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  Feature Name: different modes of observations in the VSS
Author: osnat eldar

Category: Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Models, Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Simulations, Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Visual Explanations (2D+3D), Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Virual Reality, Inquiry Tools: Open-ended inquiry, Inquiry Tools: Guided inquiry, Educational Games

Subject: Physical sciences

Kind: Element/Applet

 Elementary School
 Middle School
 High School
 Higher Education
 Teachers & Principals


Software URL: VSS- Virtual Solar System

Created by: Dr. Yoav Yair, Dr. Rachel Mintz, Shay Litvak The Center of Education Technology (CET) and Tel-Aviv University’s Science and Technology Education Center (SATEC), in Tel-Aviv, ISRAEL.

Reference URL

This Feature is connected to (3) Principles
  • Enable virtual navigation for exploring complex physical systems
  • Provide dynamic visual aids for the perception of 3D phenomena
  • Use multiple representations
    Feature in Visual Map
    There are 4 modes of observation:
    1. The free mode.
    In this mode the student is free to explor the solar system without focusing on a
    preselected object.
    2. Sun - in- site view
    In this mode the chosen object is shown together with the sun, from a vantage point.
    3. Planetary View
    The planet in shown in the center of the screen and the user is locked on it.
    4. Geocentric view
    the user rotates at the same rate as the object that is observed.
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    Students have difficulty in observing phenomenon from different points of view, particulary, they have difficulty to leave the goecentric point of view. This ability is necessary to understand the basic astronomical phenomena - day and night, seasons, eclipses, phases of the moon and the motion of planets.
    The goal of this feature is to illustrate students how things look from different perspectives, and in this way to help them overcom the inherent geocentrical model. The differnt views also illustrate the respective distances and spatial relations of the objects.
    Context of Use:
    Study conducted with 10 10th grde students showed that students need assistance in their interaction with the VSS. Students developed alternative misconceptions of the Earth-moon-Sun system, which may be reduced or prevented by guidance and suitable scaffolding.
    The VSS contains structured inquiries that focus the user on specific aspects and ask him guided questions. (Detailed description appears in the feature “Combined Structured inquiries in the VSS”).
    Gazit. E., and Chen, D. (2003).
    Gazit E., Chen, D., & Yair, Y. (accepted).
    Field-based Evidence:
    The case-study research conducted with ten 10th grade volunteered students,
    revealed two basic types of exploration behavior in free-exploration task: (1) a dynamic mode, in which the student interacts within a dynamic VSS, and (2) a still mode, in which the student interacts within a static VSS.
    In the dynamic mode there were found three exploration patterns: (1) the butterfly pattern, (2) the bee pattern, and (3) The eagle pattern. Some of the students shifted between the three patterns, while others maintained a single one. (Gazit & Chen, 2003)
    For additional result see references 2 and 3.
    Gazit, E. (2004). The gain and pain in taking the pilot seat: Interaction dynamics within virtual learning environments. The 3d International Symposium on VR & Rehabilitation, The Institute for Interdisciplinary Applications of Computer Science, University of Haifa, Israel, 17-18 March 2004.

    Gazit, E. & Chen, D. (2003). Using the Observer to analyze learning in virtual worlds. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments and Computers, 35(3), 400-407.

    Gazit, E., Chen, D. & Yair, Y. (under review). Emerging Conceptual Understanding of Complex Astronomical Phenomena by Using a Virtual Solar System (VSS). The Journal of Science Education and Technology.

    Gazit, E., Chen, D., & Yair, Y. (2004). Using a virtual solar system to develop a conceptual understanding of basic astronomical phenomena. In: Cantoni, L., & McLoughlin, C. (Eds.). Proceedings of ED-Media 2004 World conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia & Telecommunications. (p. 4344-4349). Lugano: Switzerland, June 21-26, 2004.

    Yair, Y., Mintz, r. & Litvak, S. (2001). 3D-virtual reality in science education: An
    implication for astronomy teaching. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 20(3(), 293-305.

    Yair, Y., Schur, Y. & Mintz Rachel. (2003). A “Thinking Journey” to the Planets Using Scientific Visualization Technologies: Implications to Astronomy Education.
    Journal of Science Education and technology, 12(1), 43-49.

    Image:(Click to enlarge)