The MIT Course
Electromagnetism 2000
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Michael Faraday

Value Added

The hard thing about evaluating the use of new technologies in education is distinguishing glitz from substance. Wonderful things can be done technically which add little additional value compared to traditional methods. What is the value added in teaching electromagnetism using advanced technologies? The clearest advantage is the use of animations or simulations of field lines to explain phenomena in electromagnetism intuitively.

Michael Faraday invented the concept of fields for exactly that reason. His mathematical skills were minimal, and the only way he could understand the phenomena he studied so successfully was pictorially. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a moving picture is worth incomparably more. A large fraction of our minds is devoted to interpreting the immense amount of visual information we receive. Animations allow the whole mental apparatus associated with vision to be focused on understanding electromagnetic phenomena at an intuitive level.

If Michael Faraday were alive today, this is the approach he would take. The teaching of electromagnetism has had to wait one hundred and fifty years for the technology of electromagnetism to advance sufficiently to do it justice.

We now have the technological means to instill in the student an intuition for electromagnetic phenomena in the manner that Faraday, the father of field theory, originally envisioned.

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Copyright © 1996 John Belcher . All rights reserved.
Revised February 28, 1997,