The vignettes and materials presented here will help you understand how the Possible Worlds resources can be integrated with your existing approach to these topics. They are intended to help you make connections between the core mechanics of the games and the phenomena related to common scientific misconceptions.
Students must understand that electricity is different from matter, that it is a form of energy and therefore ephemeral but powerful.
Matter vs. Energy: What’s the difference?
Before introducing electricity, a teacher asks students to recall what they know about the structure of an atom. She reviews what they learned in a previous lesson about protons, neutrons, and electrons, and defines electricity as the movement of charge, in which electrical energy is pushed around via electrons. She pulls up a Possible Worlds PowerPoint slide called “Matter vs. Energy” to help clarify this distinction. She says that it is important for students to understand that it is not the electrons themselves that travel: Electricity is the movement of energy, not the movement of matter. Using the examples in the slide, she prompts students to think of additional instances of things that are made of matter, but that have the potential to release energy.
This slideshow focuses on the misconception about the analogy between electricity and water, and compares various objects to the types of energy they may contain. Slides 1 and 2 raise the question of where energy comes from, and explains that typically we don’t think about that beyond plugging a wire into an outlet. Slides 3–5 compare matter and energy and how they are related. The slideshow addresses the common analogy that electricity behaves like water, but that water (matter) and electricity (energy) are different, having very different properties. The slides do not explicitly state that matter is any substance that has mass and takes up space, while energy is not.
Most middle-school texts begin with a discussion of atomic structure, leaving students with the misconception that electricity is a form of matter.
While playing the game, students will observe that the monsters start out making sound, and that the sound is jumbled. The monsters must be properly connected in order for the music to be coherent. This is much like the way in which wires contain electrons, but they will transmit energy only when properly connected with a flow of charges caused by a difference of voltages.
Charge and Flow: If electricity isn't matter, how does it move?
A teacher begins a lesson by acknowledging that electricity is difficult to understand because it's so hard to visualize. He explains that teachers often compare the movement of electricity to water moving through a hose, but that this is misleading because electricity is a form of energy, rather than a substance like water. Then the teacher projects the Monster Music animation and has students complete the alignment puzzle. He elicits ideas about what has to happen for the monsters to create music; students articulate that the monsters have to align in a certain way in order to play together. The teacher explains how this alignment provides a way to visualize what has to happen for electricity to move. Finally, the teacher pulls up a Possible Worlds PowerPoint slide that illustrates how laughter is contagious. He explains that, like electricity, laughter is not a substance, but it flows from one person to the next. He invites students to think of other examples of non-substances that flow in this way, such as yawns.
The slideshow reinforces the notion of flow by contagion rather than by movement through space. It is intended as a support for the use of the music studio puzzle in the Monster Music game, and as an analogy for the idea of the flow of electrical charge or current. Slide 6 shows that each part has two opposite charges: Like charges repel each other, and unlike charges attract each other. Slide 7 shows that when charges are aligned, electricity flows. Slides 8–9 use the analogy of laughter being infectious as a way to describe energy moving. Laughter is not a substance, and neither is energy.
Usually a page or two of text is devoted to the movement of charges. Objects become charged when electrons are transferred to or away from them: opposite charges attract, like charges repel, and current is the flow of charges. Students may be left with the misconception that electrical current is the flow of electrons through initially "empty" wires.
While playing the game, students will observe that the monsters start out with each making its own sound, and that the sound is jumbled when listened to all together. The monsters must be properly connected in order for the music to be coherent. This is much like an electrical circuit, in that the parts alone do not do very much, but when properly connected, the whole is greater than the component parts and is able to do work.
A teacher conducts a lesson about how electricity has the power to affect material things, even though electricity is not matter. Energy, in this way, is greater than the sum of its parts. To communicate this, the teacher implements the Possible Worlds Stadium Cards Activity pdf After the students view the resulting picture of the dog, she points out that the cards have meaning only when they are properly aligned. She compares this to the alignment puzzle in Monster Music and how, individually, the monsters make meaningless sounds. When they are properly aligned, however, music emerges.Stadium Cards Activity pdf
The slideshow focuses on how something can be “more than the sum of its parts.” It shows how the meaning of a pattern adds a dimension that makes the expression of the pattern more than merely the sum of its individual elements. Slide 7 shows that when charges are aligned, electricity flows.
Most textbooks address the subtopic of pattern and alignment as part of a discussion of electrical circuits. Students may believe that a complete system is simply the sum of its individual components.
The game was not designed to illustrate electrical circuits, but students can be invited to use the circuit analogy implied in the circle of musicians to consider what elements are missing in the Music Studio puzzle that would make it a better analogy for an electrical circuit.
After both playing the game and learning about basic circuits, the students will observe that the game presents an incomplete analogy for a circuit. Conversation can reveal the strengths (that energy, not matter, causes the citizenry to work) and weaknesses (a real circuit contains a voltage source and a load, in addition to conductive connectors).
Among a teacher’s priorities during her electricity unit is that students learn how circuits work. At the beginning of a lesson, students use springboards to construct a simple circuit involving a lamp and a switch. Then the teacher projects the Monster Music alignment puzzle and calls on volunteers to complete it so that the monsters play music. The class discusses how the circle of monsters is similar to an electrical circuit. After creating a list of similarities, the discussion turns to ways in which the circle of monsters is not a good illustration of an electrical circuit.
Slide 10 shows that the movement of electric charges from one point to another is electrical current. The slide show does not cover circuits
There is usually a section of text that explains the basic components and functions of electrical circuits: (1) a circuit requires a source of energy, a load, and conductors; (2) a circuit must be closed for current to flow; and (3) circuits can be either in series or in parallel.