Following up on the Transformative Learning Grant in Physics

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Secaur readies the camera for the demonstration.
Transformative Learning Grants are provided to faculty members through an application process to enable them to make a visible, adaptable change to their classroom teaching processes.

Jon Secaur, a recipient of a grant in 2009, recently reported back to the Office of the Provost on the classroom tools now in use in the Department of Physics that are available thanks to the grant.

To understand how the Transformative Learning Grant transformed into physical improvements to benefit students, Secaur thought it might be helpful to describe an example of how the equipment purchased with the grant enables students to be more visually engaged with their classes.

The central issue is that the Department of Physics holds large lecture classes in the Planetarium, which Secaur calls a mixed blessing. The expansive dome overhead makes a fine projection surface, but the control console and the pedestal housing the star projector make it difficult for students to see what happens in the front of the room.

The grant was written to improve the Seven Ideas That Shook the Universe course, but the new equipment installed as a result of the grant serves students in all classes that meet in the Planetarium.

The point of one of the key lessons in that class is that as the distance from a lens to the subject of a photo decreases, the distance from the lens to the film or digital sensor increases. The camera lens must move outward to accomplish that. But, the challenge is in how to show movement of less than an inch to a large class.

The overhead camera purchased through the grant zooms in close to the camera. The room is equipped with two large plasma displays in the front of the room and on the dome.

From the back of the room, the camera shown in the demonstration is blocked by the pedestal where the star projector is stored. The huge image of the demonstration, though, is visible to all as it is projected on the dome.

Now, anchored to the ceiling of the room, above the faculty member’s head is a remotely controlled camera that is at the heart of the new system. There is also the plasma monitor in the front of the room for the benefit of students who sit in that area. A touch screen panel now controls all the equipment necessary for the presentation; a control box for the overhead camera is mounted just below the panel for easy access to all the necessary tools to conduct the demonstrations.

The grant also provided for the installation of a second ethernet cable under the floor to give the touch panel its own reliable connection.

For more information about the Transformative Learning Grants, contact the Office of the Provost at 330-672-2220 or go to .

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