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  Feature Name: Guided inquiry integrated 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, Educational Games

Subject: Physical sciences

Kind: Element/Applet

 Elementary School
 Middle School
 High School
 Higher Education
 Teachers & Principals


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 (6) Principles
  • Enable virtual navigation for exploring complex physical systems
  • Provide dynamic visual aids for the perception of 3D phenomena
  • Communicate the rich diversity of inquiry
  • Scaffold the process of generating explanations
  • Reduce visual complexity to help learners recognize salient information
  • Create a clear and engaging flow of activities
    Feature in Visual Map
    The activities draw the user to specific observations, and ask him guided questions about it. This way it motivates users to observe and analyze the events they view while flying in the virtual system.
    For example, for helping the user understand moon phases, he/she is positioned above the Moon’s orbital plane to observe the Moon, the Earth and the sun, and asked to pay attention to the changes of the angle between the Moon’s illuminated part and the Earth.
    By doing the activities users get more intuitive understanding of astronomy and develop essential visual literacy and information processing skills.
    (Yair, Mintz & Litvak, 2001)
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    The Virtual Solar System is a non-immersive 3D virtual environment. It contains the sun, planets, moons, asteroids and comets, revolving and rotating on the background of the Milky Way, the stars and constellations.
    The user flies in the solar system by the computer mouse as a spaceship.

    The virtual solar system is full of information and the learner has to control this flow of information. The rational behind adding the set of structured inquiries to the learning environment, is to focus the user on specific aspects of astronomy.
    (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, and to analyze the development of their understanding of basic astronomical phenomena and of possible alternative concepts.
    Some of the students participated in this study developed alternative misconceptions during the interaction.
    The researchers assume, that the emergence of 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 guided questions.
    (Gazit, Yair & Chen, under review)
    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.