The CPU Project

CPU Project Overview

      Computer software and innovative pedagogical methods can support the creation of significantly more effective learning environments. Constructing Physics Understanding (CPU) presented a solution to this challenge. The CPU development team built on previous work incorporating computer technology to build a constructivist-oriented learning environment (Goldberg, F. & Bendall, S., Am. J. Phys. 63(11), 978-991, 1995). Guided by an inquiry-based pedagogy, CPU developed a set of curriculum units and associated simulation software that soon will be available from this site.
      Through its work with twenty-five Leadership Teams, CPU has had a broad
impact throughout the United States on hundreds of teachers and their students. Workshop Highlights takes an in-depth look at this impact, and in Classroom Tales, CPU teachers and students share their thoughts. Special Recognition & Activities spotlights the contributions of some teachers who have been members of CPU Leadership Teams.
CPU development team included over forty people between 1995 and 2000, including those involved with software design and development, authoring the curriculum units, and providing technical support.

CPU Curriculum Units

Light & Color

Motion & Force

Sound & Waves

Static Electricity

Current Electricity


Small Particles

CPU Curriculum Units
      The CPU team developed seven curriculum units: Light and Color, Force and Motion, Waves and Sound, Static Electicity and Magnetism, Current Electricity, Underpinnings, and Nature of Matter. Brief unit descriptions are available on this web site by clicking on the unit icons. Longer unit overviews are also available as both web pages and Microsoft Word documents.
      CPU units are designed to be worked through on the computer, and this use of technology provides opportunities that are not available in a pencil and paper format. However, the units can be printed out and used in classrooms not equipped with computers, or perhaps equipped with only one demonstration computer and an LCD panel.

CPU Simulation Software
     CPU simulation software were programmed in Java.
      As the Java software was developed, the capabilities of the CPU software programs were revised and expanded, and new programs for the Waves & Sound Unit were developed. This updated, revised, and expanded
CPU Simulation Software package will soon be available for download from this site. The software is also available online, along with related physics education software. 

CPU Pedagogy
      CPU pedagogy and materials are closely aligned with the NRC National Science Education Standards (NSES) and the AAAS Benchmarks for Science Literacy. In addition to content and pedagogy standards, the project is in alignment with the standards in areas such as the nature of science, science as a human endeavor, and nature of scientific inquiry. The pedagogy is based on cycles of:

  1. eliciting students' ideas

  2. guided development in which students modify or discard their old ideas and/or develop new ones in a movement towards target ideas

  3. application of target ideas to new situations

The cycles of elicitation, development and application are more fully described in the Pedagogy section of this site.

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