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  Feature Name: Navigation in the Virtual Solar System (VSS)
Author: VSS team

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

Subject: Physical sciences

Kind: Element/Applet

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Software URL: Virtual Solar System (VSS)

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 (2) Principles
  • Enable virtual navigation for exploring complex physical systems
  • Provide dynamic visual aids for the perception of 3D phenomena
    Feature in Visual Map
    The Virtual Solar System contains the sun, planets, moons, asteroids and comets, revolving and rotating on the background of the Milky Way, the stars and constellations.
    The 4 navigation tools are (see figure):
    1) Four modes of observation: A free mode; Sun-in-Site view; Planetary view; Geocentric view
    2) Within every mode the user can change his/her point of view, zoom in or out and fly around the object in any direction.
    3) Two-dimensional map of the solar system
    4) Changing the speed of the system
    (Gazit & Chen, 2003; Gazit, Chen & Yair, under review ;Yair, Mintz & Litvak, 2001)
    For details see references and other relevant feature of the VSS in this database.
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    The Virtual Solar System is a non-immersive 3D virtual environment. The user fly in the solar system by the computer mouse as a spaceship.
    There are 4 navigation tools, which the user uses by a navigation remote-control that is located at the bottom of the computer screen.
    The goal of those multiple tools is to provide the user navigation possibilities as in a real world, and in this way to enable the him/her to get a holistic picture of the solar system and to construct a three-dimensional mental picture of it. The multiple possibilities navigation help the user understand the solar system, its dimensions and the astronomical phenomena, and bridge the gap between the concrete world of nature and the abstract world of concepts and models.
    (Gazit & Chen, 2003; Gazit, Chen & Yair, under review; Yair, Mintz & Litvak, 2001)
    Context of Use:
    A case-study research was conducted with ten 10th grade volunteered students, in order to study their learning process during a real-time interaction with the VSS. Some of the students participated in the study developed alternative misconceptions during the interaction. Some possible reasons can explain this (see reference 3).
    The researches assume that the alternative concepts may be reduced or prevented by instruction and appropriate activities and scaffolds. The VSS contains structured inquiries that focus the user on specific aspects and ask him/her guided questions. (detailed description appears in the feature “Combined Structured inquiries in the VSS”).
    (Gazit, Yair & Chen, under review)
    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)