Virtual Modeling for Learning Science and Math
Researchers at George Mason University have released a first glimpse into virtual worlds, complete with gear and a high level of interactivity, to help students understand advanced physics and chemistry concepts. Three-dimensional, multisensory worlds in which students can manipulate physical forces could prove to be a powerful visualization tool. Currently, the power of a supercomputer is needed for these investigations. The goal of the project is to create CD game-like environments with long-term benefits for educators. This team has learned that immersion in such worlds help reduce misconceptions about these phenomena. They note that for a SMALL percentage of students some eyestrain and motion sickness may occur. Finally, they acknowledge that even such powerful, interactive simulations cannot replace good teaching!
VRML has been implanted in the periodic table at psinvention. You may need some plug-ins to manipulate the elements.
The Vlab was designed for non-physics majors at the Unviersity of Oregon who lack access to a real laboratory. Using Java rather than VRML, experiments in mechanics, thermodynamics, astrophysics and electricity can be performed. While not the real thing, such visualization of phenomena is helpful.
Molecular modeling (mathmol)takes advantage of the Web to display 3D models at the intersection of math and biology/chemistry and to mount a series for K-12 of hypermedia textbooks. The classroom activities are refreshing, especially the unit on water molecules for K-3.
Zaxwerks maintains a list of both commercial and freeware/shareware 3D modeling software.
Project MAC at the Concord Consortium has launched a $7 million project, sponsored by NSF, DOE and NIH and Harvard, Northwestern,and local schools etc., to build on modeling tools such as LOGO, Model-It, and Biology SW to generate an array of modeling tools across the curriculum and integrate with assessment of student progress to provide just-in-time remediation, a critical juncture in modeling projects. This approach foreshadows the sw tool and content tool integration trend.
The Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing at Stanford covers over 40 different products and processes. Products include candy, cars, airplanes, and bottles.
Tree of Life depicts modeling by showing all of life.
Science by Design connects inquiry and design, a difficult task for teachers to imagine. Contact NSTA to acquire.
May be off-line due to funding problems.
Video game manufacturers may pick up the tab for the actual implementation of these worlds after the research is completed in three years or so. As the principal investigator asked,"Can we find something better than Super Mario II to put in game cartridges?"