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Debora M. Katz
United States Naval Academy
Annapolis, MD
Physics is the fundamental science.
People use the scientific method to examine
and discover the truths of the universe.
Put poetically,
physics illuminates the darkness
0. It’s a requirement.
1. We live in a high-tech
world so we need to
understand technology.
2. Physics is a tough course
t...
My view

My students’
• Dogmatic
• Devoid of the

human element
• Does NOT
include stories
• No mistakes, no
missteps, no
debate
•In the broadest sense, a case study is an

educational story that is traditionally used
in medicine, business and law edu...
A student is in the role of a historical
scientist, exploring the process by
which great discoveries were made or
new tech...
In the middle of the 18th century, people loved to play with
electricity in their homes, but most people thought that
ligh...
•Benjamin Franklin thought otherwise.

He believed that lightning was a colossal
electrical spark just like the small spar...
• As people started

building taller structures, those
structures became more likely targets of lightning
strikes, causing...
Franklin published the following recommendations for
lightning rods in Poor Richard’s Almanac (1753):
1.Just outside each ...
The third point—the shape of the top of the rod—was
controversial. Franklin recommended that a pointed
lightning rod be us...
In order for air to break down and become a conductor,
the electric field in the air must be 3 × 106 N/C. Let’s
assume tha...
Professor Katz,

I am really glad you enjoyed my project! It's one of the few things I did

right in the many technical co...
Using Historical Case Studies in
Introductory Physics
1.
2.
3.

Stealing God’s Thunder, Philip Dray
2005
Make to Stick, Ch...
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Using Historical Case Studies in Introductory Physics

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Recording date: 10/24/13
Presenter: Deb Katz

In this webinar, we will discuss the use of historical case studies in introductory physics. We'll also cover the characteristics of highly motivated students and what we can do to motivate our introductory physics students.

In the broadest sense, a case study is an educational story that is traditionally used in medicine, business and law education. Case studies may be woven into traditional teaching pedagogy or developed for contemporary project-based methods. A student working through a case study is in the role of practitioner.

Watch Deb Katz, Physics Professor at the United States Naval Academy webinar, to learn how she creates immediate relevance in her course to motivate and engage students to succeed in her course and throughout their education.

Published in: Education, Technology
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Using Historical Case Studies in Introductory Physics

  1. 1. Debora M. Katz United States Naval Academy Annapolis, MD
  2. 2. Physics is the fundamental science. People use the scientific method to examine and discover the truths of the universe.
  3. 3. Put poetically, physics illuminates the darkness
  4. 4. 0. It’s a requirement. 1. We live in a high-tech world so we need to understand technology. 2. Physics is a tough course that is used to weed us out.
  5. 5. My view My students’
  6. 6. • Dogmatic • Devoid of the human element • Does NOT include stories • No mistakes, no missteps, no debate
  7. 7. •In the broadest sense, a case study is an educational story that is traditionally used in medicine, business and law education. •Case studies may be woven into traditional teaching pedagogy or developed for contemporary project-based methods. •A student working through a case study is in the role of practitioner.
  8. 8. A student is in the role of a historical scientist, exploring the process by which great discoveries were made or new technologies were invented.
  9. 9. In the middle of the 18th century, people loved to play with electricity in their homes, but most people thought that lightning was another phenomenon altogether— explosions of atmospheric gas, something like the explosions of gunpowder.
  10. 10. •Benjamin Franklin thought otherwise. He believed that lightning was a colossal electrical spark just like the small sparks people found so amusing. •Franklin collected charge from his flying kite in a Leyden jar. •Franklin showed that a Leyden jar charged by clouds produced all the same effects as Leyden jars charged in the home. •So he concluded that lightning is an electrical phenomenon, like a giant spark.
  11. 11. • As people started building taller structures, those structures became more likely targets of lightning strikes, causing fires, destroying property and lives. Once Franklin understood that lightning was a giant spark, he invented a way to protect against lightning strikes—the lightning rod.
  12. 12. Franklin published the following recommendations for lightning rods in Poor Richard’s Almanac (1753): 1.Just outside each building an iron rod should be planted three to four feet in the moist ground. 2.The rod should extend 6 to 8 feet above the tallest part of the structure. 3.On top of the rod should be a foot of brass wire sharpened to a fine point, like a knitting needle.
  13. 13. The third point—the shape of the top of the rod—was controversial. Franklin recommended that a pointed lightning rod be used, but another scientist, Benjamin Wilson, recommended a blunt-end lightning rod. The Royal Society of London was asked to evaluate the recommendations and decide which would make a better device. Your goal in this case study is to decide between Franklin’s lightning rod and Wilson’s.
  14. 14. In order for air to break down and become a conductor, the electric field in the air must be 3 × 106 N/C. Let’s assume that in order for a lightning rod to work, the electric field at its surface must equal that breakdown electric field. Calculate the amount of charge on the surface of each conductor. The one with the least amount of charge is the better design, because a smaller amount of charge on the surface of the conductor means a smaller amount of charge travels through the air.
  15. 15. Professor Katz, I am really glad you enjoyed my project! It's one of the few things I did right in the many technical courses here at the Academy lol I really did love doing it and I hope your students have enjoyed working on their projects also! … I hope all is well! You are a great teacher and your students are lucky to have you as a Professor! Very Respectfully, Michelle
  16. 16. Using Historical Case Studies in Introductory Physics 1. 2. 3. Stealing God’s Thunder, Philip Dray 2005 Make to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath 2007 Science Teaching: The Role of History and Philosophy of Science, Michael R. Matthews 1994 (2000) Debora Katz Physics Department United States Naval Academy Annapolis, MD 21402 dkatz@usna.edu http://www.usna.edu/Users/physics/dkatz/

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