[IAEP] Physics - Lesson plans ideas?

Bill Kerr billkerr at gmail.com
Sun Aug 16 00:12:39 EDT 2009

On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 12:29 PM, Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:

> >I'm not sure how your argument here would not apply also to etoys?
> It does if you try to teach how the real world works by making computer
> simulations without doing experiments.
> But if you'll check out our materials carefully, we never do that. We
> always keep clear the distinction between "real math" (and the fact that you
> can do a lot of neat things with real math that are not seen in our physical
> universe (and can easily be at odds with what is seen) and thus are special
> kinds of usually consistent stories) and that of "real science" which is
> done by making careful observations of the real world the final arbiter of
> all stories (no matter how pretty and consistent they might be) we might
> make up.
> This is why when teaching children we separate the math of speed and
> acceleration (using the cars on the screen and "increase by") from
> investigations into the science of how things fall by about 4 months. This
> technique is as old as real science, was used by Newton (it's one of the
> many charms of the Principia), and both used and advocated by Einstein.
> And the other distinction with the use of Etoys is that the actual real
> math of the phenomena (whether just math on the screen of the computer or as
> a mapping relationship between observation and mathematical modeling) is
> actually derived and done directly by the children. (And in earlier grades
> this is done without computers, etc.)
> This is completely different than giving children software which may or may
> not work like the real world but at its best it is as mysterious as the real
> world was before science, and at its worst (where it is not like the real
> world) it is even more misleading.
> This is missing what science is actually about. And sadly, though we can do
> real math on the computer, we also find a myriad of approaches that bypass
> "real math" for various kinds of "math appreciation" or "math flybys" or
> "math grazings". Both of these are nicely covered by a gentle but firm
> ancient reprimand by teacher Euclid to student Ptolemy "Sire, there is no
> Royal Road to Geometry".
> I'm happy to answer questions about this vital issue.

My feeling is that the teacher needs to have and communicate to students an
awareness of the difference b/w a simulator and the real world. I recall
that alan has pointed that out wrt other programs too such as sim city
(there are more ways to reduce crime than by increasing the number of

I did mention this earlier in the thread: "after doing the above say whether
you think the physics program reflects real world behaviour
(possibility of follow up real world experiments here)". This could be a
general thematic approach. ok, not all teachers will be aware of the
importance of this but that is a separate issue as to whether such features
ought to be made available in software that we are promoting.

Is there are real danger of students getting the wrong idea about science
from using the physics program? I'm not really sure - some will, some won't
- but I think my students see it as a game type program rather than a
reality show. Their spontaneous response was to make games with it.

The issue of teaching real science depends on awareness. I don't see a
science simulator as a bad thing in itself. Easy fun rather than hard fun
(Seymour) but should all fun be hard? I don't think so.  Much of this thread
has been about adding science simulator like features to physics. I would
see a possibility here of this increasing student awareness of physics and
possibly increasing their chance of taking physics as a subject.

I would support a name change: "pseudo physics"

Physics is a motivator and easy to use out of the box, the wow factor, and
that is an important factor for teachers in complex, mixed ability
classrooms. Students like physics, it makes them happy and happy students
are easier to have discussions with about more complex topics.

Just some ideas for further discussion

> Best wishes,
> Alan
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Bill Kerr <billkerr at gmail.com>
> *To:* Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
> *Cc:* Gary C Martin <gary at garycmartin.com>; iaep SugarLabs <
> iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org>; Brian Jordan <bcjordan at gmail.com>; Asaf Paris
> Mandoki <asafpm at gmail.com>
> *Sent:* Saturday, August 15, 2009 7:38:06 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [IAEP] Physics - Lesson plans ideas?
> hi alan,
> I'm not sure how your argument here would not apply also to etoys?
> Is your objection mainly to the name of the program - physics?
> On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 12:00 PM, Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
>> Hi Folks
>> I've previously written a fair amount on this list about what real science
>> is actually about and it would be tiresome to repeat it.
>> And I'm sure you have reasons for what you've been suggesting in this
>> thread about ways to use a simulation software package in Sugar.
>> But are you sure that these reasons have anything to do with real science
>> and how to go about teaching it to children?
>> Best wishes,
>> Alan
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