Sunday, December 2, 2007

Integrating Sims in High School Science Classroom - Rationale


For the past two decades, educational technologists have been arguing that real-world simulations would have a great impact on education (Thomas & Hooper, 1991; Dede, 1992; Hardin & Ziebarth, 2000). However, integrating simulations into modern classrooms is no easy task as technology integration in education stands at the intersection between educational change and technological development. In order to use simulations effectively, teachers not only have to learn the technology, but must also change the way they teach. Like science experiments and many other computer-mediated learning activities, simulations work best when students are functioning in hands-on and problem-based inquiry mode, interacting with the simulation and peers. In this way, technologies are used as knowledge construction tools that students learn with (Jonassen, Carr, & Yueh, 1998).

Although a large number of studies indicate that learner-centered activities are the most effective approach to authentic learning, currently few teachers are conducting their classrooms in a student-centered manner, and in addition, a low percentage of teachers even feel comfortable managing a student-centered classroom activity (Kain, 2003; King, 2003). However, with the call to “put the children and their learning needs within the center of every educational program and resource decision” (ASCD, 2007), it is essential for teachers to change their way of teaching in line with the educational change and technological development.

In this context, I plan to develop a lesson plan that integrates educational computer simulation modules in a high school science classroom. The goal of this project is to help high school science teachers shift to a more inquiry-based teaching style by providing them with learning tools that support a more student-centered approach. In addition, I hope to help students develop a greater understanding of, and interest in content areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics through educational simulations. This project will employ educational simulation modules based on inquiry-based constructivist pedagogy, such as a collaborative, problem-based, and learner-directed of instruction (Koschmann, 2001) – it is my belief that students learn more when they are involved in inquiry based learning activities and when they gather, analyze and interpret data, providing them an opportunity to draw conclusions and report their findings. The lesson plan will be aligned with the Indiana science standards and to the National Science Education Standards (NSES), as well as the textbook used in high school science classrooms.

The learning goals of the lesson plan is to assist students:
  • Develop deeper and more personal ways of thinking about science.
  • Engage in interactive, inquiry-based methods of learning about science.
  • Obtain a greater understanding of science content.
  • Address misconceptions they may have regarding science.
One of the inspiring educational websites that have contributed to this project is the official site of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Education Division. As clearly stated on the site, the NASA is dedicated to engaging students, educators and families in NASA-related activities at the elementary and secondary education levels thus to inspire and motivate the students to pursue higher levels of study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) (NASA, 2007). The site includes wonderful technology-based educational resources such as computer simulations, games, videos, and many other multimedia instructional materials that can be used for K-12 science classrooms. Among those affluent resources, I decided to use a simulation program named Rocket Modeler II because it is an excellent tool for students to learn the basics of forces and the response of an object to external forces, and understand physics concepts such as velocity, ballistic flight, and Galileo’s principle (NASA, 2007). Players will need to design a rocket properly to ensure its successful launch. Through learning by design and problem solving, students will be expected to build higher order skills such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation in the fields of STEM. The National Science Education Standards (NSES) will be connected to the integration of this simulation module in high school science classroom.


Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. (2007). The whole child. A report by ASCD Commission on the Whole Child.

Dede, C. (1992). The future of multimedia: Bridging to virtual worlds. Educational Technology, 32 (5), 54-60.

Hardin, J., & Ziebarth, J. (2000). Digital technology and its impact on education. Retrieved September 12, 2007 from /hardin.html

Jonassen, D. H., Carr, C., & Yueh, H. P. (1998). Computers as mindtools for engaging learners in critical thinking. TechTrends, 43 (2), 24-32.

Kain, D. (2003). Teacher centered versus student centered: balancing constraint and theory in the composition Classroom. Pedagogy, 3 (1), 104-108.

Koschmann, T. (2001, March). Dewey’s contribution to a standard of problem-based learning practice. Paper presented at First European Conference on Computer-Supported Collaborative (EuroCSCL), Maastricht, Netherlands.

King, I. C. (2003). Examining middle school inclusion classrooms through the lens of learner-centered principles. Theory into Practice, 42 (2), 151-158.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. (2007). A message from the Director of Elementary & Secondary Education. Retrieved on November 18, 2007 from

Thomas, R., & Hooper, E. (1991). Simulations: An opportunity we are missing. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 23 (4).

No comments: