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2010 Summer Meeting

2011 AAPT Summer Meeting
July 30-August 3, 2011
Omaha, Nebraska

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Conservation of Energy vs. Conservation of Value in Energy
  Location: HC 3023 & 3023A
  Date: Tuesday, Aug.2
  Time: 9:10 AM -9:20 AM
  Author: Sarah McKagan, McKagan Enterprises
  Co-Author(s): Lezlie DeWater , Rachel Scherr , Lane Seeley , Stamatis Vokos
  Abstract: When teaching about energy in physics class, an important learning goal for students is an understanding of conservation of energy. Outside of physics class, the word "conservation" is often used with an entirely different meaning: In the real world, we care about "conserving" a finite and expendable resource. This resource is often referred to as "energy," but in the more precise language of physics we would call it "useful energy" or "value" in energy. We present results from a collaboration in which SPU visual communication majors, after extensive discussions with members of the physics department, produced posters to depict various energy concepts and to communicate their understanding. Many of these posters explicitly highlight the distinction between "energy" and "value," Illustrating how nonscientists struggle with this issue. We discuss how this struggle may play out for students in physics classes, and suggest a method for redirecting students' useful intuitions about value.
  Footnotes: Supported in part by NSF DRL 0822342
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