Theory around Model-It™

Theoretical advancements

The Model-It™ LCSD Framework

The researchers have developed a framework around Model-It™, based on learner-centered design. At the same time, Model-It™ has informed and advanced the particular framework, which emphasizes on the importance of the learner as the user, and not the general user. The purpose of the Learner-Centered Software Design Framework (LCSD) is to describe the affordances and the effectivities of a learning process by considering the learners and their unique needs (Jackson et al., 2000). The framework addresses issues around the tasks, tools, and interfaces, describing ways that scientific modeling can be effectively scaffolded:

A. Tasks that the software supports:

In order to effectively scaffold the modeling tasks there needs to be several constraints set to address their complex nature. With Model-It™ the tasks are being scaffolded though qualitative definitions of the objects and their complex relations (Figure 1).

Figure 1: During a lesson about ecosystems, the task was to start from the stream object, define its factors “phosphate” and “quality” and then define the relationship between them.

B. Tools with which the tasks are performed:

In order to support various learning styles the software needs to provide multiple, adaptable tools that refer to multiple levels of expertise. With Model-It™ there are several ways that the learners can qualitatively define the relationships between the objects. Through the use of the software, their modeling skills are scaffolded to become more complex and sophisticated, and therefore, they can define the relationships more quantitatively by inserting data points into a table (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Students enter data points into a table. As their thinking becomes more sophisticated, they move from qualitative descriptions, to more quantitative representations.

C. Interfaces of the tools:

There needs to be an engaging interface that triggers curiosity, be innovative for the learner and be aesthetically attractive, scaffolding the use of different media and modes of expression (Soloway et al, 1994). It can also be constructed by affording visual structures of the tools as well as opportunities for articulation of what students learn. With Model-It™ learners’ interest is sustained in the task through the interactivity and the engagement in personal graphics that enhance motivation. It is argued that with the use of photos at the background, the task becomes more concrete and authentic, and therefore, more engaging (Figure 3). Further, the interface of the software provides a guiding structure, through which the learner can reflect while constructing the model.

Figure 3: By having learners using a photo of the actual stream that they investigated, the task becomes more concrete and authentic, structured and engaging.

The Framework for Model-It™ provides 3 types of scaffolding; Supportive scaffolding, Reflective scaffolding, and Intrinsic scaffolding (Figure 4).

  • Supportive scaffolding: Guidance through subtasks and coaching throughout the software, providing examples.
  • Reflective scaffolding: Eliciting articulation through planning tasks, descriptions and explanations of objects and their relationships, testing and evaluation.
  • Intrinsic scaffolding: Affordances for multiple representations for defining the factors, the relationships. Also, intrinsic scaffolding is enhanced through views of the model and the factor values.

Figure 4: The types of scaffolding enhanced through the Model-It™ Framework.