GIREP Conference Proceedings and Selected Contributions

Udine 1995

Proceedings of the GIREP-ICPE International Conference



Our life, technology and comfort depend strongly on materials we use. Beside the “classical” materials – like ionic crystals, conducting metals, common fluids, – we rely increasingly on “new” materials – man-designed semiconductors, superconductors, optical fibers, liquid crystals, smart materials. Devices commonly used by teenagers are based on the physical (structural, magnetic, electric, optical, thermal transport) properties of different types of condensed matter.

The education of modern citizens can no longer avoid bringing the modern technological environment into the classroom. But bringing the relevant knowledge to our young people presents multiform and important challenges to education. We must be careful in not giving up the valuable aspects of the teaching of science and of physics that, together with chemistry, is the most involved in the fundamental research on which the technological evolution is based. The students’ learning must take advantage of the most precious characteristics of good science teaching, based on direct experiences, rational reasoning, quantitative measurements and predictions based upon calculation. These, indeed, formed the scientific basis of the industrial revolution in the past and of the high tech revolution of today.

Although condensed matter science is as old as humankind, at the same time it is one of the most rapidly changing fields of scientific research and of technological application. On the one hand it involves fundamental concepts about the macroscopic and microscopic structure and behaviour of the world around us, on the other hand the task of teaching it effectively is made so more difficult because the topics are evolving day after day.

When we consider the entire span of the educational experiences from first childhood to adulthood we acknowledge the existence of a multitude of educational problems varying with age and level of schooling. By learning the fundamental properties ofmatter and of familiar everyday materials at the primary level children can start to build at an early age the understanding that later will allow them to comprehend the properties and implications of modern applications. At all school levels the educational problem requires singling out the appropriate cultural knots, ranging from how to build categories of matter that are usable starting points for further conceptual development, to how to link macroscopic properties to microscopic structure in a way that is useful for understanding the behaviour of matter in particular situations, to how to use the theoretical knowledge for producing new technological innovations.

Thus we can say that the introduction of the educational contents concerning condensed matter and materials into the teaching context actually occurs at three levels of schooling, all of which deserve careful consideration although the highest levels may concern only a small percentage of the population.

1) At the primary level learning to understand the macroscopic properties of matter is a meaningful fust approach to simple investigations in science and allows the children to make sense of plentiful happenings and phenomena concerning familiar, everyday objects. This requires that teachers be aware of the pupils’ cognitive problems and learning difficulties, that they be able to choose the best strategies for inducing conceptual changes from naive and common-sense ideas to a more rational and scientific view and the methods and resources most appropriate to young children.

2) In the secondary school there is an urgent need of updating the contents of scientific and technological subjects in order to make the general public aware of the bases and implications of the developments bearing on everybody’s lives. Here the problems concern how to introduce the necessary classical concepts and eventually how much and what of the quantum ideas. The teacher must be aware of which scientific foundations and cultural instruments will be most useful to his or her students. He or she must be able to make the appropriate methodological choices for teaching the theoretical and experimental aspects and for helping the students make connections between the two. Another choice concerns to what depth and extent we should teach about the technological implications and the scientific research methods.

3) In higher education flexible and updated specialistic courses must be organized in science and in

engineering. The approaches, contents, activities (lectures, problem solving sessions, practical labs), didactical materials (simulations, videos, films, experimental apparatus), must be decided, as much as the emphasis given to teclmological issues according to the particular educational context (whether chemical, physical, technological, medical, etc.).

At all levels of education appropriate teaching strategies can be proposed and discussed and prototypes of integration of the purely theoretical with the experimental aspects can be examined in the light of the cognitive problems emerged from research on physics education in recent years. We can also explore the roles and potentialities of new technologies in teaching – computers, audio- visuals, multimedia] systems.

These are the reasons underlying the call for the GIREP-ICPE Conference on “Teaching the Science of Condensed Matter and New Materials” in August 1995 in Udine (Italy), from which the materials for this book were originated.
The book collects a selection of the papers presented at the Conference, chosen with the help of the Conference Advisory Committee. Here the reader will find not only an update on research methods and results ex special events.

Browsing tlu·ough the pages of the book the reader will find many papers on teaching at different school levels: 8 on primary education, 37 on secondary education, 38 on undergraduate education and 18 on teacher training. 8 papers give suggestions on how to perfmm experimental work in schools using sensors based on the properties of matter. Other suggestions for practical work include short experiments and demos. The reader will find contributions linking science to technology and society from the SIS point of view. Other papers contribute updatings on research in mate1ial science and technology and on its cultural implications (8), on the theoretical approaches to condensed matter studies (6) and to the development of new materials (5), on advanced topics and applications of condensed matter science (9) as concerns the undergraduate education of specialistic students.

The Conference progranune and the abstracts of all the presented papers are available in English on the World Wide Web at the site:

In releasing the book to the public the Editors are confident that it will be useful to schoolteachers, teacher trainers, researchers in science education and to scientists interested in the fallout in education of the results of fundamental research. Its interest and usefulness will be our best rewards.

Udine, November 1996

Davide Cobai Marisa Michelini Silvia Pugliese Jona

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Braga 1993

Proceedings of the GIREP International Conference



This Volume contains the texts of the invited plenary lectures and those of the workshop reports.
A selection of contributed papers – oral presentations and posters – is also presented.

Unfortunately a few texts of the plenary lectures and workshops could not be published, as their authors were unable to produce the manuscripts in due time.
The Conference has brought together about 150 participants, specially teachers of Physics from the various levels of Education. They had the opportunity and the privilege to attend 13 invited lectures, followed by general discussion, in each session.

The open lecture, entitled ” Physics and Fine Art”, presented by Brian Davies, from the Institute of Physics, London, was also attended by the general public, in particular by members of local Museums and Art Galleries.
The 10 Workshops, distributed along the five days of the Conference, were highly interesting and well participated.

The Medal for Education, awarded by the International Commission of Physics Education of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, was presented to Dr. Nahum Joel, this being a special moment of the Conference.

We acknowledge the generosity of our sponsors and we thank to the invited speakers, workshop leaders and the other- authors, for their efforts in presenting their contributions compiled in this Volume.

The Editors

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Torun 1991

Proceedings of the GIREP-ICPE-UNESCO International Conference



This volume contains texts of the invited plenary lectures and a selection of contributions presented at the International GIREP’91 Conference on “Teaching about Reference Frames: from Copernicus to Einstein” held at the Nicholas Copernicus University, Torurl, Poland from August 19-24.

The conference brought together about 200 persons, mainly teachers of physics repre- senting all educational levels, ranging from primary schools to universities, coming to Torun, the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, from all the five continents. They had the opportunity to attend twelve plenary lectures and two open lectures, and to present their own ideas and contributions during the workshop and poster sessions. Additional educational exhibitions were also organized. The location of the Conference provided the opportunity to visit the house where Nicolaus Copernicus was born on February 19, 1473, as well as the biggest Polish Astronomical and Radioastronomical Observatories at Piwnice near Torun. The English edition of Nicolaus Copernicus “On the Revolutions” – Book One had been specially prepared for the Conference.

The focus of the Conference was on different aspects of developing, introducing and understanding the basic concepts concerning reference frames from Copernicus to Einstein with a special attention to the present state of the art in educational approaches.
Reference frames, the subject of this Conference, presents one of the central problems in physics and is at the same time one of the most difficult concepts to be defined precisely. Today when technology is being pushed to the limit there is a particular need for teaching fundamen- tal physics in an unambiguous way. The conference revealed various efforts and attempts in this direction. We hope these proceedings may be useful as guidelines for many teachers dealing with reference frames at different levels, since as it can be seen in the present volume the Conference was structured into several subfields ranging from relatively simple to quite sophisticated ones.

We benefited very much from the efforts of the invited speakers, the workshop leaders and the other contributors to make the conference presentations as “didactical” as possible. Special thanks are due to the authors of the manuscripts compiled in this volume.

In the almost 30 years’ tradition of the GIREP biennial conferences this was the first meeting which took place in Poland. It was the late Professor Grzegorz Bialkowski’s idea to organize such a meeting in Poland. In order to honour his memory we have included one of his lectures related to the conference topics as a separate item in the present volume.

During the closing session of this Conference the President of the IUPAP International Commission on Physics Education has announced that the ICPE Medal of Education in 1991 had been awarded to the International Physics Olympiad. The idea of the Physics Olympiad came up in Prague in 1965, at the conference of the Czecho-Slovakian Physical Society, in a discussion among Rotislav Kostial (Brno), Rudolf Kunfalvi (Budapest), Czeslaw Scislowski (Warszawa). Czeslaw Scislowski organized the 1st Olympiad in Warszawa in 1967, with Bulgaria, Czecho-Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Romania participating.

The Conference was financially supported by the International Research Group on Physics Education – GIREP , the International Commission on Physics Education of IUP AP , UNESCO, the Ministry of National Education of Poland, and the Nicholas Copernicus University. The support is gratefully acknowledged.

We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Robert Gajewski for his onerous word processing work.

The Editors

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