Electromagnetism is difficult to teach because we have little or
no intuition about electromagnetic phenomena. This is very
different from the case of mechanics, for example, where
there is an intuitive sense of the nature of inertia,
the gravitational force, friction, and many other concepts
that are central to mechanics.
In contrast, most of the
phenomena in electromagnetism are not accessible to everyday
experience, except under poorly controlled conditions
(for example, static electricity). As a result, teaching the subject
effectively first requires instilling a sense of intuition
about the phenomena.
This is almost never done well
in an introductory course.
How can the use of advanced technology change this situation?
One of the ways intuition is instilled is via large lecture demonstrations.
These demonstrations are impressive, but they go by very rapidly, and
cannot be reexamined at the student's leisure.
In contrast, with advanced technologies, one can present a video clip of
an experiment accompanied by a hypertext explanation of the phenomena it
demonstrates. This video can be viewed repeatedly.
The accompanying hypertext explanation can consist of both equations and
figures, as well as
computer graphics which simulate
what is happening in the experiment. Such computer simulations can show
things which can never be
seen otherwise, and in a compelling way.
Electromagnetic field phenomena in particular lend
themselves to effective explanation through graphical animation/simulation.