Model-It is a learner-centered tool for building dynamic, qualitative based models. Model-It was designed to support students, even those with only very basic mathematical skills, building dynamic models of scientific phenomena, and running simulations with their models to verify and analyze the results. For instance, students can build models of water quality and then test how various pollutants would affect water quality. Model-It provides an easy-to-use visual structure with which students can plan, build and test their models. There are numerous scaffolds in Model-It that supports learning. For instance, we have structured the building of models into a sequence of plan, build and test. This guides students in the process of building their own models.
The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
A major component of doing science is building computer-based models. Unfortunately, most students in our schools dont have opportunities to create models because they dont have access to modeling programs that are designed for learners. Model-it can provide that opportunity by offering supports for learners in the design process.
Context of Use:
We have used Model-it extensively in high school and in middle schools with a broad range of teacher and student abilities and backgrounds. For the use of Model-It to be successful, it needs to be integrated into the curriculum. We have designed several middle school curriculum units that have Model-It as an integral component. These three units include: What is the quality of our air?, Can good friends make you sick?, and What is the quality of our water? Within each of these units, Model-It is used several times. Moreover, these units build on each other giving students successive uses of Model-It. Our prediction is that such iterative use would allow student to build more detailed and complex models.
We have used Model-It with thousands of students in both urban and suburban areas. We have studied the type of practice that students engage in while using Model-it. These studies show that Model-It allows students to take part in a variety of scientific practices such as testing, debugging, building relationships, specifying variables and synthesis.
Stratford, S. J., Krajcik, J., Soloway, E. (1998). Secondary students dynamic modeling processes: analyzing, reasoning about, synthesizing, and testing models of stream ecosystems. Journal of Science Education and Technology , 7(3), 215-234.
Jackson, S., Krajcik, J., Soloway, E. (2000). Model-It: A Design Retrospective. In Jacobson, M. and Kozma, R (Eds.), Advanced Designs For The Technologies Of Learning: Innovations in Science and Mathematics Education. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Fretz, E., Wu, H.-K., Zhang, B. H., Davis, E. A., Krajcik, J. , & Soloway, E. (in press). An investigation of software scaffolds supporting modeling processes. Research in Science Education.