Enhancing Literacy in Science Through Digital Text, Simulations, and Design Challenges

The goal of this project is to enhance digital and science literacy and deep understanding of science content, using a technology-rich interactive learning environment consisting of multiple modes and representations. Drawing from research in cognitive and learning sciences and science education, and based on the overarching framework of learning science through solving design challenges, our materials consist of two modules, Work & Energy, and Forces & Motion, each lasting about 6–8 weeks, and consisting of the following components.

1. A hypertext system, CoMPASS-Physics, consisting of two representations, a navigable concept map that shows students how science ideas are related, and text descriptions of science principles and phenomena.
2. Design challenges that provide a motivating context to guide students’ research on CoMPASS-Physics, and their physical and virtual investigations to understand science phenomena.
3. Simulations that allow students to conduct virtual investigations to test variables that inform their design challenges.
4. Experiments using physical materials (ramps, pulleys, etc.) to help students understand testing variables in the complexity of the real world, such as the effects of friction and measurement error.
5. Scientists' journals where students record notes and data, write predictions, formulate justifications, and develop evidence-based explanations.
6. Small group and whole class discussions where students to work collaboratively throughout the modules. In addition, our implementations include several whole-class discussions led by a teacher to help students generate questions, report data, and explain their results.

The two modules that we will implement, Work & Energy and Forces & Motion, will focus on physical science content in Grades 6–8. Our materials address all of the Grade 6–8 common core standards in reading for science literacy, and 8 of the 10 standards in writing in science literacy for Grades 6–8. They provide numerous opportunities for students to read texts and gather evidence, write procedures and explanations, use scientific and technical language, understand relationships between concepts, provide summaries, and use quantitative information in text.

Teachers will use formative and summative assessments, many of which are embedded in the activities that students engage in, to inform instruction. Our assessments address both the common core standards and deep learning of content. They consist of (a) log files of students’ navigation in CoMPASS-Physics and simulations, (b) concept maps, (c) performance assessments in the form of designed artifacts, (d) pretests and posttests of science content, process and motivation, and (e) classroom observations to understand how students build their understanding.


Completed on March 31, 2013