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Proposal Contents:


The overall goal of this project is to develop and evaluate the use of complex, interactive computational models in the real-world situations encountered in two-year college technical programs. The project will develop a set of related, flexible atomic-scale models as well as the software architecture that supports the rapid development and deployment of educational materials that utilize these models. We will pilot test this technology in two-year college courses by providing a range of hypermodels that use atomic-scale models to illustrate key science topics in the context of typical technical specialties. We will identify a set of key science topics typically taught in biology, chemistry, and physics courses at this level and generate hypermodels for each that are based on technologies and processes used in specialty programs. Using WISE, the hypermodels will be integrated into complete online instructional units that faculty can adapt to their needs. The Web-based units will be designed to be easily inserted into courses without significant changes in the organization or learning objectives of current instruction. They will all, however, have a consistent, atomic-scale approach that could be the basis of a new, interdisciplinary approach to the core sciences, of the type advocated by Nobel laureate Leon Lederman (1999).

The units will be tested in two-year technical colleges throughout the country. Student understanding of the content and ability to transfer this understanding to new contexts will be measured through a combination of online and in-class evaluation techniques. The architecture, models, tools, modules, and findings will be widely disseminated.

The proposed units are illustrative of a larger class of models and tools that could make an important contribution to improved education at the two-year technical colleges as well more generally in education at all levels. If the proposed work with atomic-scale models proves promising, additional models that capture other core science phenomena might be developed. These might include models of fluid dynamics, electrical circuits, and classical mechanics as well as tools for real-time data acquisition, graphical analysis, and data mining all of which could all be wedded to the Pedagogica/WISE architecture developed for this project. The resulting materials could revitalize all aspects of mathematics, science, and engineering education. This architecture would support a wide range of materials using inquiry-based instruction and embedded assessment that faculty could easily create and modify, share, and disseminate. The importance of this project is to test this architecture and delivery as well as the feasibility and desirability of using models of these type in two-year college science courses.

(The following section will cover prior research on the Molecular Workbench project and software that forms the basis of the present proposal.)

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EIA-0219345. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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