Thursday, July 16, 2015

Parallel Circuits & Literacy

Challenge 1 - make a parallel circuit

"Make a parallel circuit" was the only direction given this morning to ten eager faces gathered around baggies of electrical parts. 

The baggies contained 2 AA batteries, 1 battery holder, 1 battery cap with 2 wires, 2 additional wires, 2 paper clips, 2 light bulbs, and 2 light bulb holders.

The task? Connect wires between a set of batteries and two light bulbs in such a way that when one light bulb was unscrewed, the other light bulb remained lit. Hence, the name - a parallel circuit.

Instructional leaders hovered nearby providing guidance through effectual questioning. Completed circuits, meeting the aforementioned criteria, were heralded.

Working parallel circuit.
Proof that this really is a parallel circuit.

Challenge 2 - diagram a parallel circuit


The new step this week was to draw a diagram of a parallel circuit using the symbol for the batteries and the symbol for the light bulbs (aka resistors). The partners had difficulty putting their heads around how to "draw pictures" in symbols rather than replicating the materials in front of them.

Consequently, the resulting "diagrams" were cute and sometimes completely unrecognizable.

Using their drawings, we then explained how to translate their images into diagrams recognized in the electrical trade. For a brief moment, some learners had a flash of insight about the connection between their illustrations and the actual schematic depicting a parallel circuit.

Parallel Circuits & Literacy

You might ask: "What does this have to do with literacy?" Our answer: "Many things!" Let me narrow my response to just two.

First, literacy is about using language of all sorts to build and share knowledge. Our work over the past two months has focused on writing readable instructions, using words and visual images to explain the process of putting together a circuit. 
Many people beta tested the partners' instructions to see what worked. Finally, we compiled the best instructions and fine-tuned them as a group. Motivation was strong. Pride was evident. Language was explored. The results? See for yourself. Open "Directions for assembling a parallel circuit" at the bottom of the page. This activity is just one part of building and sharing knowledge through literacy. We have also been reading about electrical circuits. Watching videos about electricity. Measuring and calculating. 
The only drawing that attempted to use the symbols.

Collecting and analyzing data. All the elements of reading, writing, and math have been integrated into these group activities.

Second, hands-on experimentation is important in building a depth of practical and book knowledge as well as growing interest in skills that most of our adults have avoided. Who wants to read when reading is hard (and therefore boring)? Expressing one’s thoughts? Spelling? That’s even worse! The learners however selected the topic - electricity. They told us what they wanted to learn. Some are interested in electricity-related careers, some fascinated by anything associated with engines, and some thought making things was cool.

Regardless of their reasons behind topic selection, interest leads to motivation. Instruction mingled with exploration and motivation engages the mind and the soul. Embed all of this activity in spirited social interactions with doses of laughter, and we get results - adults who raise their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Next week - we build our first series circuits. 

1 comment:

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