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Java Applets in Education

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Published on: Sunday 7th March 1999 By: Pankaj Kamthan

Introduction

The last few years have seen a rapid emergence and broad acceptance of the WWW as a global medium for disseminating and processing information that is accessible in multiple formats (multimedia) and at extremely fast speeds (hypermedia). This has opened new vistas in education by taking full advantage of our basic "senses" of learning such as visualizing 3D objects and nonlinear nature of thought processes. Recent years have also seen the inception and development of Java, a powerful programming language from SUN Microsystems.

This article discusses the interplay of these two technologies - Java and the WWW - in context of education. In that effort, we address the following questions from a pedagogical viewpoint:

How can the present computational environment of Java and the WWW be integrated in education? In particular, how and where can Java applets be used? What issues should be considered before and during such a use?

We assumes that the user is familiar, at least at an elementary level, with the notion of Java applets. This article is by no means an introduction to Java; there are many good tutorials and books available for that purpose.

What are Java Applets?

Among the different types of programs that can be written in Java, we are primarily interested in applets. Java applets are programs written in Java that require a WWW browser or another Java application to run. (A Java application is a standalone program that requires the assistance of the Java interpreter, such as the Java Virtual Machine (JVM), to run.)

Advantages of Java as a programming language

It is said that a language is only as good as the applications that can be written in it. Java scales well to this measure, as is evident by its numerous applications, including those which are educational. We will introduce some of these later.

Advantages of Java are reflected in its definition:

A simple, object-oriented, distributed, interpreted, robust, secure, architectural neutral, portable, high-performance, multithreaded, and dynamic language.

These features have made Java a favourable language for programming on the WWW.

There are various specific advantages of using Java applets over existing programming environments:

Limitations of current educational practices and advantages of Java Applets

There are various inherent limitations in the current practices of teaching and learning. Some of these problems can be solved to a large extent via integration of Java applets. These aspects can be outlined as follows:

Methodology

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.

- Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut

There are various technological and pedagogical issues that should be considered before making the decision of using Java applets for educational purposes.

Pedagogical issues

There are various pedagogical considerations and questions that need to be asked when considering the use of Java applets for educational purposes. The following are some issues and suggestions:

Technological issues

Once the route of Java applets is chosen, there are various considerations that need to be addressed during the design and development, in order for them to be useful for educational purposes.

Applications of Java Applets

In what contexts can applets be used? There are at least four ways that Java applets can be used in education:

Note that there are other ways that Java applets can be used in education. Often, learning requires to have ready access to resources. Therefore, another way Java applets can be used is to implement a resource system interface consisting, for example, of a navigation system and a search engine to a database via Java Database Connectivity (JDBC). Since such approaches are generic, and not education specific, we have not included them in the above discussion.

Scenarios

The following are some scenarios in which Java applets have been used. The topics and the applets themselves have been chosen for various reasons: author's interest (bias and limitations of knowledge), widespread use, features and power of Java that can be illustrated.

Chemistry

Informational Applets

Concept Illustrating Applets

Computational Applets

Assessment Applets

The Periodic Table Why Things Have Color Molecular Dynamics, Acid Base Titration Chemistry Quiz

Mathematics

Informational Applets

Concept Illustrating Applets

Computational Applets

Assessment Applets

Addition and Multiplication Tables in Various Bases Pythagoras's Theorem, Fractal Curves and Dimension Symbolic algebraic Computation Bertrand's Paradox

Physics

Informational Applets

Concept Illustrating Applets

Computational Applets

Assessment Applets

Optical Table Young's Double Slit Interference Experiment, Motion in an electromagnetic field Series Approximation using Fourier and Legendre expansions, Animation of the motion of The Henon-Heiles System Newton's 3rd Law

Effectiveness

The results and effectiveness of educational use of Java applets can be evaluated from the following:

Conclusion

I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand.

- Paul R. Halmos

The significance of education in any evolving society is paramount. Java applets can help create an interactive environment of "learning by doing". Beyond their ability to better convey certain concepts, the applets can increase motivation and instill greater interest among students, and encourage them to be more actively involved in the class. Consequently, their understanding of the course content can further improve. Such an endeavour can also be useful to a teacher during instruction and otherwise in their course work.

References

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Articles

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Examples

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View the profile on Pankaj Kamthan and the list of other Articles by Pankaj Kamthan.

©2013 Martin Webb