EDUCATION


In April 2018 I decided to do some work on web based Learning and Teaching material to support practical work in Electronics and Embedded Systems. This was intended to re-visit material from my time as senior teaching fellow in the School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering as a starting point for new work.

Simple LOGOC TUTOR

A short introductory course was created based on two earlier pieces of work, S0110 First Year Introduction to Digital Electronics and ELEC1620 Introduction to Sequential Logic. This material, together with the simple logic tutor shown above, allowed the practical work to be done by a student at home. The unit was battery powered and had two switches to generate logic levels for cirucit testing. CMOS logic devices were used at this stage to simplify the logic tutor design and provide a long battery life. CMOS 4000 series logic works on a voltsge range of 3 to 20 volts and the range of voltages representing logic "0" and logic "1" scale with the operating voltage of the chip. The only test equipment required was a simple Digital Multimeter (DMM). Tools required were wire stripper, wire cutter, small pliers and small screwdriver.

TRIAL1: Introductory Course (April 2018)



This was an introduction to the basic logic gates, AND, OR and NOT using actual gate ICs. The use of the logic tutor and the prototyping board was introduced here. The operation of the basic gates was investigated practically, which also introduced the way in which devices are described in data sheets. The next stage was to create logic functions combining these basic gates such as NOT AND (NAND) and NOT OR (NOR) and check operation against a Truth Table. Finally, a task to allow these skills to be used in a practical example was developed using a 7 segment LED display. The four combinations of logic levels from the two switches were expressed in logical terms. These were then simplified using boolean algebra and implemented in a circuit built from basic gates. The outputs of this circuit were connected to segment "a" to "g" on the display. Testing for correct operation was achieved by comparing the binary value of the two switches to the number on the display for all possible combinations.

The idea of having three types of pages for the material was tested here. The first was theory to support the work, the second was design and build information and the third testing. The work was split into stages with links at the end of each stage to move to a separate type of page. This gave the student some control over the work allowing for different styles of working. Some students may prefer to go through all the theory first, then go back and do the practical work whereas others may prefer the method of completing each stage before moving on.


PILOT STUDIES

The next three pieces of work were all used as pilot studies for a potential research project. The title of this research would be Can the use of audio material, in online content delivery and support of practical work, improve the student learning experience in electronics and embedded systems?

(1) An Investigation into the use of the Semi-Structured (Qualitative) Interview (January 2019)


This is a simple introduction to sequential logic showing how the basic Logic Gates can be interconected to make circuits that behave in a very different way. These new circuits retain the output value caused by one input signal until another signal is sent to change it. These circuits behave as a "memory" retaining the output value until changed by another input signal or by switching off the power supply. This work was designed for use by a student not studying electronics.
Some sections had descriptions using audio and others using text on the screen. This allowed the interview to be used to gather data on the use of audio in learning and teaching material from the student perspective. Read more


(2) Trial2: An introduction to Sequential Logic (January 2019)


This is a comprehensive introduction to sequential logic showing how the basic Logic Gates can be interconected to make circuits that behave in a very different way. These new circuits retain the output value caused by one input signal until another signal is sent to change it. These circuits behave as a "memory" retaining the output value until changed by another input signal or by switching off the power supply. These circuits were investigated practically using a device containing a selection of gates to create the complete system on one chip.
Some sections had descriptions using audio and others using text on the screen. This allowed an interview to be used to gather data on the use of audio in learning and teaching material from the student perspective. Read more


(3) Trial3: The use of Bistables as a divider, counter and a basic PWM circuit (July 2019)


This is a continuation of sequential logic showing how the J-K bistable can be used as an R-S latch, a D-type latch, a divider and a counter. A digital square wave input to a single J-K bistable was monitored on an Oscilloscope to observe the divider action between Clock input and Q output. The next section of the course used a BBC Microbit as a means of generating inputs to the digital logic circuits and of monitoring outputs. This introduced the idea of computer control as the two students working on this pilot study also worked on the Python code as well. Student interaction when working with online material and the tutor was interesting especially when different sections constructed by each student were connected together to form a larger system. This larger system was a basic PWM circuit using an eight stage counter and digital comparators with an eight input switch.

The use of audio was not a major factor in this trial but the use of the computer also suggested other ways in which audio could interact with an online program. An interview with both students was used to gather data on the use of a micro-computer in learning and teaching material from the student perspective. Read more


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