The development of modeling skills through computer based simulation of an ant colony
Constantinide, K. C.
Kalyfommatou, N. G.
Constantinou, Constantinos P.
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Learning in science can be analyzed into a number of constituent components: the acquisition of experiences with natural phenomena provides the basis for the subsequent development of concepts; the mental representation of the structure and organization of scientific knowledge that is needed to avoid knowledge fragmentation and meaningless use of jargon comes with the development of epistemological awareness; scientific and reasoning skills provide the strategies and procedures for making operational use of one’s conceptual understanding in order to analyze and understand every day phenomena but also to undertake critical evaluation of evidence in decision making situations. Finally, positive attitudes towards inquiry feed students motivation and safeguard sustainable engagement with the learning process. Traditional instruction has failed to explicitly take into account many of these components. This has severely constrained the ability of traditional teaching approaches to promote real learning. Effective instructional programs need to promote all these components in unison in a manner that enhances situated learning and promotes awareness of the significance of coherent operational understanding and its power in shaping decisions, both public and personal. At the level of the individual student, modeling can provide a theme that runs through the whole of science learning and through appropriate instructional design can be used to continuously focus in on all the components mentioned above in a systematic and constructive way. The Learning in Physics Group has a program to explore the way modeling can shape the teaching and learning process in science and the extent to which computer-based modeling tools can support this process. We have designed and implemented an intervention to develop the modeling skills of students in upper elementary grades in the context of division of labour in an ant colony. In this paper, we present the design of our ant colony simulation environment and the learning outcomes of one classroom trial of our intervention.