Science --> Models of matter
Snir, School of Education, University of Haifa, Israel, In collaboration
with Dr. Carol Smith, University
of Massachusetts / Boston and Deborah Maclin and Lorraine Grosslight,
ETC, Harvard University Graduate School of Education.
Description: The software simulates three laboratory
experiments to help middle-school students gain a better grasp of the
nature of matter.
grade level: 6 - 8
uses in curriculum:
1. As an aid to facilitate greater understanding of the nature of matter,
and it’s macroscopic manifestations.
2. As a context for engaging students in scientific inquiry in which
they also have an idea of the nature of scientific models and the process
3. Provide a context for the kids to articulate their mental models
about the nature of matter. And in case their mental models match with
any of the software models, then the software can be used to test the
predictive power of their mental models. And that would help students
evaluate different models with respect to how good a job it did in explaining
4. Encouraging model building among students as a tool to understand
5. Facilitate collaborative learning among students in the class.
provided that are not available through other means:
The software provides excellent opportunities for students to not only
choose their models for a phenomenon, but also to evaluate them in terms
of their explanatory powers. Such a modeling opportunity though possible
would be hard to match in ease and convenience through conventional
of the software: Limited.
1. How to follow simple computer instructions.
2. Thermal expansion of solids.
3. Solubility of miscible liquids.
4. Chemical reactions.
needed: PC. Works on a Windows environment.
Some teacher help may be needed in the beginning and through the lesson
for: (a) For establishing the problem, i.e. convincing students why
it is important to study the nature of matter; (b) Refreshing their
understanding of the required background knowledge; (c) Help in understanding
the nature of models in Physics, how modeling helps understand nature;
(d) modeling and some bit of coaching about model making and how to
use the software.
Ease of use: The software is pretty easy to learn and use.
engaging is the software:
The choice of experiments, modeling and simulation opportunities provided
in the software make the software quite engaging. The simplicity and
elegance of the design further add to its appeal.
of software design:
The simplicity and elegance of the design is appealing. The screen is
uncluttered, and the user's attention is not diverted by less used distracting
features contemporary commercial software seems so enamored of.
does it address the Michigan Curricular Framework:
The software can be used to (partially) address –
1. Strand I, content standard 1;
2. Strand II, content standard 1;
3. Strand IV, content standard 1; at the middle school level.
1. Easy to understand experiments.
2. Easy to operate.
3. Uncluttered and free from distractions.
4. Has a clear and easy to understand sequence of experiment –
model – predictions – matching of predictions with experimental
results. This is a sequence that is often adopted for modeling natural
5. A reasonably good modeling software for a subject area that is singularly
difficult to understand.
1. The software apparently is to be used in conjunction with a video
that shows actual demonstrations of the three experiments used in the
software. However, the software doesn’t come equipped with supplementary
curriculum and software guide that would have helped a teacher realize
in reality the curricular intentions of the software designers. Thus
the teacher is left alone to figure out the intent and purpose of the
software and how best to use it in the class.
2. Can only operate on PC systems.
for a Screenshot