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GCSE Physics Concepts

  1. Published by Physconcepts

  2. KS 4 (Years 10 & 11)

  3. Physics

KS4 Content Evaluation by Pam Large

The CD-ROM contains simulations of three classic Physics practicals used to illustrate Hooke's Law, Boyle's Law and Ohm's Law. There is also an animated plane that can be used to show the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces.

The software is designed to be used by the teacher to focus pupils' attention during a practical lesson. It can also be used by individual students as an alternative to practical work. Each of the three simulations incorporates a model of the apparatus, a graph of the results and the equation that links the input and outcome variables. The Boyle's Law simulation is designed around the Philip Harris apparatus that most schools use for demonstrations, and the Ohm's Law resources would work with any 'clip together' circuit components.

The layout of the display is bright and uncluttered against a white background. By clicking a button at the side of the screen, the user can increase the value of the input variable a step at a time. Each time the button is clicked, the readings on the apparatus change, the graph plots the next point and the equations change size to show the proportionalities of the two variables. This is very well done and really helps to clarify the relationship between each pair of variables tested.

An added feature with the Ohm's Law simulation is the use of a plumbing analogy to help pupils understand why there is a proportional relationship between the two variables. Clicking a button at the side of the screen changes the circuit diagram into a circuit of water pipes. A pump replaces the battery, a flowmeter replaces the ammeter and a pressure meter replaces the voltmeter. It is also possible to change the resistance in the circuit to see the effect this has on the gradient of the graph.

The animated plane has arrows for the four forces acting on it. Each of them can be made the resultant force to make the plane head off in the appropriate direction, accompanied by an appealing sound effect. This is very simple but fun to use. It really gets a key point over well and would also be useful at Key Stage 3 as a resource for unit 7K of the QCA Scheme of Work for Year 7, 'Forces and their Effects'.
Supporting Documentation
This is excellent and comes on top quality paper in a useful display folder. It contains installation instructions, a contents guide, student worksheets for each simulation and teacher's answer sheets for each exercise. There are different versions to support students using the simulation to get results and those doing the experiments with standard laboratory apparatus. There are also links to related websites. All the worksheets are in Word format on the CD-ROM, and can be downloaded from the dedicated website at They are copyright-free and can be customised to suit individual classes.
Technical Support
There is a dedicated email address, However, the software is incredibly simple to use and install, so it is hard to imagine technical support being needed. A test email brought a response within the hour.

Curriculum Relevance
Purpose of the Program
The software is designed to focus pupils' attention on the whiteboard when the teacher is introducing or summing up whole-class practical lessons on Ohm's Law, Boyle's Law and Hooke's Law. It could also be used by individual students as an alternative to practical work.
Each of the topics is covered in Double Science GCSE courses. The Hooke's Law simulation could also be used at Key Stage 3 as a resource for unit 7K of the QCA Scheme of Work for Year 7, 'Forces and their Effects'. With their emphasis on the relationships between variables, each simulation could also be used with classes completing lessons 1 to 5 of the Cognitive Acceleration through Science Education (CASE) Program.
The simulations are designed to support four specific lessons.The Ohm's Law and Hooke's Law simulations are substantial enough to allow a whole lesson to be built around them. The animated plane is very versatile and is a useful visual aid for teaching about balanced and unbalanced forces at any level.

Analysis of Contents
This is just the sort of resource that whiteboard users need. Each simulation in the collection provides a powerful illustration of the relationship between the variables involved. Its use should empower the teacher to make the relevent learning objectives more attainable for students who struggle to see the connection between graphs and equations. The software is written in Macromedia Director with some Flash incorporated and is extremely well presented. I particularly liked the way the simulation left the user free to modify the way the lesson was presented. A series of PowerPoint slides could do the same job but might impose a more rigid order on the lesson.
The quality of the content is excellent. The images are uncluttered and fill the whole screen. The font sizes are sensible and the text is kept to a minimum. The software does not allow the questions to be edited or keep track of the answers given.

The clarity with which the practical results are related to the graph and equation in each simulation should make these topics accessible to the full range of abilities. The software empowers the teacher but doesn't direct the progress of the lesson, so it leaves them free to differentiate tasks and questions to suit the needs of the particular class. The worksheets provided can be edited and students with a high level of visual impairment could use them with a screen reader.

The CD-ROM provides superb simulations of three standard physics practicals used to illustrate Hooke's Law, Boyle's Law and Ohm's Law. It also includes a nifty animated plane that can be used to show the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces. It is designed to be used with an interactive whiteboard and has a simple but visually appealling format which really works. The Ohm's Law simulation is particularly useful. As a button is clicked to increase the voltage, the ammeter reading changes; a graph of voltage against current plots, and the equation changes size to reflect the new values of the variables. One button press changes the resistor value and another turns the circuit diagram into an analogous water circuit.

KS4 Classroom Evaluation by Wayne Armstrong

Installation & Access
The software was installed to the designated machine with no problems and worked without the need for the CD-ROM to be present. Uninstalling the program proved just as trouble free as loading. The program loaded quickly and without any complications every time the software was used.

Planning Classroom Use
What This Product Offers
The program is designed for use with an interactive whiteboard, although I used the software mainly with just a projector. It gives the pupils the opportunity to have a go at answering questions which have immediate feedback that is not from the teacher. The questions are quite well ordered in terms of differentiation and provide an instant plenary activity if the software is used in that way. The visual representation of how the emphasis in the equation changes the results is also very helpful for certain pupils who find it difficult to visualise what is happening. The clarity of the diagrams also helps them to set up experiments themselves and could be used as an introduction to those particular experiments.

Purpose of Using This Product
In the lessons in which I used the software the emphasis was on Forces and Balancing Forces and I therefore used one of the four situations modelled by the software. I used the other scenarios in a small revision group over several lunchtimes to bring on pupils who had missed or struggled with the work taught in previous lessons.

The questions in each section become more difficult as you go further through them. It is also possible to alter the copyright-free worksheets to differentiate them yourself. The writing is kept to a minimum in the context of the scenarios so that visual learners can benefit from the clear diagrams which contrast well with the white background.

Classroom Experience
Classroom Organisation
In the lessons I used a laptop computer with the software installed attached to a data projector. The software was used in the last 15 minutes of the lessons to act as a plenary activity. The class all had copies of the accompanying worksheet and had small whiteboards and pens so I could see how many had picked up the right ideas.

When the small group used the software in the help/revision session, it was on the laptop with another RGB screen attached so that all could see a screen clearly. They then took it in turns to be the mouse controller and work through the software with a little extra tuition from myself.

Context of Use
I used the software away from the lesson for about one hour prior to using it within the classroom. I used this time to look through the areas, and to slightly alter a worksheet to add a couple of questions based on the main bulk of the lesson I was teaching to ensure total compatability.

In the formal lesson the group were consolidating their ideas on balanced and unbalanced forces and the software was used as a plenary activity with a projector. The scenario used comes with ten questions provided which made up the basis of the plenary activity.

The revision sessions used two of the three other situations - one session was used to aid some pupils who were struggling with Physics coursework and needed to look at Ohm's Law and relate this to their experiment. The other was the Hooke's Law practical which was used to show how equations work and how we can make up relationships for situations which result in equations being formed.

Ease of Use - Design & Navigation
The software is extremely simple to use and navigate around. There is a support email available but I would be very surprised if it was used for help working through the software itself.

Monitoring & Assessment
In the lesson the pupils found the diagram and the interactive questions novel and paid attention as it was seen as a new style of plenary. They liked the way they all had the opportunity to use the whiteboards to give their answers and then could mark and write in the correct answers to their worksheets from the feedback given by the software. These were then collected in and marked. The software has no way of remembering or logging the pupils' scores and the questions are fixed and appear in the same sequence each time.

Feedback from Pupils and Other Staff
The software could be replicated using presentation software, which would require a substantial amount of time. The program was clear and allowed access to all pupils.

Ease of Use
The software is simple to use and shows very clear examples of the situations it is designed to help teach about. The graphics and text are very useful to help show the dynamics of the experiments on the equations and are particularly good for data projector or interactive whiteboard users. The ability to download the worksheets in Word format and edit them helped in making them totally appropriate for the individual lesson.

Classroom Experience
The software was used to help summarise and assess pupils studying Forces at Key Stage 4, particularly Balanced and Unbalanced Forces. I used the scenario of the aeroplane as a plenary activity to help assess how well the pupils had learned during the course of the lesson and previous lesson. The other scenarios were used with small groups in revision and extra help sessions. This aided them in coursework and to generally understand graphs and equation relationships.