Monday, March 08, 2010

A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations: complementary podcasting

I've been brushing up on Maxwell's Equations - I was one of those people who found vector calculus fun when I was in school and college - and noted one of the books students are recommended these days is Daniel Fleisch's A Student's Guide to Maxwell's Equations.  It's one of the few books I've come across to focus entirely on the four equations which constitute the mathematical foundation of the modern world - all forms of elecromagnetic communication are based on them.  Usually you have to trawl through a lot of  theory to get to the equations, as in Feymann's excellent Lectures on Physics but students (and I admit to still being guilty of this) tend to like the most efficient route (aka shortcuts).

It's a terrific little book but for educational technologists the interesting addendum is Fleisch's website accompanying the book on which is included not just the usual correction notes but solutions to all the problems set at the end of each chapter and podcasts to go with each section of each chapter of the book.  The podcasts take the form of lectures that sometimes repeat but also expand on the material in the book or explain it in a slightly different way, an excellent resource for not just those with a predisposition towards aural learning but average individuals like yours truly too.  I'd have included answers to the problems at the end of the book too.  In the days when I did sums seriously I liked to be able to check I had got the right answer without having to go off and check a separate source.  There was nothing as irritating as those maths texts that didn't include the answers at the back or only included a small sample of them.

That minor grumble aside, is this the future of the textbook?  I've agreed to write a chapter on information policymaking for a reader on the nature of information to be edited by my esteemed colleagues at the OU, Magnus Ramage and David Chapman.  Maybe I should think of doing a complementary podcast to go with it?

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