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Friday, March 30, 2012

Seven Resources for Teaching & Learning About Electricity

Last night I came home and discovered that my furnace had died. My house was about 45F so I got out my down-filled sleeping bag and my electric space heater. I can't plug in that space heater without thinking about two things; the increase in my electric bill and the possibility of starting an electrical fire. Then almost as if on cue this morning I saw a Tweet from Jen Deyenberg about Electrocity.

Electrocity is an online game that students can play to learn about electricity production and consumption. In the game students take on the role of mayor of a fictitious town. As the mayor the student has to manage the consumption and production of electricity for the town. At each turn the student is informed of whether or not you have successfully balanced consumption and production.

Squishy Circuits is a project developed at the University of St. Thomas for the purpose of creating tools that students can use to create circuits and explore electronics. Squishy Circuits uses Playdough-like to enable hands-on learning about conducting and insulating currents as well as creating circuits. The Squishy Circuits website provides directions for creating the dough and offers ideas for lessons using the dough. Watch this TED Talk for an explanation and demonstration of Squishy Circuits.

Hydro to Home is an interactive story of hydro-electric power from raindrops to homes. The story walks visitors through each step of the process of generating hydro-electric power and delivering to consumers' homes. The story is narrated and along the way there are interactive images that visitors can click on to learn even more information about hydro-electric power.

Engineering Interact is a site for elementary school students designed by the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Engineering Interact offers five games designed to teach students physics concepts. The games address concepts related to light, sound, motion, electricity, and space travel. Each of the five games presents students with a scenario in which they have to "help" someone solve a problem. The games require students to learn and analyze the information presented to them.

The Blobz Guide to Electric Circuits is a neat series of interactive animations designed to help students of elementary and middle school age learn how electric circuits work. There are five sections to the series. Each sections builds upon the lessons of the previous section. The series starts with the basics of what makes a circuit complete and concludes with diagramming and building circuits. Each section in the series has a few short lessons and is followed by an animated interactive activity to which students can apply what they have just learned.

The Great Energy Challenge is a National Geographic feature that offers some nice interactive posters for evaluating personal and global energy consumption. Global Electricity Outlook is an interactive display of electricity consumption across the globe. You can view the global picture or click on the map to view regional consumption. The display shows the means of electricity production globally and regionally. To see how shifting production sources would impact the world or a region use the sliders below the map. Read more about the Great Energy Challenge posters here.

The Physics Classroom is a great resource for high school Physics teachers and high school Physics students. The Physics Classroom was developed by Tom Henderson, a high school physics teacher since 1989. The Physics Classroom offers detailed tutorials on thirteen different physics topics including waves, electricity, Newton's laws, and vectors. In addition to the written tutorials, The Physics Classroom also offers more than 50 animations and 6 videos demonstrating physics concepts.