Physics and Astronomy
SCEN 102: Physical Science
Harry Shipman
December 12, 2001

Harry Shipman

Developing an e-Lab

Harry Shipman doesn't walk in anybody's shadow. But he does teach UD students the importance of shadows in understanding seasons.

To help his students understand why we have seasons,Shipman, Physics & Astronomy, developed an interactive, problem-based e-lab, framing the concepts in authentic experience -- a criminal investigation that requires an understanding of shadows and their positions during different seasons. This e-lab, delivered via MyCourses, combines the collaborative technologies of a course management system with original multimedia content (video, animation).

"I had an idea for simply videotaping an introduction to the lab, but conversations with Janet de Vry and Justin Schakelman (staff of PRESENT) gave me the idea to add the PBL component to the exercise," says Shipman.

Replete with resources, pop-up video, engaging content, and a crime scene drama readily available, students systematically explore the concepts of The Shadows of Light.

Using photographs of the "suspect," students must determine whether the shadows in the pictures support the suspect's story. In addition to the evidence, students have tools to learn about how a shadow can pinpoint location and season. An interactive flashlight lets students explore this concept on the Web.

"My purpose in producing this e-lab was to permit the TA's to do what they are good at -- working with the students one on one -- and to let videotape do what the TA's would valiantly struggle with, namely setting this lab in context."

Previously, lab TAs tried to introduce the topic of the seasons to their students through a traditional 5- to 10-minute introduction. In addition to handling multiple lab sections, only a minority of Shipman's TAs are astronomers.Some were brought up in

countries that do not have seasons like ours (like Costa Rica, which has a rainy season from June through December and a dry season from January until June).

"Data from an evaluation done after my students had done the lab but before the end of the course in spring 2001 showed a strong correlation between student understanding of the seasons and TA background."

Students visit an online pre-lab and post-lab before and after the in-class portion of the lab. By enriching the pre- and post-laboratory experiences through an online medium, the students become more connected to the in-class portion of the lab.

"My hope is that all students will develop an understanding of why we have seasons."

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Can you tell if this man is in Newark or Cancun? In addition to learning why we have seasons, students learn to establish time and location by the appearance of shadows.