How the Way I teach Dynamics has Changed
Phillip J. Cornwell
On the first day
there was dynamics and it was good.
On the second day a creature came along called
Professor. Professor saw that
dynamics was beautiful and was the foundation of all engineering science. Professor wanted to share the beauty of dynamics
by shouting its praises from a mountaintop. Instead,
being scared of heights, he wrote dynamics on a blackboard unable to take his eyes
off of what he was writing because of its beauty. And
it was good. Thus ended the second day.
On the third day Professor was disturbed by a noise coming from
behind him. He turned around and, lo and
behold, there were other creatures in the same room with him. He learned these creatures were called
students. Many of the students
had glazed eyes, some were asleep, and some copied frantically everything Professor said
or wrote on the board. Professor was
disturbed that some would be inattentive in the presence of the beautiful dynamics so he
spoke directly to one of the students much to the shock of the students. He said, You, in the first row. What is ....
And thus began what is now known as Professor/student interaction. Professor found
interacting with students to be enjoyable. Through
this interaction he discovered, much to his astonishment, that not all students could
visualize the motion of objects and that some students suffered from severe
intuition impairment. To help
students, he brought in some physical demonstrations to show the students. And it was good.
Thus ended the third day.
On the fourth day Professor found out that it was possible for
students to actually learn from and help each other see the beauty of dynamics. This radical idea was called cooperative
learning and Professor began to use it in his class.
Professor became excited about discovering that there were actually
creatures that studied the process of learning. He
started trying some of the ideas he read about such as readiness assessment
tests and plus-deltas and concept maps. He also began using a wonderful device called a
copy machine to make copies of example problems to be worked in class. By passing out the problems to students he
discovered there was more time available in class for group work and discussion of the
problems. And it was good. Thus ended the fourth day.
On the fifth day, Professor was talking to another creature called
Math Professor and he learned that students had the ability to use a tool
called a computer and more specifically something called a computer
algebra system known only as Maple.
It became clear to Professor that this new tool could be used to help teach
students the beauty of dynamics by allowing them to focus on basic principles instead of
having them get bogged down in algebra. When
solving problems, the student could now focus more on setting up the problems and counting
the number of equations and unknowns rather than on doing the algebraic manipulation
required to get a numerical answer. Having
discovered the power of the computer, Professor discovered another tool called
Working Model. This was a dynamic
simulation program that could be used to help students in visualizing motion and
developing their intuition. Professor also
discovered the mysterious entity known as The WWW and he developed a webpage
for his class. And it was good. Thus ended the fifth day.
On the sixth day, Professor got together with other Professors and
discovered that many of the basic principles that made dynamics so beautiful also made
their subjects beautiful. They worked
together and completely rearranged the material in their courses to build a newly
developed course called Conservation and Accounting Principles that was used
as a prerequisite to all subsequent engineering science courses. And it was very good. Thus ended the sixth day.
On the seventh day Professor rested from teaching and wrote a paper
to tell others how he has changed the way he shares the beauty of dynamics, and more
importantly, how students are learning dynamics better.