[IAEP] Physics - Lesson plans ideas?

Paul Schulz pschulz01 at gmail.com
Sun Aug 16 19:30:12 EDT 2009

FYI.. (on topic?) See current related topic on slashdot.


Available under GPLv2, which isn't obvious from the website.

On Sun, Aug 16, 2009 at 1:50 PM, Alan Kay<alan.nemo at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Bill and Tony,
> I simply ask that you ponder much more deeply on this issue. It's very
> important, and it also is part of the "helping people learn certain modern
> subjects" problem. Many of the people who have embraced the OLPC and XO and
> Sugar are using  it for other means (contact with and use of computers,
> pride, motivation, and so forth). But both of you have shown interest in
> helping children learn mathematics and science.
> And by the way, I don't know of any mathematicians who would define math as
> "the study of rule-based systems". So this could be one place to start. And
> science is much more subtle than mathematics. Depending on when you think
> modern humans appeared on the planet, it took until just about 400 years ago
> for the real deal to be teased out of our built in desires for explanations
> coupled with our equally built in desires to accept them much too readily.
> None of this issue has anything directly to do with computers. And there are
> a lot of very good things which can be done without them for both real math
> and real science. As Papert showed us, computers can be the raw material for
> several important new forms for good math that are particularly nicely
> suited for children, and several of these are nicer to deal with physical
> phenomena than some of the standard algebraic approaches (especially for the
> equivalents of differential equations and integration of differential
> relations).
> But I always urge teachers to get started on this road themselves by looking
> at the many wonderful "little books" of Arvind Gupta and one of his main
> themes of "toys from trash". http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/ Besides being
> good for children and adults alike, it is also a bit of a temperament
> tester. Most people who really understand science and its processes will
> delight in these projects and in helping children do these projects. You can
> think of them as the immersion engineering part of eliciting interesting
> phenomena from the world around us. They are all in the children's world,
> they are made by the children, they do cool and surprising things, and they
> have real connections to the world of adults. They are not science
> themselves, but are great motivators and start the kids and adults on the
> road to seeing mechanicanical cause effect relationships which are the
> underpinings of math and our abstraction about the real world.
> Some of these are ripe for trying to do deeper investigations and to make
> working mathematical models of them. This is the science part.
> In any case, one of the important parts of this discussion is to be able to
> deal with the magic of playing with a computer.
> Best wishes,
> Alan
> ________________________________
> From: "forster at ozonline.com.au" <forster at ozonline.com.au>
> To: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>
> Cc: iaep at lists.sugarlabs.org
> Sent: Sunday, August 16, 2009 12:25:11 AM
> Subject: Re: Re: [IAEP] Physics - Lesson plans ideas?
> Alan
> You ask whether Bill's Physics Activity suggestions have anything to do with
> real science. You rightly point out that the Physics Activity is an
> imperfect simulation of the real world and just as mysterious. Certainly
> playing with the Physics Activity is not the best way to discover how the
> real world works.
> You draw the distinction between real maths and real science. Bill's
> suggestions work if you think more like a mathematician than a scientist. We
> study complex numbers and transfinite numbers even though they aren't real
> world. Root(-1) isn't real world but its a useful abstraction to study.
> Maths is the study of rule-based systems. Some of the maths isn't that
> useful in itself but the ability to understand and think in that system is a
> valid educational goal. It strengthens the ability to think in other
> rule-based systems.
> The Physics Activity has its set of rules and Bill's activities encourage
> students to discover these rules, to think more deeply about them and to
> compare them to the idealised maths which is used to describe the real
> world. It may not be a good way to understand the rules that govern the real
> world but it is a good way to do a scientific study of a microworld which is
> governed by its own set of rules.
> Surely testing and discovering the rules which govern a microworld
> strengthens our ability to understand other rule based systems including
> real world physics?
> Some advantages of this microworld:
> Its engaging
> Setup and cleanup are easy
> Bills suggestions are suitable for self-directed learning
> The cycle time to test a hypothesis is short, more time for cognitive
> conflict (deep thinking)
> With simulations you can perform experiments that are unsafe in the real
> world
> Thanks for your contributions.
> Tony
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