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Designing a programming-based approach for modelling scientific phenomena

Simpson, G; Hoyles, C; Noss, R; (2005) Designing a programming-based approach for modelling scientific phenomena. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning , 21 (2) pp. 143-158. Green open access

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Abstract

We describe an iteratively designed sequence of activities involving the modelling of 1- dimensional collisions between moving objects based on programming in ToonTalk. Students aged 13-14 in two settings (London and Cyprus) investigated a number of collision situations, classified into six classes based on the relative velocities and masses of the colliding objects. We describe iterations of the system in which students engaged in a repeating cycle of activity for each collision class: prediction of object behaviour from given collision conditions, observation of a relevant video clip, building a model to represent the phenomena, testing, validating and refining their model, and publishing it ? together with comments ? on our web-based collaboration system, WebReports. Students were encouraged to consider the limitations of their current model, with the aim that they would eventually appreciate the benefit of constructing a general model that would work for all collision classes, rather than a different model for each class. We describe how our intention to engage students with the underlying concepts of conservation, closed systems and system states was instantiated in the activity design, and how the modelling activities afforded an alternative representational framework to traditional algebraic description.

Type: Article
Title: Designing a programming-based approach for modelling scientific phenomena
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Additional information: This article is a major output from a ?1.8 million European-funded three-year project involving six countries: the main authors were project directors. The paper describes an iteratively-designed sequence of activities involving the modelling of 1-dimensional collisions between moving objects based on programming in ToonTalk. Students aged 13-14 in two settings investigated a number of collision situations that were classified into six different classes based on the relative velocities and masses of the colliding objects. The paper details the final iteration of the system in which students engaged in a repeating cycle of activity for each collision class: prediction of object behaviour from given collision conditions, observation of a relevant video clip, building a model to represent the phenomena, testing, validating and refining their model, and publishing it ? together with comments ? on a specially-designed web-based collaboration system, WebReports. The paper shows how students engaged with the underlying concepts of conservation, closed systems and system states, and how the modelling activities afforded an alternative representational framework to traditional algebraic description. The definitive version is available at www3.interscience.wiley.com
Keywords: Maths, ICT, ICT and learning
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1515610
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