Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design, Customization and Implementation of Energy Simulation with 5E Model in Elementary Classroom

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design, Customization and Implementation of Energy Simulation with 5E Model in Elementary Classroom

Article excerpt


Science simulations are best described as "software programs that allow students to explore complex interactions among dynamic variables that model real-life situations" (Park, Lee, & Kim, 2009, p. 649). Like Rutten, van Joolingen, and van der Veen (2012), we view interactivity to be an essential feature of science simulations and this is what that makes them distinct from non-interactive based animations. Simulations are capable of accepting inputs and presenting the computational results in multiple representations like graphs or tables. Such interactivity and multiple representations afforded by simulation lends itself as a handy tool for inquiry-based learning, a common approach adopted by science educators (S. Chen, 2010). Moreover, a wealth of such simulations is freely available and accessible online (S. Chen, 2010). With their educational usefulness and availability, such simulations, inevitably, are becoming popular among Science educators.

Despite the pervasive use of simulations in schools and considerable research reporting on older students (Y. L. Chen, Hong, Sung, & Chang, 2011; Lamb & Annetta, 2013; Rutten et al., 2012; Scalise et al., 2011), there is paucity of research regarding the use of simulations in elementary school settings (Smetana & Bell, 2012). To address this gap, we report a study that explores the design, customization and implementation of energy simulation (Gallis, 2010) in an elementary classroom. We modified this open source roller coaster simulation created using Easy Java Simulation Toolkit developed by Esquembre (2012). Taking on the dual role of a designer and teacher, we modified the simulation for use to suit the elementary classroom and also implemented the lesson the based on the BCSE 5E model (Bybee et al., 2006).

Literature review

Inquiry learning with science simulation

Inquiry learning has been an essential part of Science education throughout the world. Students are situated in an inductive learning mode, in which deductions on science principles are made based on their experience with the instructional materials (de Jong, 2005). In this paper, we adopt the view that science is better understood through inquiry as recommended by the Singapore Ministry of Education (2008). During inquiry learning, students are actively engaged in science learning through activities like question-posing and answering, investigation, testing their hypothesis, evaluating and communicating their findings. Depending on the readiness of the students, the mode of inquiry can range from teacher centered (closed inquiry), teacher driven (very structured inquiry), teacher guided (guided inquiry) and student centered (open inquiry) which allows different strategies to be adopted.

Science simulations are probably suitable for these inquiry-based activities due to its capability of displaying multiple representations and its interactivity (Chen, Wu, & Jen, 2013). In using the simulations to conduct investigations, the students are learning together with technology (Jonassen, Howland, Marra, & Crismond, 2008). Using simulation as their partner in learning, these simulations can present the data in table or graphical form automatically. Hence, the students' cognitive resources are freed up so that they can now focus on higher-order thinking processes (e.g., analyzing the results and designing investigations). Furthermore, the simulation offers multiple representations (e.g., word, pictures, diagrams, graphs and table of values) of the same or related concepts. These multiple representations complement one another and students can thus now "integrate information from the various representations to achieve insights that would otherwise be difficult to achieve with only a single representation" (Wong, Sng, Ng, & Wee, 2011, p. 178).

With a deeper understanding of the concept, the students can now be in a better position to respond to questions, to evaluate and communicate their findings. …

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