Singapore physics teaching software wins global award

A range of computer software that brings physics concepts to life has earned Singapore a global award recognising teaching methods that make use of technology.

Open Source Physics at Singapore (OSP@SG), developed in 2012 by the Ministry of Education (MOE), contains a range of resources for teachers and students to simulate experiments.

Singapore was one of the two countries that won the Unesco King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa Prize for the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in education, which is funded by Bahrain.

The other was Costa Rica, which won for a programme that gives marginalised students living in rural and urban areas access to education through digital skills.

The two winners, selected from more than 100 applications, were each given US$25,000 (S$36,000) at a prize ceremony held on Wednesday at the Unesco headquarters in Paris.

Since 2005, the award has been given to governments, organisations and individuals using ICT to improve learning.

The MOE yesterday said it has received positive feedback about the OSP@SG project, both locally and globally. The free software, which is available around the world, has been used by almost 10,000 students in 12 schools such as River Valley High School, Innova Junior College and Victoria JC.

It allows teachers to use interactive tools to help students visualise physics concepts better. For instance, they can play around with data to calculate the optimum time for a person to release his parachute, or different levels of energy in a pendulum swing.

Innova JC physics teacher Ong Chee Wah uses OSP@SG to teach concepts such as superposition, which refers to the interaction patterns of two overlapping waves.

"We can change factors such as the distance between waves or the speed of the waves, to see how they affect the resulting pattern," he said, adding that students are better able to observe these changes using pictorial representations and graphs.

Mr Tan Kim Kia, a physics teacher at Evergreen Secondary School, has used the software in his Secondary 1 and 3 classes in the last two years. He introduces kinematics, the study of objects in motion, through video analysis software that tracks movement.

"As we plot movement in graphs, students learn concepts like velocity and time. It also helps them see patterns in movement.

"It takes some effort to learn to use technology, but we are encouraging more teachers to adopt it, so we can design a curriculum that makes learning easier for students," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Singapore physics teaching software wins global award'. Print Edition | Subscribe