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Invitation for research collaboration with members of EDEN (European Distance and ELearning Network)
Name of researchers: Dr. Botzer Galit*, Prof. Miriam Reiner
Affiliation: *Institute of Alternatives in Education, Faculty of Education Haifa University,
+ Department of Education in Technology and Science, Technion-Israel Institute of
Research topic: Construction of mental model in mechanics through sensory interaction in
computerized environment
The research focuses on construction of physics understanding through sensory interaction with a
hapto-visual mediated environment. The learning environment is a unique computerized system with
a haptic interface. Users can feel forces exerted on their hand, and manipulate virtual objects visible
on the screen.
The research goal was to characterize processes of meaning construction, experienced by middle
school students while interacting with computerized simulations in mechanics. In particular we
examined the role of motor action and force sensation in construction of physics mental models.
The subjects were asked to represent mechanical situation, to characterize physical parameters and
to solve prediction problems. Their responses were documented and analyzed inductively.
Analysis of the observed behavior showed that subjects frequently used motor actions to explore
features of the mechanical system, to construct preliminary meaning and to refine their
interpretations. The observed responses reflected three cognitive mechanisms: sharing of sensory
information, using strategies of scientific inquiry and using mental images of forces and motion.
These mechanisms contributed to the representation of physics ideas. Along with alternative ideas
such as Aristotelian view of forces, subjects spontaneously expressed ideas, which corresponded to
formal conventions in physics. Analysis across display of simulations showed that subjects who
worked with haptic display constructed meaningful representations, based solely on haptic
information and subjects who worked with combined display constructed more detailed
representations then subjects who work with visual display.
The results suggest that sensory interaction is a powerful tool for construction of mental models in
mechanics. This implies that integration of haptic interfaces in a computerized environment enhances
learning in physics.
Topics of collaboration: Learning through sensory interaction computerized environment
Contact information (e-mail): [email protected]