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Perspectives on the role of digital tools in students' open-ended physics inquiry
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Physics, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Physics Didactics.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0526-3005
2019 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this licentiate thesis, I present detailed case studies of students as they make use of simulated digital learning environments to engage with physics phenomena. In doing so, I reveal the moment-to-moment minutiae of physics students’ open-ended inquiry in the presence of two digital tools, namely the sandbox software Algodoo and the PhET simulation My Solar System (both running on an interactive whiteboard). As this is a topic which has yet to receive significant attention in the physics education research community, I employ an interpretivist, case-oriented methodology to illustrate, build, and refine several theoretical perspectives. Notably, I combine the notion of semi-formalisms with the notion of Newtonian modeling, I illustrate how Algodoo can be seen to function as a Papertian microworld, I meaningfully combine the theoretical perspectives of social semiotics and embodied cognition into a single analytic lens, and I reveal the need for a more nuanced taxonomy of students’ embodiment during physics learning activities. Each of the case studies presented in this thesis makes use of conversation analysis in a fine-grained examination of video-recorded, small-group student interactions. Of particular importance to this process is my attention to students’ non-verbal communication via gestures, gaze, body position, haptic-touch, and interactions with the environment. In this way, I bring into focus the multimodally-rich, often informal interactions of students as they deal with physics content. I make visible the ways in which the students (1) make the conceptual connection between the physical world and the formal/mathematical domain of disciplinary physics, (2) make informal and creative use of mathematical representations, and (3) incorporate their bodies to mechanistically reason about physical phenomena. Across each of the cases presented in this thesis, I show how, while using open-ended software on an interactive whiteboard, students can communicate and reason about physics phenomena in unexpectedly fruitful ways.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2019. , p. 170
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214
Keywords [en]
digital learning environments, modeling, semi-formalisms, microworlds, social semiotics, embodied cognition, disciplinary-relevant aspects
National Category
Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-382750OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-382750DiVA, id: diva2:1312992
Presentation
2019-05-29, 4001, Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1, Uppsala, 08:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-08-08 Created: 2019-05-02 Last updated: 2019-08-09Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Exploring how physics students use a sandbox software to move between the physical and the formal
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring how physics students use a sandbox software to move between the physical and the formal
2017 (English)In: PERC Proceedings, Cincinnati, OH, 2017, p. 128-131Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we present a theoretical framework based on Hestenes's discussion of modeling in physics and diSessa's early theories on creativity-based digital learning environments. We use this framework to formulate new understandings of how a pair of students work with an open-ended physics sandbox software, Algodoo, alongside a physical laboratory setup. Algodoo is a digital environment that makes it possible for students to create simple, two-dimensional models of physical phenomena. We identify Algodoo's role as that of a semi-formalism, whereby the students made use of the software in their process of modeling as a means of moving between the physical, experimental context and the formal, mathematical representations associated with that context. We propose a hypothesis to be tested in future research and suggest further avenues for exploration in relation to the proposed theoretical framework.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cincinnati, OH: , 2017
National Category
Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-344009 (URN)10.1119/perc.2017.pr.027 (DOI)000455293200032 ()
Conference
Physics Education Research Conference, Cincinnati, OH
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2016-0411
Note

Title in WoS: Exploring how students use sandbox software to move between the physical and the formal

Available from: 2018-03-05 Created: 2018-03-05 Last updated: 2019-05-02Bibliographically approved
2. Algodoo as a Microworld: Informally Linking Mathematics and Physics
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Algodoo as a Microworld: Informally Linking Mathematics and Physics
2019 (English)In: Mathematics in Physics Education / [ed] Gesche Pospiech, Marisa Michelini, Bat-Sheva Eylon, Springer, 2019Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this chapter, we use two case studies of high school and undergraduate students interacting with a two-dimensional sandbox modelling software, Algodoo, to show how physics students can make use of the mathematical representations offered by the software in unconventional yet meaningful ways. We show how affordances of the technology-supported learning environment allow the emergence of student creative engagement at the intersection of mathematics and physics. In terms of learning, the activities studied here are relevant in two central ways: (1) they open up alternative conceptual learning pathways for students by allowing them to access and engage with the content in original, self-directed and creative ways; (2) in doing this, the studied activities carry significant potential to motivate students and support their intrinsic interests.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2019
National Category
Other Physics Topics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-382587 (URN)978-3-030-04627-9 (ISBN)
Available from: 2019-04-29 Created: 2019-04-29 Last updated: 2019-08-14
3. Embodiment in physics learning: A social-semiotic look
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Embodiment in physics learning: A social-semiotic look
2019 (English)In: Physical Review Special Topics : Physics Education Research, ISSN 1554-9178, E-ISSN 1554-9178, Vol. 15, no 1, article id 010134Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this paper, we present a case study of a pair of students as they use nondisciplinary communicative practices to mechanistically reason about binary star dynamics. To do so, we first review and bring together the theoretical perspectives of social semiotics and embodied cognition, therein developing a new methodological approach for analyzing student interactions during the learning of physics (particularly for those interactions involving students’ bodies). Through the use of our new approach, we are able to show how students combine a diverse range of meaning-making resources into complex, enacted analogies, thus forming explanatory models that are grounded in embodied intuition. We reflect on how meaning-making resources—even when not physically persistent—can act as coordinating hubs for other resources as well as how we might further nuance the academic conversation around the role of the body in physics learning.

National Category
Other Physics Topics Didactics
Research subject
Physics with specialization in Physics Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-384262 (URN)10.1103/PhysRevPhysEducRes.15.010134 (DOI)000470889500001 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2016-04113
Note

Title in Licentiate thesis list of papers: A social-semiotic look at embodiment in physics learning

Available from: 2019-06-03 Created: 2019-06-03 Last updated: 2019-08-09Bibliographically approved

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