Energy: Stop Faking It!

Heat, Temperature, and Thermal Energy!
web seminar player window, slide with an image of a glass of ice with a thermometer in it. the question is how does the thermometer know how hot the substance is? The second of two Web Seminars on Energy: Stop Faking It! was held on Wednesday, June 14, 2006, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Bill Robertson, author of the popular NSTA Press series Stop Faking It! Finally Understanding Science So You Can Teach It. Robertson focused his presentation on the concepts of heat, temperature, and thermal energy. Among the participants were a few teachers who had attended the face-to-face symposium at the NSTA National Conference in Science Education in Anaheim, CA.

The session started with a general overview of the NSTA Web Seminar tools and how they can be used to facilitate interaction between the participants and the presenters. Thirty-two participants were present in addition to the presenters and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington D.C., and Wyoming.

Robertson started the presentation asking the participants to define the concepts of temperature and heat. He then proceeded to define temperature as a term directly related to the average speed of the molecules in a substance. At this time Robertson also defined thermal energy as the measure of the total kinetic and potential energy in an object. Robertson used a few examples to assess the participants' understanding, including one, comparing water inside a swimming pool to water on a thimble. The image he presented indicated that the water inside the thimble was at a higher temperature than the water inside the swimming pool. However, the water inside the thimble had less thermal energy than the water inside the swimming pool. Teachers had a lot of questions about this picture which Robertson answered well. Robertson then defined the concept of heat as the energy given off or absorbed by an object.

web seminar player window, 2 questions with participants check marks on the answers. Robertson continued the program talking about the kinetic theory of gases. He explained that gases do not necessarily expand when you heat them and do not necessarily contract when you cool them. The discussion of these ideas took most of the rest of the program. A few participants asked several questions about this concept, so many they had to agree to continue the conversation via the discussion listserv. Throughout the presentation there were several opportunities for the participants to interact with each other and with the presenter by chatting, stamping, and marking. The presenter also answered questions via the chat for 15 minutes after the program finished.

Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:

  • "The discussion added so much to this seminar. It is so much easier to understand how my students develop misunderstandings when we cover gases, temperature, and pressure."
  • "I like chat, phone and slide show combination. I like the idea of a follow-up listserv. Thank you for making all of these possible."
  • "Learned to think more about the idea of expansion and contraction so I can be clear with the kids that the amount of expansion of a container will depend on the rigidity of the material it is made of. Bill is an entertaining presenter, I enjoyed his style."
  • "I learned how to better explain the relationship between temperature and thermal energy. It was also nice to know that I'm not the only one who struggles with these concepts. Bill gave concrete and easy to understand examples."

Thanks to the participants and to Bill Robertson for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!

Web Seminar II Resources


See a recorded version of the Web Seminar.


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    Underwritten in part by NSTA Press