June 14, 2009
June 14, 2009
June 17, 2009
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
14.231.1 - 14.231.19
Are Simulation Tools Developed and Used by Experts Appropriate Experimentation Tools for Educational Contexts?
Simulations and visualizations can lead to significant improvements in students’ conceptual understanding. This increased understanding may be due to the formation of expert- like dynamic mental models. Laboratory simulations have been used in educational contexts for inquiry learning by allowing learners to perform experiments as they would in a laboratory. The goal of this research study is to describe the way in which an instructor and his students perceive and experience computational tools in the context of a semiconductor devices graduate course. To accomplish this, a case study research design is presented. The case study consists of two levels of qualitative and quantitative data collection. An instructor and 19 graduate students in his course participated in this study. The initial study uses a student survey administered in the fall semester of 2008. The results of these survey help to identify instructors utilizing effective instructional methods by the students. The second part of the study consists of individual case studies of the instructor and one of his students followed by a cross-case pattern analysis. Results suggest that the instructor leveraged the potential of using computational simulation tools as laboratory simulations by creating meaningful learning experiences for his students. These experiences in turn, seemed to be well perceived and experienced by his graduate students.
The Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN) is transforming nanoscience to nanotechnology by providing researchers high-end, research quality, online simulations to 1 89,000 users for the year 2008 (Lundstrom et al., 2008) . A web portal called nanoHUB.org was initially focused on pioneering the development of nanotechnology from science to manufacturing through innovative theory, exploratory simulation, and novel cyber-infrastructure. Many participants in the center have incorporated the nanoHUB.org simulation tools as well as other resources to support the education and training of graduate and undergraduate students new to specific areas of nanoscience. Therefore, our main goal is to investigate how these expert tools can be used as learning tools.
The nanoHUB.org provides research-quality simulations that experts in nanoscience commonly use to build knowledge in their field. NanoHUB.org leverages an advanced cyber- infrastructure and middleware tools to provide seamless access to these simulations. As described on the nanoHUB.org website, key characteristics of the nanoHUB.org simulation tools that make them good resources for incorporation into classroom environments are: a) they were produced by researchers in the NCN focus areas, b) they are easily accessed online from a web browser powered by a highly sophisticated architecture that taps into national grid resources, and c) they provide a consistent interactive graphical user interface—i.e. Rappture, which makes even the most esoteric computational model approachable to experts and non-experts. Rappture is a toolkit that allows the incorporation of a friendly graphical user interface with the simulation tools in the nanoHUB.org (McLennan, 2005) 2 . For example, Figure 1 illustrates a typical
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