טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentBotzer Galit
SubjectConstruction of Mental Models in Mechanics through Sensory
Interaction in a Computerized Environment
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Professor Miriam Reiner


Abstract

This research focuses on construction of physics understanding through sensory interaction with a hapto-visual mediated environment. The learning environment is a unique computerized system with a haptic interface. Users can feel forces exerted on their hand, and manipulate virtual objects visible on the screen.

The research goal was to characterize processes of meaning construction, experienced by middle school students while interacting with computerized simulations in mechanics. In particular we examined the role of motor action and force sensation in construction of physics mental models.

The subjects were asked to represent mechanical situation, to characterize physical parameters and to solve prediction problems. Their responses were documented and analyzed inductively.

Analysis of the observed behavior showed that subjects frequently used motor actions to explore features of the mechanical system, to construct preliminary meaning and to refine their interpretations. The observed responses reflected three cognitive mechanisms: sharing of sensory information, using strategies of scientific inquiry and using mental images of forces and motion. These mechanisms contributed to the representation of physics ideas. Along with alternative ideas such as Aristotelian view of forces, subjects spontaneously expressed ideas, which corresponded to formal conventions in physics. Analysis across display of simulations showed that subjects who worked with haptic display constructed meaningful representations, based solely on haptic information and subjects who worked with combined display constructed more detailed representations then subjects who work with visual display.

The results suggest that sensory interaction is a powerful tool for construction of mental models in mechanics. This implies that integration of haptic interfaces in a computerized environment enhances learning in physics.