AI in physics class – teaching and learning with technologies of the future

2 Mar 2023

New LMU appointment Professor Jochen Kuhn is Chair of Physics Education. He investigates learning with and about artificial intelligence (AI) in schools and universities. In addition, he researches established digital media and technologies of the future.

Professor Jochen Kuhn

As many schoolchildren and college students see physics as dry and without much relevance for their everyday lives, Jochen Kuhn and his team – including two junior research groups – study new approaches that seek to change these perceptions through the use of multimedia learning environments. “Formulas are not the only way to understand physics. It’s often a very abstract subject, so we try to make it more accessible to learners through various kinds of visualizations, for example.”

One goal of Professor Kuhn’s research is to find out how learners successfully learn physics, plan experiments, and solve physical problems and which visual illustrations can help them do so. It is not only the outcome of learning or problem-solving that counts here, but also the process behind it. Eye-tracking methods can be used, for example, to understand how to optimally support, encourage, and challenge schoolchildren and college students so that they learn successfully.

For Jochen Kuhn, the road to becoming a professor of physics education was a circuitous one. First, he qualified as a high-school teacher of physics and mathematics. After completing the final phase of his teacher training, he worked in the profession for ten years before going back to university. His first step in this process took him to the University of Koblenz-Landau on partial secondment, where he studied while continuing his work as a high-school teacher. For a total of five years, he participated in a joint project between schools and universities to reform teacher training – Rheinland-Pfalz was the first German state to adapt this training to fit the new bachelor-master system. While keeping on his teaching duties, Jochen Kuhn obtained a doctorate in physics and then completed his habilitation degree in physics education. Next, he worked as an interim professor at the University of Regensburg, before accepting an appointment at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern, where he occupied the Chair of Physics Education. Jochen Kuhn began carrying out experiments on the use of digital media in the classroom in 2009. At that time, the first iPhones had just been released. Later, he studied the iPad before it was widely adopted.

Mittels Augmented Reality-Brillen können realitätstreue Darstellungen virtuell im Raum sichtbar und begreifbar gemacht werden, etwa die Steuerung von Versuchsanordnungen

© Uwe Voelkner / Fotoagentur FOX

“Now, people use the devices every day but without any training in how to use them,“ says Jochen Kuhn. “To close this gap, it’s important to get a head-start on researching the relevant media.” Accordingly, Professor Kuhn does research today into digital media that will be relevant in the future – in everyday life and in education. “Given the dynamic nature of digitalization, ChatGPT is not the first time education risks lagging behind social imperatives in some spheres. As such, education needs to have the ability to keep step with developments in society,” explains Kuhn.

Researchers expect that innovations like eye-tracking-based systems will form part of such next-generation educational technologies alongside head-mounted displays for VR and AR.The training of educators in how to use new media and AI-assisted technology is another key element of the work being done at the Chair of Physics Education. “Only people who feel comfortable with the tech will actually use it.” There are also excellent initiatives at LMU, notes Kuhn, adding that the university is very strong in this area.

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