SiMSAM at AERA 2014


Computational media (visualizations, simulations, etc.) allow students to elaborate and test their scientific understandings in ways that may be difficult using only speech or drawing. We report on a multi-day workshop with five sixth-grade girls during which they constructed and critiqued models of smell diffusion using drawing, stop-motion animation, and computational simulation. We analyze video to identify shifts in their modeling practices and conceptual understandings over the course of the activity. We found: (1) despite changes in media, the participants sustained their pursuit of a model of smell diffusion rather than starting over; (2) their model underwent cycles of conceptual elaboration, pruning, and encapsulation when transitioning across media; and (3) participants engaged in different modeling practices with different media.


Wilkerson-Jerde, M., Gravel, B. & Macrander, C. (2014). Exploring shifts in middle school learners' modeling activity while drawing, animating, and simulating molecular diffusion. Presented at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Philadelphia, PA, April 3-7.

More About the SiMSAM Project

SiMSAM explores middle school learners' scientific modeling practices as they work across Simulation, Animation, and Measurement / Data Analysis tools.

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