National Physical Laboratory

Physics teacher training in South Africa

The decorated cooling towers of a disused coal power station overlook the Soweto campus at the University of Johannesburg
The decorated cooling towers of a disused coal
power station overlook the Soweto campus at
the University of Johannesburg

John Nunn, an NPL Senior Research Scientist, recently travelled to South Africa to help train 17 physics teachers and donate a number of NPL ex-service laptops to a science centre.

The training took place during a five-day workshop at the Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg in June 2013. Seventeen teachers took part to improve their understanding of physics, while learning some new practical skills to help them set up simple scientific experiments with their students. Although this was the first time that many of the teachers had received this type of training, they were quick to grasp the basic concepts and enthusiastic to learn as much as possible over the five days.

John Nunn delivered the workshop in collaboration with Steve Conduit (a technician at Highgate School, London) and David Wolfe (a retired professor). Part of the training focused on the use of the Virtual Physical Laboratory (VPLab) - a computer software package which was designed by John and contains over 250 interactive physics experiments. The simulations demonstrated in the classroom were specifically chosen to correspond with the national curriculum to ensure they were of maximum benefit to the teachers.

John Nunn explains how teachers can get the most out of the VPLab softwareJohn Nunn explains how teachers can get the most out of the VPLab software

The South African Education Department is now planning additional training workshops for later in the year and the organisers hope to use some of the same material delivered in this workshop.

John Nunn said:

"We hope that the benefits of the workshop will continue to ripple on for a long time. South Africa has excellent infrastructure in place and, as the country prepares to host one of the largest scientific endeavours ever - the Square Kilometre Array telescope - a new generation of well-taught scientists and engineers is vital."

NPL provided six ex-service laptops for John to take with him to South Africa and these were eventually donated to a science centre in Pretoria, where they will be used for further training. In previous years, NPL has donated laptops to teacher training programmes in Uganda, Ethiopia and Ghana.

Financial support for the travel and subsistence of the teachers and trainers was provided jointly by the Institute of Physics (UK), the South African Institute of Physics and the South African Department of Science and Technology.

Find out more about NPL's Educational Outreach

For more information, please contact John Nunn

Last Updated: 12 Aug 2013
Created: 12 Aug 2013