Teaching resources

In preparing lessons, I often find useful resources for education and teaching. I’ll post highlights of them here for my own (and others’) convenience and reference. If you know of helpful resources, especially for physics classes, I’d be grateful if you’d leave them in the comments below!

My general advice for how to prepare for and write exams is posted here.

Tools

Clipgrab has been a reliable and useful tool for downloading YouTube videos for embedding into PowerPoint. There’s lots of tools out there for this, and this free one works well for me.

General physics

PhET is a great resource for interactive science demos/animations. One example I’ve used for physics: create a skateboard ramp and watch as the skateboarder moves according to the conservation of energy. Another favourite of mine is the photoelectric effect simulation.

You can download and use the demos offline, but you need to keep your Flash updated, which can be a hassle.

Science animations is a simple website, but some of its animations show concepts clearly. There is more math used than in PhET, but it should be useful for first-year undergraduates or upper year high school students.

NASA’s exoplanet-finding technique summary page & videos are interesting and informative. There are plenty of connections to first-year physics concepts.

Hyperphysics is a good resource for people learning physics. It assembles most physic topics into a concept cloud, which helps illustrate connected concepts. The aesthetic is very modest. It has mostly text, but also simple diagrams and figures that support each core idea.

Special Relativity

Relativity is a difficult concept to understand intuitively. It’s straight-forward to memorize the relevant equations and accept the seemingly-abstract assertion that time can move slower at high velocities. I like the simple animations in this post, which elucidate the lesson on special relativity by illustrating the relationship between light, time, and space.

John Norton’s webpage on Special Relativity

Energy

Most high school and first-year university physics classes discuss energy, and the idea that it isn’t created or destroyed. Energy is only changed from type to another. This isn’t always an easy concept for students to accept.

A fun way to explore this can be “Rube-Goldberg Machines”. These are overly-complicated machines that do something very simple. Here’s a few videos of interesting RGMs with plenty of transitions between various forms of energy:

I recommend making one yourself!

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