Interactive Journey through PhysicsWalter Kalceff
Department of Applied Physics, University of Technology, Sydney
Although this package is designed for use by students at an introductory tertiary physics level, it contains numerous simulations, animations and video clips that also make an excellent resource for lecture demonstrations and tutorial discussions. Each topic is provided with review problems in a variety of formats to cater for the different learning styles of individual students, and a plain-text log file can (optionally) be saved to monitor progress. Very useful features of Interactive Journey through Physics (IJTP) are the scientific calculator (with a "Constants" pop-up menu for common values such as the electron charge, etc.) and a built-in spreadsheet.
The material is presented in four modules: Mechanics; Thermodynamics; Electricity & Magnetism; and Light & Optics, each beginning with an overview video clip of a "talking head" introducing the physics content to be covered. Units within a module also contain an overview video, highlighting some interesting application of the concepts covered in the unit. Finally, topics within units begin with a topic review (consisting of rather uninspiring text/diagrams in a scrollable window), and generally proceed to animations, videos, simulations, problems and MCAT questions. (Australian users of IJTP may wonder about MCAT - this is the Association of American Medical Colleges Medical College Admission Test.)
The topics covered are standard to most junior physics courses, but it is disappointing that there is no mention of Kirchoff's laws, Thévènin's theorem and ac circuits. The material presented is engaging and accurate, with the videos, simulations and problems (with solutions) bringing physics to life in a way that a textbook cannot rival.
IJTP can only be run (in 640x480 mode!) from the CD-ROM, the installation program copies a "shortcut" to the executable file and there is no "uninstall" feature. The package requires QuickTime, but the version provided is very outdated; accidentally installing it over a later version on my PC made the program inoperable, with any attempt to open it resulting in the dreaded "blue screen of death".
Navigating through IJTP can be frustrating. For instance, there is no "next" arrow (only "previous"), and videos, animations, problems and so on, could do with more descriptive names than Animation 1, Animation 2, etc. Clicking on a video button opens the video player, but another mouse click is required to play it. Text is sometimes obscured on screen by other text or figures.
In summary, although I have no doubts that Interactive Journey through Physics is a very useful teaching aid, I could not recommend its purchase until the very clumsy interface is updated to match modern expectations.
Pearson Education is happy to offer technical advice for this product. Contact your local Pearson representative or call (02) 9454 2384.]
UniServe Science News Volume 15 March 2000
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