In Touch With Molecules: Extending Learning With Cyber-Enabled Tangibles
National Science Foundation
This study will test claims that cyber-enabled tangible molecular models will promote different and improved ways of learning molecular biology content. It will also allow for the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics content that would not otherwise be addressed.
This research study builds on the groundbreaking work of Arthur Olson at the Scripps Research Institute. Olson directs the development of tangible molecular models that are augmented with computer-generated imagery and data.
WestEd researchers will use a mixed-method approach to investigate: How do cyber-enabled tangibles promote different and improved ways of learning core concepts in molecular biology?
Phase 1 will investigate the affordances of the cyber-enabled tangibles for conveying difficult-to-teach concepts in molecular biology in new and different ways.
Phase 2 will study whether the cyber-enabled tangibles are usable by students and teachers and feasible for use in the classroom.
Phase 3 will research how the tangibles influence student learning and engagement.
The study is funded by a Research and Evaluation on Education in Science and Engineering (REESE) grant from the National Science Foundation.
This research study will address the following key research questions:
- Which molecular concepts do the cyber-enabled tangibles effectively convey?
- Are cyber-enabled tangibles usable and feasible?
- Do the cyber-enabled tangibles promote learning and engagement in biology?
In Phase 1, researchers will carryout cognitive labs and interviews with experts, teachers, and students to identify the affordances of the cyber-enabled tangibles for conveying information about molecular structures and processes that are difficult to convey.
In Phase 2, researchers will ensure that it is feasible for teachers and students to use the cyber-enabled tangibles in actual classrooms, and we will conduct feasibility testing of the modules in the classrooms of one high school and one college classroom.
In Phase 3, researchers will use a pre-post test design to determine how the cyber-enabled tangibles affect student learning and engagement.
The initial phases of this research project will focus on gathering data to identify the hard-to-teach concepts of molecular biology that the cyber-enabled tangibles effectively convey and establish the usability and feasibility of the materials for classroom use.
During these phases, WestEd will also pilot and establish the validity and reliability of our learning measures.
In the final year of this study, WestEd will conduct a field test to investigate the effects of the cyber-enabled tangibles on learning and student engagement in biology.
Results from this study will inform the design of educational technologies as well as shape basic research about the influence of technology on student learning involving spatial information and dynamic processes.
Study results will be available following the 2014 study completion date.