GIREP95 Physics Dept. Udine University GIREP


This Conference deals with a difficult and important problem: its aim is to discuss the teaching of themes that still belong to current scientific and technological research. These themes are part of the evolution of our society and have influenced it in significant ways.

The science of condensed matter is as old as man himself and at the same time is one of the fields of research that was greatly developed with quantum physics, with the new techniques of inquiry and with the new computational methods. It may be said that it has produced the field of research on new materials, by now autonomous and important both as basic study and applied research.

The introduction of such themes into a teaching context occurs at the following three levels: at the university level in the curriculum of new courses in the science and the engineering of new materials; at the secondary school level in the updating of the programmes of scientific and technological subjects: at the primary school level when starting the study of properties of matter as an introduction to scientific themes at basic educational level.

In Italy, for example, such themes are found among the principle cultural problems addressed by the new Brocca programmes of the Ministry of Education for secondary schools. In Europe they are found in the debate on the adaptation of post-secondary school studies and on the training of teachers in the scientific field, with particular regard to the science-technology relationship, on the cognitive problems posed by the physical vision of the world.

The work that lies ahead is therefore hard and demanding. It is to be found in a vein of thought that characterises both the studies of GIREP and the studies of ICPE.

Like every issue dealt with by GIREP it is concerned with the basic knowledges of science and with the analysis of their pedagogical implementation, in the line of the series of international conferences on the teaching of modern physics promoted by ICPE and held at CERN in 1984 (on elementary particles, cosmology and relativity), at FERMILAB in 1986 (on Quarks, Quasars and Quandaries), at the University of Munich in 1988 (on the teaching of condensed matter). The theme is wide, although it is only one of the themes discussed in Munich.

The Conference will last a short time, but hopefully it will provide the basis for valuable work in this area, which will, of course, have to be completed through a slow and gradual process in the future. Above all it is hoped that every participant will return home having enriched his or her knowledge in this field.

A bit of history and many acknowledgements.

The last GIREP Conference organised in Italy took place in Venice in 1973. Italy has not hosted a GIREP Conference for over 22 years even though it has partecipated very strongly in the activities of GIREP. It has therefore requested this important event for many years in the person of Silvia Pugliese Jona. The substantial collective effort on the part of Genova, Modena, Padova, Pisa, Trieste and Udine has undoubtedly favoured the entrusting to Italy of this Conference which has its own interesting history.

At the GIREP Conference in Braga Gallieno Denardo (ICTP, TS) and I (University of Udine) offered Trieste or Udine as the seat of a Conference in 1996 on the science of condensed matter and new materials. The new materials aspect of the theme is, in fact, of great interest for the ongoing studies of the ICTP of Trieste under prof. Denardo, while I am more interested in the condensed matter aspect, orientated towards education and fundamental research: this problem has been the subject of my work for many years, originated in related work in the sectors of research on the physics of solids and physics education.

At the Conference of Eger in August 1994 a request was made to hold the above Conference in 1995 instead of 1996. A preliminary cautious acceptance was made although we were very aware of non negligible difficulties of a functional and logistic nature. Further problems subsequently presented themselves. Amongst these: the necessity of holding the Conference in the holiday month of August, with the consequent difficulty of finding a suitable venue, the short time available for the collection of funds and scientific contributions, the personal problems of the organisers that further limited the amount of time.

In November '94 a meeting was held by the organisers with the president of GIREP at the ICTP of Trieste to illustrate the reasons for turning down the Conference.

The beginning of the concrete organisational phase is due to the acceptance of Silvia Pugliese Jona to join the effort. The support of the Advisory Board and of the Rector of the University of Udine made the realisation of the Conference possible.

In November 1994, we began an undertaking which nobody thought possible, with the sole intention of rendering a useful service to GIREP, to ICPE and to our region.

We worked very hard, we had the help of many people without whom it would not have been possible to succeed. The help of George Marx, Paul Black, of the members of the Advisory Committee and of the members of the other committees published in this booklet was crucial. Other colleagues both Italian and non-Italian whose names do not appear on such committees, such as professors Chiarotti, Loria, Rizzuto, Tosatti, Davies, Jossem, Lewis, Luchner, Ogborn, Oblak have helped us greatly with suggestions and personal committment.

At the opening of this Conference I would like to express my most profound gratitude to all of them. I would like to take this official opportunity to thank my colleagues for having co-organised this Conference and for providing me with an occasion of personal and professional enrichment, which is the result of a splendid and active relationship.

The Scientific Programme

Facing the problem of teaching the science of condensed matter and of new materials means singling out the cultural knots of a world that ranges from the interpretation of microscopic phenomena to the potentiality of technological innovation, and to the interaction between scientific and technological aspects. It also means finding the role of new technologies in teaching: computer, audio-visuals, multimedial systems. It means discussing the specific strategies and the prototypes of integration of the more purely theoretical aspects with the experimental aspects.

The other aspects kept in the foreground while planning the Conference are

Over 200 scholars have confirmed their participation to this Conference, joined by many teachers for whom the Conference serves as a refresher course. This large and high-quality attendance confirms the interest in the issue.

The Conference activities will revolve around three aspects, corresponding to three different educational needs.

  1. Teaching the science of condensed matter and new materials at the post-secondary level: choosing the approach, the contents, the activities (lectures, problem solving sessions, practical labs), the didactical materials (simulations, videos, films, experimental apparatus), the emphasis given to technological issues according to the educational context (whether chemical, physical, technological, astronomical...).
  2. Introducing topics relating to the science of matter in the secondary school curriculum: which didactical paths and educational materials can help to learn the necessary classical concepts and the main quantum ideas, which scientific foundations and cultural instruments should we give the students, which methodological choices for teaching the theoretical and the experimental aspects, to what depth and extent should we teach about the technological implications and the scientific research methods.
  3. Approaching the study of the properties of matter at the primary level: which cognitive problems and learning difficulties are involved, how to induce conceptual changes from naive and common sense ideas, what methods and resources for teaching to young children.

While the three aspects will be explored in parallel during the Panel Talks and in Workshops, Poster Session and Exhibits, the Plenary Lectures will provide a transverse view on the conceptual bases of the science of condensed matter, on possible educational approaches, on the results of educational and scientific research and on technological applications.

The Plenary Lectures belong to three general groups: A) Research topics of interest to education because of their scientific relevance and their technological importance; B) Reflexions on the foundations of the science of condensed matter, in relation to the educational approaches at different levels; C) Curricular and educational proposals at the University, Secondary and Primary levels.

The timetable of the Conference offers eighteen 40-minute General Talks in plenary session, nine 2-hour Panel Talk sessions for the presentation of 37 contributions, twelve 2-hour Workshops with 50 contributions, two 2-hour Show & Tell sessions, a special session on Science and Toys and three 1-hour Poster & Exhibit sessions with 55 contributions.

The organization

The organisation of the scientific programme is also based on the collaboration of institutions which represent the various fields already mentioned. Some of them such as ICASE, INFM, CISM, AIF, SAIt, IRTEC-CNR, Synchrotron and LIS of Trieste have even taken on the management of some Conference activities.

This enriches and increases the value of the scientific programme.

The ICTP of Trieste also provided help for participants from less developed countries.

The logistic organisation is based on the important awareness that development means culture and international relations.

Our University has therefore committed itself to the maximum extent, together with the Consorzio Universitario del Friuli, Cultural associations such as that of the teachers of physics, public bodies such as the Regione Friuli-Venezia Giulia and the Municipality of Udine, ERSA, ERDISU, associations such as those of the hoteliers of Udine, Consorzi such as those of cheese, wine and ham producers, schools such as the School for Interpreters and Translators of the University of Udine at Gorizia and the ITIS Malignani, private individuals.

The organisational pivots were the Department of Physics and the Research Unit for Physics Education (CLDF) of CIRD, with the support of Centro Convegni e Accoglienza of our University. All of the Centri di Servizio of the University of Udine gave their assistance.

We owe special thanks to the Magnifico Rettore of our University, prof. Marzio Strassoldo di Graffembergo, to the Director of the Department of Physics and of CIRD, prof. Flavio Waldner, to the Assessore alla Cultura of our Region, dr.Alberto Tomat, to the Presidente of ConSU prof. Giovanni Frau, to the Presidente of ERSA prof. Franco Frilli, to the Presidente of ERDISU prof. Marcello Riuscetti, to the Presidente of IRRSAE prof. Fulvio Salimbeni.

We also owe thanks to our colleagues of the Organising and Support Committee and to the Secretary of the Conference.

We owe thanks to many people working at the University of Udine: please forgive me if the limited space avilable prevents me from mentioning everybody: I know, however, that for all of them it was sufficient to be of help on the occasion of a committment of their University.

Please allow me to mention just Donatella Ceccolin and Plinio De Zorzi who worked hard since the beginning of the organisation and dedicated entire days and nights in these last months to the success of the Conference. Along with them I would like to acknowledge the assistance of the students of our University who have helped in the organisation in substantial ways: Giuliana Dusso of the Corso di Laurea in Beni Culturali, Stefano Galassi of the Faculty of Engineering, Cristina Gregorin of the School for Interpreters and Translators at Gorizia and Joseph H.McLoughlin of Trinity College, Dublin.

I am sure many things could have been better: we have done all that we could with the maximum effort. We hope that the Conference will be useful and fruitful for everyone.

Marisa Michelini

GIREP95 Physics Dept. Udine University GIREP