The software affords several equations that facilitate understanding of qualitative and quantitative, textually-expressed relationships. Meters and graphs provide fruitful visualizations of the relationships among the objects as well as a dynamic representation of the relationships among the variables. Students create objects for their visual representations, factors (variables for the objects), and relationships between those factors. They also create sentences by selecting words from drop-down menus in several editors in the model, enabling a dynamic, visual representation of complex scientific phenomena. Below follows the process that students use to create scientific models:
Step 1: Planning a model
In order for learners to start a model, they need to identify three aspects: objects, variables, and relationships (Figure 1). This decision is usually made on paper, with basic planning to define the three aspects. Once they know the content that they are going to model, students will define what is to be included in the model.
Step 2: Building Objects and Variables
The first object students add to their model is the background object; a picture from the icon palette dragged to the empty screen. The same happened when students add the rest of the objects (Figure 1). Once they begin dragging objects to the screen, the Object Editor appears (Figure 2), where students type in the name of the object, and a description of it.
Once defining the objects, students begin defining the variables. Once they select a new variable from the menu bar, they modify it from the Variable Editor (Figure 3) by clicking on the object associated with the variable under construction, defining the value, and writing a description of it. This process of defining the variables is repeated for each of the objects.
Figure 2: The Object Editor tool; students define the
objects and write descriptions of those.
Figure 3: The Variable Editor; with this tool students define the values of the variables.
Step 3: Building relationships
In this step, students construct the relationships between the variables. On the Relationship Editor tool (Figure 4), they manipulate the variables; they read the relationship they are about to build and define how the variables are affected by other variables (Dependent and Independent Variables). Once they decide the variables, students define the degree to which the dependent variables will change; this relationship is represented on the screen (Figure 5) for all the affected variables.
Figure 4: The Relationship Editor through which students modify
the variables. The graph on the right side is linked to
the text selection and changes accordingly, helping
students make connections between the represented
qualitative and quantitative information.
Figure 5: The relationship between the variables of the
objects represented on the screen and students
are able to change them and view the changes instantly.
Step 4: Testing the Model
After determining relationships among the objects, students can test their model. The process is simple; students click on the TEST button and then on the METER button, they select the variables, and click PLAY (Figure 6). On the bottom of the screen the simulation graph will appear, showing the progress of the variables. Students can change the values of the variables and watch the changes immediately on the dynamic model they created.