As widely recognized, basic academic education is of paramount importance for further human being development. In most third world countries, science teaching in k-12 and high schools needs to improve (see PISA scores). Science teachers formation also lack quality and quantity.
We are developing an effort to help initial and continued formation of Science teachers, introducing and helping them to use technology as pedagogical tools. We also make efforts to disseminate Science, with special emphasis to optics, among high school students.

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Group of students attending first year class on Introductory Physics at Physics Department, UFPE.

I am responsible for producing the first course in experimental physics using Augmented Reality (in portuguese: Física Experimental usando Realidade Aumentada - FERA) which uses the Labcam software for experiments in the sciences of nature and its technologies. The work is being conducted in partnership with André Luis Mota Vilela, Assistant Professor at the University of Pernambuco.

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The teaching of physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology is a real challenge to be overcome by teachers. Much of the difficulty in learning these disciplines are related to the length of content and its high degree of abstraction. A successful alternative to circumvent these problems, able to captivate and draw the attention of students is to conduct experiments in the classroom. These activities assist in the understanding of content and more elaborate concepts, motivating students in a collective practice.

However, the practice in the classroom shows that, both in higher education and in basic education, there is a lack of teaching material (components and equipment for experiments), and even when there is sufficient, lack adequate training to teachers, especially in primary education. In the specific case of physics, regardless of the course or Bachelor's Degree is the most basic cycles laboratories in these courses, in our country, is precarious: a few benches (usually 4 or more students per bench doing experiments); obsolete equipment, lack of material consumption and, in general, lack of proper support of a laboratory technician. Recalling further that these laboratories meet with their experimental subjects, disciplines students for initial training and courses in engineering, chemistry, industrial chemistry, among others.

Changes - and improvements - important happen on occasion. For example, the DF-UFPE, in the early '80s there was a "revolution" in the laboratory of Experimental Physics I, when they were introduced digital timers (timers replacing manual). At that time, the penultimate decade of the XX Century, the cost-benefit ratio indicated that it was more interesting to build the whole apparatus for the detection and capture of data than buying ready. However, teachers trained to teach in public and private schools of the state not found in 95% of cases, laboratories where they could put into practice just a little of we saw at the University. In the beginning of the century, now in its second decade, the DF-UFPE and many other courses in the country still offer Physics courses with experimental data acquisition equipment of the twentieth century.

A window of opportunity arises, exploiting augmented reality (AR) which is the integration of information virtual view of the real world (through webcam). Here in Pernambuco we offer a unique opportunity to train teachers for physics classes (besides chemistry, biology and mathematics). The state government has provided to the students of the second and third years of high school one laptop type classmate (designed by INTEL), which contains, among other educational software, software for AR. What it means: 156 000 students with science labs using augmented reality in the classroom and at home!

In this context, the lab Labcam becomes a unique tool for the implementation and monitoring of experiments in different areas of knowledge. The high cost of measurement equipment, as well as the difficult operation of some of them, are no longer barriers to the experimental activity is to popularize in the classroom. The set of applications that are part of Labcam allows us to make a complete set of measurements of the world around us in a simple and intuitive.

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The Labcam currently consists of six programs:

1) time-lapse camera - using a recording process with accelerated display, this application allows the exploration of a changing world, but which to us seems static. Is it possible to understand the processes that speed is relative in nature, and even those that happen very slowly have the same characteristics of the fastest.

2) Kinematic - the accuracy and speed of the computer are put to test this application which is capable of characterizing a wide range of movements. The fundamental concepts of kinematics such as position, velocity and acceleration are tested and displayed on screen in real time. We also study the basic laws of mechanics in a simple and interesting way.

3) Camera movement - this application we will capture events that are relatively difficult to be observed. Its operation consists of detecting any change in the visual field of the camera and then start recording. We study the behaviour of birds and even catch the rare ones, with the possibility of a statistical summary of common species in a given area.

4) Microscope - with the aid of a lens the Labcam becomes a microscope. It will serve not only to measure tiny objects, but also to make comparisons and learn important concepts involving dimensions and scales, and how these measurements relate to the world around us.

5) Universal login - this application circumvents the lack of connectivity between the measuring instruments and analog nature of some of them. Without compromising the quality of our results, we will be able to scan through the camera all measurements made in an experiment. Even measurements of a mercury thermometer become a digital recording.

6) Tracker - through this application we will be able to monitor and record the movement of objects in inaccurate situations. The movement of an ant, a spider or even suspended particles in a fluid can be closely monitored, characterized by the analysis of the application map that displays on the screen.

Throughout this course, we'll explore this experimental toolkit and learn how to use each application through examples.

More info and contact:

Prof. Anderson S. L. Gomes
Physics Department
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco

Prof. André L. M. Vilela
Escola Politécnica de Pernambuco
Universidade de Pernambuco