An Object-Based Modeling Tool for Science Inquiry
A major challenge of future secondary and undergraduate science instruction will be to help students learn to formulate, at an appropriate level of representation, mathematical models of physical phenomena for use with a computer simulation engine. Students will learn to investigate the behavior of these models and test their validity and scope of application. In order to make this leap in instruction to teaching model formulation, we have to confront the fact that students typically find it very difficult to express problems in the standard formal mathematical representations. The symbolic language of differential equations, for example, is very far removed from students’ mental models of the objects and object interactions involved in problem situations. Another kind of representation language—mathematically equivalent and mechanically translatable to differential equations, but more natural and accessible to students—is needed to provide them with initial experiences in problem formulation. The transition to the standard formal language can be made later, after they have acquired the relevant insights. This chapter describes a modeling tool for expressing phenomena directly in terms of the characteristic interactions among the objects involved. This object-based representation facilitates the introduction of modeling ideas and activities in science education. At the same time, it offers science researchers a productive new approach for investigating complex phenomena.
KeywordsSystem Dynamic Model Cellular Automaton Model Simulation Engine Interaction Equation Graphical Icon
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