tames powerful software tools for practical, effective learning activities

A Software Interface that Simplifies Open-ended Models and Tools

Pedagogica is a software environment that converts tools and models into hypermodels. These are inquiry-based lessons that provide guidance to students as they use the software. Pedagogica tailors the appearance of the tools and the available options, presenting only those that are relevant to the activity. The interface is also used to assess student progress. It reports feedback, in real-time over the Internet, as students work through a series of activities.

Hypermodel Schematic
Pedagogica allows tools and models to be controlled by scripts and incorporated into lessons.

Updating Materials and Tracking Student Progress over the Internet

Pedagogica is itself controlled by a script that can be easily modified and delivered over the Internet. This easy modification of Pedagogica scripts allows us to make quick improvements to our curricular materials. Classroom testing on one day can reveal the need for changes that can be made in time for the following day's class. The changes can be propagated easily to all students over the Internet using Pedagogica Explorer, the Concord Consortium client.

Pedagogica Explorer is a client developed at the Concord Consortium to simplify the delivery and maintenance of client-side software. It is used to download, update, cache, and run all the software components required for the lesson. It also returns the assessment data with XML tags. This permits the entire environment to be implemented remotely on systems with intermittent connectivity. This rapid cycling of testing and revising allows for quick generation of effective, classroom-tested lessons.

Different Pedagogica scripts addressing the same content can be easily developed. We will soon be able to target students with different versions of material that have the same learning objectives. We will use this capacity in our research, but it could also be used to address the needs of students with different learning styles or special needs.

Detailed, Embedded Assessment of Student Learning

Pedagogica scripts can provide detailed feedback on student progress. The time spent at each step, the screens viewed, the options explored, and the tools used can all be noted automatically. Open-ended responses can be requested, predicted graphs sketched, and other kinds of student input can be elicited as the lessons are underway. This assessment data is sent over the Internet to the student, teacher, or researcher, as appropriate. This creates the possibility of better assessment that is less obtrusive and requires less class time. Embedded assessment provides a richer picture of a student's problem-solving and conceptual understanding than can be obtained from typical tests.

We plan to create professional development courses that will train teachers to use the assessment data to identify the conceptual areas in which their students are struggling. This will enable them to provide appropriate remediation at the time it is needed rather than waiting for test results that appear after the instructional unit is completed.

Hypermodel Examples

Dynamica is a model for teaching and exploring the effect of forces on point masses.  Using a set of objects that includes masses, forces, walls and targets, Dynamica's real world analogs range from projectile motion to propeties of gases.

Molecular Workbench 2D (MW2D) uses atomic-scale models to relate a wide range of macroscopic physical, chemical and biological phenomena to basic properties of atoms and molecules and their interactions.