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How can we make students understand electromagnetism concepts?
e.g. when I asked a class how a fan works, student answer was "switch it on".
On probing deeper, the answer was "there is a motor and current makes it work".
I want learners to be able to understand fields, magnetism and the concept of "action at a distance" which is not there in mechanics.
One approach I am toying with is an app which allows virtual experiments.
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The response from your high school students is one I have heard before. It is extremely important to begin students as early as preschool thinking and processing questions of that nature and build the depth as they mature. For current high school students, virtual labs and brainstorming activities assist some as well.
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Have you tried the phet simulations? They add more and more all the time. There are also plenty of teacher resources for each simulation. Many take the simulation from different angles. Very helpful. I really like the circuit one.
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Why limit yourself to the virtual world? There are some excellent activities relating to electromagnetism, electromagnetic induction, etc., in the activity guides at the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission website: http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/artemis/epo-classroom.html
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Local colleges and universities may also have demonstration events students can attend
Loved the jumprope and aluminum can experiments there.
Can students correlate these to motors and fans?
We need an experiment showing "motor" effects.
Some students do make the connection to motors and ask questions about that. You could also add on a simple activity to build an electric motor. I have used this design in the past at the camp I work for in the summer:
The spinning can and jump rope generator are 2 of my favorites!
Another very simple motor
Also this app looks promising: www.mazalearn.com
I think part of what helps students learn is how excited they are about the concept. To engage my students with the idea of electromagnetism, I asked them to investigate how mag-lev trains work. To understand, they needed to develop an understanding of electromagnetism. This made the more ready to create a deeper understanding of the concept.
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