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physicsLast spring, Jim Kernohan (science faculty) introduced his students to a new learning tool. Raytheon’s Learning Platform—intelligent tutoring software—provides customized guidance to students in real time, as they master physics concepts at their own pace. After this week’s exams, Class IV physics students will begin studying circuits and electrostatics, and the Learning Platform will be part of the experience.

“I’m always looking for new tools that help teachers introduce a concept,” says Jim. After hearing about the Learning Platform through a physics instructors’ group, he assigned problems through the program as homework.

Raytheon originally developed the Learning Platform for the U.S. Office of Naval Research STEM Grand Challenge, where the goal was to create adaptive, intelligent systems to teach and promote science, technology, engineering and math. The company has since begun donating the software to high school physics departments across the country.

What makes this simulation program unique, says Jim, is that it provides immediate and timely feedback, tailored to each individual student. It asks the user questions and, based on their answers, generates the next problem at the appropriate level, along with instructive feedback. Having earned a great response from students last year, Jim plans on using the technology again this spring.

Jim and his colleagues are eager to have students understand that “physics is everywhere, and that it’s not limited to equations.” At the end of the spring semester, Class IV students choose a concept on which they want to focus in the final weeks of class. Jim leads a project in astronomy, in which students look for evidence of a planet around a distant star. Brad Moriarty launches a bridge building project; Linnea Engstrom concentrates on circuits; and Tom Sando instructs on kinetic energy, working with students to build and test slingshots.

“This project is a great way to end the year, because students get to choose an area of interest, and they also have a chance to work with a different teacher, and different classmates,” says Jim.