Science Popularization by Organizing Training Activities Within the Electronic Game Laboratories

Science Popularization by Organizing Training Activities Within the Electronic Game Laboratories

S. N. Pozdnyakov (Saint Petersburg State Electrotechnical University and Saint Petersburg State University, Russia), I. A. Posov (Saint Petersburg State Electrotechnical University and Saint Petersburg State University, Russia), A. F. Pukhov (Saint Petersburg State University, Russia) and I. V. Tsvetkova (Saint Petersburg State University, Russia)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/jdldc.2012010102
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Abstract

The article describes the history of the knowledge popularization in Russia and the current situation in this domain with the impact of rapidly developing computer technologies. The article also introduces the Construct, Test, Explore (CTE) contest aimed to take students into the scientific phenomena through the game laboratories illustrating the unsolved and difficult problems of mathematics, informatics, and physics. The CTE School project based on the contest ideas is devoted to learning basic algorithms from the theory of information or discrete mathematics through training experiments.
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1. Introduction: Knowledge Popularization In Russia

In the early years of the 20th century, science popularization in the USSR owed much to Yakov Perelman (not the relative of Grigory Perelman, famous for having recently proved the Poincaré conjecture). Yakov Perelman (1934/1988) published a number of works about fun science: “Fun geometry,” “Fun arithmetic,” “Fun physics,” etc. He is also known for having created the Fun Science House in Leningrad in the 1930s (whose displays were unfortunately destroyed during the Siege of Leningrad in the Second World War). Nowadays, a variety of fun science museums exist worldwide. They are the experimentariums, where the displays showcase the laws of nature and different technical principles. These museums often allow the visitors to interact with the displays to better understand how they are meant to operate.

In the 1970s and 1980s the science popularization activity was continued by the “Kvant” (“Quantum”) magazine for school students and teachers, widely issued in the Soviet Union. The idea of the magazine was introduced by Pyotr Kapitsa in 1964. Its first editorial board included Academicians Isaac Kikoin and Andrei Kolmogorov. In 1985 “Kvant” was recognized as the unique magazine by the UNESCO experts.

The 21st century is marked by the global computerization that considerably diminished the role of the classical paper books. The circulation of “Kvant” has decreased from 250,000 - 350,000 in 1990s down to 5,000 and now the magazine is issued only every two months.

Therefore the problem of science popularization among the youth returned to the fore. Having brought down the book-publishing industry, the digital technologies gave at the same time the opportunities for more effective interaction with science.

The team of Nikolai Andreev developed the video films (http://en.etudes.ru) demonstrating the difficult and unsolved geometry problems. Other branches of science were added afterwards. Nevertheless these movies did not fully resolve the problem of the active familiarization with new scientific ideas as they gave no opportunity for the students to interact with the demonstrated models.

In the authors’ opinion, computers bring the new forms of the scientific knowledge representation. The formulae and equations still remain the most common forms of representation of mathematical knowledge, but Seymour Papert wrote in his book (Papert, 1980) in 1980s that he could teach the differential equations using only Dynaturtle – the artificial virtual tool whose moves were managed by changing the velocity and acceleration vectors.

Moreover, the new science branches, whose names can be get by adding the prefix “computer” to the names of the existing disciplines, have evolved: computer physics, computer mathematics, computer biology, etc. Thus, many sciences have split into three dimensions, e.g., theoretical physics, experimental physics, computer physics. The use of computer models has become more frequent in scientists’ researches, with experimental and visualization tools added. This allows to create, store and spread the knowledge not only in scientific articles which lack of instruments to describe the variety of details related to the researches in question, but also in the new way – the computer programs.

This new form of knowledge representation ideally corresponds to the psychological aspects of acquiring the new knowledge.

Indeed, in the works of Vygotsky the role of external tools in the human intellectual activity was explored already in the beginning of the 20th century (Vygotsky, 1978). More specifically, he shows that one could master his or her own intellectual mechanisms only by means of external tools (Vygotsky, 1934/1986).

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