VCE Physics/Foreword

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[Note: this section is now starting to take shape more... but it still needs a lot more thought to ensure the ideas are expressed clearly and people take what is said as intended.]

Introduction[edit]

This book was started by Theo Hughes, currently Education Manager for the School of Physics and Astronomy at Monash University in Australia. However, any work by Theo on this book has been done in a personal capacity, in Theo's personal time. Any opinions expressed are the opinion of Theo alone, and/or other authors, and are not endorsed by Monash University.

While this book was started by an individual, the contents will be overseen by a range of VCE physics teachers and physicists and kept up to date and corrected by anyone who uses it. It's expected any users (from expert to novice) will feel free to raise any mistakes they find, and offer suggestions for improving the book. Unlike a textbook in print, corrections and improvements will be able to be made straight away.

The following uses "we" rather than I, as it is intended to represent the views of all the lead authors. It will be modified to ensure it represents the views of other lead authors (who'll be listed) as they become contributors.

Structure of the book[edit]

This is an online book[edit]

Current VCE Physics textbooks are print oriented. While they may have a digital version and online components (multimedia resources) their use and layout is designed around the print version of the textbook. In contrast, this book is the other way around. We have designed and written it as an online resource first. While you will be able to print it out and it may still be of some use to you in printed format, a printed version will loose many of the advantages of the online version e.g. you will not be able to immediately jump to a resource or reference via a link, you will not be able to access the multimedia content such as audio, video, or interactive apps, and you will not be able to provide immediate feedback on the content.

Lay out[edit]

This textbook is laid out in the same sections ("Units" and "Areas of Study") as the VCE Study Design – with information from the Study Design, as well as links to the relevant sections of the Study Design and the VCAA website, embedded at appropriate points in the text. This should make it easier for you to be sure you are covering the required course and carrying out the required assessment.

However, once you get down to the contents in an area of study (e.g. Unit 1/AoS1/ Temperature and how we measure it) the contents are arranged in a way that we hope helps you to learn. While the text covers what is specified in the dotpoints it does not blindly follow their order, and it includes any additional information that we believe is esential for a coherent understanding of the material at this level.

Style[edit]

The style of this book is different from the "traditional" textbook style that we would characterise as bland and overly authoritative.

The style of this book is intended to be conversational and casual. While we'll need to use technical terms (understanding the "language of physics" is part of learning physics!) we'll avoid floowery language or overly complicated words or expressions, in order to make learning the physics as easy possible for everyone, but particularly non-native English speakers. We do not want unecessarily complicated language, that does nothing more than try to show how clever we are, to get in the way of learning. However, as with anything, it requires commitment and hard work to learn physics and so, to paraphrase Einstein "We'll make it as simple as possible, without making it so simple you don't learn what you need to learn!"

We'll write in the [wikipedia:Active voice|active voice] and talk to you (the reader) while we navigate the difficult concepts together. We'll guide you on a journey of learning in which we can learn too (via feedback from users). We'll seek to welcome you into the community of physicists rather than exclude you. We'll not just list facts and theorems but help you to understand them in as deep a way as possible, we'll discuss how they were developed, how physics develops historically, and we will not shy away from, for example, pointing out where we are "lying" (approximating a more complex truth to aid in learning) and we will provide commentary on how, overall, the physics community works.

Where we have not followed this style, please let us know and we can try and correct it, as we would any other mistake.

Motivation for the Book[edit]

This book was born out of an initial frustration around interactions with publishers of existing VCE textbooks, and other "open source" offerings. There has also been some frustration in relation to interactions with the VCAA.

Approaches made to all these organisations, in the spirit of simply having a passion to improve existing resources, are too often met with obfuscation and layers of administrivia and beauracracy. Experts want to chat to experts, the nerds and geeks who are passionate about physics and excellence in education in physics simply want to hang out, chat, have a coffee (or other favourite bevarage), exchange stories, and hammer out the best way forward in a fun and friendly environment. They do not want to have to wade through layers of people who are not so invested, and do not have the direct knowledge or expertise to be able to discuss the issues in detail... ending up with a game of Chinese whispers where the message from one end to other is passed through layers of beauracracy that both confuse the message, and increase the amount of time and effort required to enact meaningful change to such a point. It is understood that there are natural barriers to achieving this. For example, the physical cycle of the print process is complex and expensive. However, that is why this book is doing away with that. If that is a barrier to improved resources, then we should remove that barrier... and modern technology provides a way to do that. Similarly, it is understood that there are issues of probity - for example, direct access to someone who writes a VCE examination leaves open the possibility of impropriety. However, these things can be managed in a more subtle way than is done. 99% of the desired interactions are nothing more than a passion to make things the best we can. To raise barriers to ridiculous levels and have but that is one of the problems of often having middle-people who do not understand this - again, technology can cut out the middle people. This book provides a relatively simple way for teachers, students and all those who are passionate about. The VCAA can then also use this as a resource to get detailed feedback about aspects of the course, because comments about aspects of the to come together and have direct access to communicate among themselves, in detail, without the need to reveal they write exams or break proriety in any other way.

It needs to be emphasised there is no ill-will towards any individual who works for any of the organisations and institutions mentioned (or the organisations and institutions themselves), and there is an appreciation of good work that is done by individuals and the organisations and instituations as a whole. Creating suitable processes and artifacts is complex, for example, the VCAA has an incredibly difficult job to do, it is constrained by requirements (legal and otherwise) and in the face of these constraints does many things well &endash;  but that should not stop people pushing for further improvements, as well as changes that keep up with ever evolving societal and technological contexts. In addition to providing an alternative option for use by students, teachers, parents etc. it is hoped this book may stimulate such improvements and changes.