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  Feature Name: Physical and computerized models to illustrate phases of the moon
Author: Editorial Board

Category: Visualization Tools (pre-designed), Visualization Tools (pre-designed): Models

Subject: Earth sciences

Kind: Element/Applet

 Elementary School
 Middle School
 High School
 Higher Education
 Teachers & Principals


Software URL: Moon phases project in WISE

Created by: WISE - Web-based Science Inquiry Science Environment

Reference URL

This Feature is connected to (1) Principles
  • Provide dynamic visual aids for the perception of 3D phenomena
    Feature in Visual Map
    This feature is part of the moon phases module in WISE.
    To explore why the moon has different appearances every day, students use two models, one physical and the other computerized. Each of the models is a different representation of the Sun-Earth-Moon system, and represents the phenomenon from a different perspective. The use of the models is scaffolded by guiding questions (see figure).
    The Rationale Behind the Feature (Specific Design Principle):
    Understanding the moon-phases phenomenon requires advanced cognitive skills and spatial perception. Research from the past decades indicate, that students from various cultures and ages have difficulties in understanding these basic astronomical phenomena and hold alternative conceptions, which they use for explaining their observations of astronomical phenomena (e.g.: Atwood & Atwood, 1996; Nussbaum & Novak, 1976; Stahly, Krockover & Shepardson,1999; Trumper, 2003). To understand the moon phases one is required to build a mental model of the Sun-Earth-Moon system, and make complex mental manipulations on this model (Callison & Wright, 1993; Mualem & Nussbaum, 2002; Yair, Schur & Mintz, 2003).

    Context of Use:
    Different models have differnt affordances and limitations. Computerized models, and physical models each have their typical affordances and limiations . With appropariate scaffolding, the combination between them, can help students enjoy the benfits of both.
    Field-based Evidence:
    A study conducted with 27 seventh-grade students, taught by a science teacher who volunteered to use the module showed that the physical and computerized model complement each other: students choose to use different models in different situations and use them intertwiningly. For instance, in several cases, students stopped the computerized model at a certain point, and checked what the phase of the moon would be using the physical model. We noticed several “aha!” points when students worked with both models (Hans, Kali, Yair, 2008).
    • Hans, M. & Kali, Y. (2007). Spatial perception of the moon phases: Designing a Web-based module for middle school students. Paper accepted to 2008 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), New York, March 2008.
    • Hans, M. & Kali, Y. (2007). Promoting middle school spatial perception of the moon phases with a web-based module. Paper accepted to 2008 annual conference of the National Association of Research in Science teaching (NARST), Baltimore, March-April 2008.

    Image:(Click to enlarge)

    The two models: On the left: computerized modle showing two perspectives of the sun, earth, moon system. On the right: illustration of how kids use the pysical model. The model is a ball painted half white and half black (representing the moon, in which

    Image:(Click to enlarge)

    Example points which serve as scaffolds when using the computerized model