Leslie Atkins


In her Advanced Inquiry Into Physics course, Physics 341, Dr. Leslie Atkins replaced the print textbook traditionally used with historical, primary documents that are available for free online. In addition, she implemented a variety of free and low cost “apps,” and moved her course from the physics building to a classroom in the campus library.

Physics 341 is a course designed for future middle and high school science teachers. The course revisits concepts that students have previously covered in introductory physics. Students reexamine these concepts from a variety of viewpoints, and investigate their historical development. Using historical documents like Galileo Galilei’s, Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, which are now in the public domain, the course content was available for free online.  Previously the course used the print textbook, Physics, the Human Adventure (1)to bridge the historical accounts, such as Galileo’s ’works, with more modern accounts.

In the spring of 2013, the print textbook was dropped, and the class was moved from a traditional physics lab, to a highly mediated experimental classroom in the campus library, MLIB 442(2).
In addition, students were provided iPad minis (the professor very generously used her TAP grant to help buy the department mini iPads).  Students in the course used a variety of free and low cost apps, including Google Docs, to house and annotate readings. Other software used included an app called VideoPhysics  which enable students to create videos of moving objects and plot trajectories, and iMotionHD, a free stop-motion  object animation software was used to model a range of physics phenomena, such as energy flowing, and balls rolling up a ramp. During the semester, the professor made another change to the course, switching from iTunes U to Tumblr as a place for students to host their videos and share comments. (You can view some of the animations her students created at:

Following the course, Dr. Atkins reported, “the lack of textbook proved useful--students had to generate, debate, and refute ideas among themselves,” and that, “attendance and classroom interactions were higher than usual. Classroom dynamics were extremely positive and student learning was, with some exception, strong.”  In addition, dropping the print textbook saved each student $40 for the semester, for a total savings of $320 for the class.

 (1) Using a 1914 english translation of  this work from 1688, this work of Galileo is now in the Public Domain, having been published prior to 1923.(Galileo Galilei (Author),Henry Crew (Translator), Alfonso De Salvio (Translator),

(2) MLIB 442
(a) Room description with photos

(b)  Room layout  http://www.csuchico.edu/vpaa/vpprae/Academic%20Facilities/Room%20Set-up%20Documents/Mlib/Mlib%20442.pdf

Leslie Atkins, Associate Professor of Physics http://phys.csuchico.edu/%7eljatkins
Course: Physics 341, Advanced Inquiry Into Physics, spring semester, 2013
Textbook : Physics, the Human Adventure, by Gerald Holton and Stephen Brush, 2001. List price, paperback, $39.95.
Savings: $320 for eight students, spring semester, 2013

You can read more about Dr Atkin's work, that TAP was a small part of, in the article, "Animating Energy: Stop-Motion Animation and Energy Tracking Representations",  in the journal, The Physics Teacher. 2014. Volume 52, Issue 3.


Leslie Atkins' Project Summary

Initial proposal idea for replacing current textbook or lowering textbook cost.
Shift a course that involved both lab and textbook to a course that primarily uses technology (tablets and smartphones) for the "lab" and uses free online materials for the textbook.

Savings, if you can estimate, to students overall.
$39.95 per student (cost of book that is now replaced with online materials) x12 students=$480/semester.

How you are complying with copyright law if using copyright protected materials?
The textbook I was using presents physics ideas in the context of their development, using writings from Newton, Galileo and others. Since those writings are no longer copyright protected, I can simply offer students links to the original documents.

How you are addressing accessibility of course materials?
All uploaded materials to our course web site are pdf's that are readable for those with vision impairments.