The Know Your Potential Concept-Builder is an adjustable-size file that displays nicely on smart phones, on tablets such as the iPad, on Chromebooks, and on laptops and desktops. The size of the Interactive can be scaled to fit the device that it is displayed on. The compatibility with smart phones, iPads, other tablets, and Chromebooks make it a perfect tool for use in a 1:1 classroom.

Teaching Ideas and Suggestions:

The Know Your Potential Concept-Builder is a concept-building tool that strengthens a learner's model of electric potential or electric pressure. The model utilizes a color-coding scheme in which wires in an electric circuit are assigned a color based upon the relative value of the electric potential. Charge located in the wire that is attached to the positive terminal of the battery is assigned the color red for the highest potential. Charge located in the wires attached to the negative terminal of the battery is assigned the color blue for the lowest potential. The color red is thus used to color any wire attached directly or indirectly to the positive terminal up until the first light bulb. Once charge reaches and passes through a light bulb it encounters a drop in electric potential. Thus, a different color is used on the opposite side of the light bulb. The ordering of electric potential from highest (+ terminal) to lowest (- terminal) is correlated to the colors red, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The acronym ROYGB is used throughout the Concept Builder to refer to these five colors. 

This Concept Builder includes three different activities with each activity focusing on a different aspect of electric potential and charge flow. The three activities and a short description of each is included below:
  • Color Those Wires! : Learners must select a color from the ROYGB palette and tap on a wire to color it. The concept of electric potential and an electric potential drop is emphasized. In the more difficult circuits, learners will recognize that certain bulbs can be short-circuited by wires that pass around the bulb and attach to other wires on the opposite side of it.
  • Which Bulbs Light? : Learners use the ROYGB palette to color code wires and then determine which bulbs in the circuit will light up. Tapping on a bulb will change its color and display starbursts around the bulb to indicate it is lit. 
  • Volt On It! : Values of current (I) at each bulb and the resistance (R) of each bulb are listed. The voltage rating of the battery is also listed. Learners use ∆V = I•R to determine the electric potential difference (voltage drop) and then use the electric potential difference to determine the electric potential at various locations in the circuit. ROYGB color-coding can be implemented as a tool to understanding the numerical values associated with each location but it is not required in order to successfully analyze the circuit.

Each of these activities include four different circuits to analyze. In general, the first circuits in each activity are the easiest and circuits become more complex as a learner progresses through the activity. Teachers using the Concept Builder with their classes are encouraged to preview each activity for the appropriateness to their classroom. While we recommend that the activities being done in order, there is nothing preventing a student from doing one part of the Concept-Builder before another. 

The most valuable (and most overlooked) aspect of this concept-building activity is the Help Me! feature. Each circuit is accompanied by a Help page that discusses the specifics of how to approach the question. This Help feature transforms the activity from a question-answering activity into a concept-building activity. The student who takes the time to use the Help pages can be transformed from a guesser to a learner and from an unsure student to a confident student. The "meat and potatoes" of the Help pages are in the sections titled "How to Think About This Situation" Students need to be encouraged by teachers to use the Help Me! button and to read this section of the page. A student that takes time to reflect upon how they are answering the question and how an expert would think about the situation can transform their naivete into expertise.

This Concept Builder was inspired by the CASTLE curriculum - a popular model-building curriculum used to teach about electricity. The word CASTLE is an acronym for Capacitor-Aided System for Teaching and Learning Electricity. The CASTLE curriculum is heavily reliant upon the ROYGB color-coding scheme that is utilized in this Concept Builder.

Related Resources

There are numerous resources at The Physics Classroom website that serve as very complementary supports for the Know Your Potential Concep Builder. These include:
  • Minds On Physics Internet Modules:
    The Minds On Physics Internet Modules include a collection of interactive questioning modules that help learners assess their understanding of physics concepts and solidify those understandings by answering questions that require higher-order thinking. Assignments from the Electric Circuits module make for a great complement to this Concept Builder. They are best used in the middle to later stages of the learning cycle. Visit the Minds On Physics Internet Modules.

    Users may find that the app version of Minds On Physics works best on their devices. The app version can be found in the Minds On Physics the App section of our website. The Electric Circuits activities are located in App #4. Visit Minds On Physics the App.


Additional resources and ideas for incorporating Know Your Potential into an instructional unit on Electric Circuits can be found at the Teacher Toolkits section of The Physics Classroom website.  Visit Teacher Toolkits.