Open thread: What is the impact of getting students to make “real-world connections”?

This discussion point comes from a friend of mine, Sandy Martinuk, who is working on his PhD in Physics Education Research at UBC. One of the questions that he is struggling with in his research has to do with the idea of trying to get students to make “real-world connections” in their introductory Physics courses.

So here is the discussion point:

Instructors often use examples or stories designed to help their students see connections between physics and the real world, but rarely think about exactly what they hope to achieve.  What does it mean for students to make a “real-world connection”?  Do these have any lasting affective or cognitive impact?

Let’s hear your thoughts mighty blogosphere and feel free to substitute your science of choice for Physics if that is where your expertise lies.