Fisica 2005 : a community portal for creation of educational material and its dissemination to italian high school physics teachers

Chiara Evangelista, Maria Santa Mennea, Franco Nuzzi, Antonietta Regano, Giuseppe Zito


On the occasion of the international year of Physics, we developed a physics community portal. The aim of this portal is to create online educational material on physics phenomena using an interactive site accessible to both high school teachers and students. We start by copying physics simulations freely available on Internet in a database (we use mysql on a linux machine). Then we create educational units, one for each of these simulations, so teachers can use them to clarify their explanations in the classroom. Each unit contains: a) a card addressed to teachers, in which the educational objectives are exposed; b) instructions to use the simulation; c) a guided path so that students can obtain physics laws, suitably varying the simulation parameters, as in a virtual laboratory; d) a card to verify the correct understanding, after visualizing the simulation.

The development of this curricular material is done using a new technology called Wiki. Wiki is a collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it: in this case all interested teachers can contribute to it. Moreover Wiki itself allows teachers to communicate online with each other, exchanging suggestions and informations.
Right now the site contains around one hundred simulations but has been built in such a way that can grow easily to contain up to a few hundred simulations. All the accumulated material can also be used offline without access to Internet, which is a big advantage considering that in our region many schools have poor Internet connections. This offline use can be done by downloading the online material to a cd-rom. Altough this can be done directly in schools by interested teachers, we preferred to start by creating a few hundred cd-roms and giving them free of charge to teachers during a short three-hours course that we organize from time to time. This course is done in a computer lab similar to what almost all schools already have. We show teachers how to use the cd-rom and how to contribute to the creation of the curricular units. This approach has been successful in disseminating the use of valuable Internet resources that were difficult to use and often completely unknown before, at least in the schools in our region.

The portal has been created to last and grow for many years with minimum effort needed for its maintenance. The original material developed is freely available for non commercial use, so we expect that, when our project will be known elsewhere in Italy, teachers from other regions will start to use it and collaborate to it.

The address of Fisica 2005 is: