Students generally have various preconceptions or alternative conceptions about the concepts of electric and magnetic fields some of which may differ from accepted scientific explanations. Engelhardt & Beichner (2004) conducted research into students’ understanding of electrical circuits and found that “students tend to hold many misconceptions”. Among some of the misconceptions that students possess about electric circuits according to Engelhardt & Beichner (2004) are:
The students view current as traveling around the circuit and that each component in the electric circuit influences the current so that when a change is made at any particular point to a component, that change will not affect the current until it gets to that point. They view the battery as being a source of constant current rather than as a source of constant supply of energy;
They view circuit diagrams as something that is made up of different pipes connected together with fluids flowing through them and the fluid is regarded as electricity;
Students view current as being consumed in a circuit.
Since teachers use various analogies in explaining the concepts of electric circuits, students develop further misconceptions from the analogies. This is a challenge because teachers have to also deal with any misconceptions that could arise from such analogies.
For a full list of the misconceptions, see Engelhardt & Beichner (2004).
One of the ways proposed to tackle these misconceptions is to develop various teaching strategies and tools that will enable the learners to create acceptable mental models of the concepts. Over the years there has been continued research into the use of technology in the teaching and learning environment with various governments investing hugely into technology for use in classrooms. For example, in South Africa the government is investing in the purchase of hardware and software for use in schools which started with the e-learning initiative of 2004 as described in the White Paper on e-Education titled “Transforming Learning and Teaching through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)”. Also in the developed countries such as the United States, Japan, China, United Kingdom and elsewhere, there is evidence that the government is investing in technology with the hope of getting an improved performance from the learners.
It is now common practice to see multimedia resources being used in the teaching and learning of Physical Science. As there is an increased access to technology in the classrooms and schools, the challenges of using these technologies continue to increase and more teachers are seeking ways of incorporating these tools into their classroom. The teaching tool will be developed using the principles of instructional design.
The work is to be guided by the following critical questions:
• What is the teacher’s pedagogical knowledge of technology and the use thereof?
• What is the teacher’s content knowledge while teaching electric and magnetic fields?
• What are the conditions necessary for the students to learn electric & magnetic fields from multimedia, i.e. how do the students learn and interact with the teacher and technology?
• What is the effect of using multimedia to teach electric & magnetic fields?
• What role does teacher identity play in the choice and use of technology for teaching electric and magnetic fields?
The framework being proposed is pedagogical content knowledge in communities of practice. A community of practice in this case refers to a group of science teachers with a common purpose.
The research will make use of varied methods in collecting data for the study. The research methods being proposed are interview, observation, design experiments and quasi-experimental. Data collected will be analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively.
The significance of this study is to find ways of incorporating technology into the classroom with the hope that the students’ performance will improve after the use of the technology tools for teaching them.