your followers, become a follower of your students…
With regards to the first four points, we can suggest some considerations. The choice of the most suitable platform and instruments depends on your purpose:
- if your need is to connect students to the Physics-world as much as possible, probably the best choice is Facebook: make your own Facebook-page become a Physics-page. You can add Physics-related news daily, insert Physicists-biographical information and curiosities, and use your students' comments as feed-back;
- if you are looking for a more specific instrument, able to fulfil your didactical purposes, you can probably choose to create a course on a Moodle-platform (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moodle). This open-source e-learning platform includes several features that fit teachers' needs, as interactive glossary (to improve the specific language), forum and instant message (to discuss specific topics), sharing files and videos (to give your students physics-materials), sharing links (to address your students to good-quality Physics-ralated sites). Moreover, you can give your students the possibility to upload files, and you can control the log-data of every student.
If you are able to avoid overcontrolling your students, you can make Moodle become a Physics-specific social-media.
With regards to the last item, Twitter can be turned into your own way of providing your students short Physics concepts, simple equations, news, information. Or you can decide to become a follower of your students, giving them the assignment of informing you and other students about a specific topic.
We give a practical example of how to apply the ideas above. We consider a class of a secondary school, about sixteen years old students. We want to apply our strategies for a course of Physics in a foreign language.
These are our steps:
- Choosing and creating a suitable platform.
Due to specific competences needed, we decide to create a course on a Moodle platform.
- Adding interactive figures
Scientific foreign languages are often quite easy to understand. On the other end, the most important aim is to improve the students' specific vocabulary. A good way to improve it is to create a shared scientific glossary.
Each student can add voices to the glossary, making the number of Physics specific words growing little by little.
- Embedding videos
Watching foreign language physics videos is the strongest instrument you can use; embedding them in the platform is an easy way to make them immediately usable by students.
- Sharing links
Adding links to the platform is the best way to address students to good-quality sites or twitter and facebook accounts.
- Use of Twitter
You can suggest to your students: “why don’t you become my followers?”. You can tweet interesting information about Physics on a daily basis, or re-tweet some Physics-related twitter messages.
Do you think Moodle is too specific and not social enough?
Do you want to stimulate interest in Physics, and improve its appeal? Facebook is your tool.
Create a dedicated Facebook page, with only Physics-related information in it.
Where to download Moodle..
Interesting Physics videos to embed…
Physics virtual simulations to link…
Twitters to follow…