This post offers some background to an interactive teaching session delivered in B226 on November 10th.
The topic of the session was the flow of fluids through pipes, and the main objective was for students to gain an understanding of how different parameters (pipe length/diameter, fluid density/viscosity etc.) affect the flow of the liquid. The effect of each parameter can be determined by working through a series of equations; but it was decided that as an introduction it would be better if students could get faster feedback. By removing the equations students could focus on understanding rather than procedures, and the process of exploration would be faster.
To this end Geoff Grenyer approached the Technology Enhanced Learning Team, with the desire for a simulation (Geoff had previously worked with the team in creating a 3D simulation of a piece of experimental equipment used at Markeaton Street). By providing clear requirements of what was to be simulated, the parameters that could be changed, and an idea of how it might look, the creation process was relatively simple. As is typical, it followed a cycle of prototyping followed by gathering feedback/addressing questions raised.
The final result is shown below:
The simulation offers a simple and intuitive interface where adjustments having an immediate effect. Each parameter has its own section, with visual cues to help reinforce their meanings, and a graphical approximation of velocity and turbulence is included in the bottom left corner. Students can also peek behind the curtain to see the equations (which instantly update when any values are changed), and a representation of a graphing process that they would need to follow in order to determine the answer themselves.
In the session, delivered in KR B226, students were divided into groups to explore the simulation. They were tasked with adjusting one parameter at a time, and producing a graph of its effect (in some cases followed by log graphs and gradient calculations). At the end of the session groups shared their findings with the class and discussed the implications. Overall feedback was good, and the learning objectives were met.
On balance, the majority of interactive learning materials produced by the TEL team are for students to use away from the classroom, but there are some very successful examples of in-class use – such as the virtual festival, virtual workplace, quarry simulation, and Globe theater. If you can identify any opportunities in your own teaching then we’d love to hear them.