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Abstract Title: What can middle school students teach us about effective simulation design?
Abstract: While most PhET simulations are designed for college, they are often used at lower levels, including middle school (MS). We are now studying how MS students interact with and learn from these simulations, extracting insights about design for this grade-level and more broadly. Here, we present a case study of the methods and design philosophy involved in redesigning a simulation – Energy Skate Park (ESP) – for effective use in MS.  We conducted think-aloud interviews with MS students, identifying features that caused confusion or unproductive distraction, as well as features inconsistent with grade-appropriate learning goals.  Drawing on these data and our broader research base, we developed Energy Skate Park Basics (ESPB). Interviews on ESPB demonstrate increased usability and learning for MS students. We suggest that the success of ESPB is due to age-appropriate implicit scaffolding, a design framework that reduces the amount of explicit instruction needed to facilitate learning.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Ariel Paul
PhET - University of Colorado at Boulder
UCB 390
Boulder, CO 80309
and Co-Presenter(s)
Noah Podolefsky (PhET
Katherine Perkins (PhET)