The Power of Computational Modeling and Simulation for Learning STEM Content in Middle and High Schools

The Power of Computational Modeling and Simulation for Learning STEM Content in Middle and High Schools

Mahnaz Moallem (University of North Carolina – Wilmington, USA), Shelby P. Morge (University of North Carolina – Wilmington, USA), Sridhar Narayan (University of North Carolina – Wilmington, USA) and Gene A. Tagliarini (University of North Carolina – Wilmington, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9616-7.ch007


Using Squeak Etoys to Infuse Information Technology (USeIT) was designed to offer expanded information technology experiences to 155 middle and high school students over a three-year period by exploiting the Squeak Etoys media authoring tool as a simulation and modeling environment. Through problem-solving activities and development of Squeak Etoys modeling projects, USeIT investigated the impact of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and utilization of Squeak Etoys on student understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts. A design-based research method was used to collect data. The results revealed that when simulation and modeling are used under specific learning conditions, a deeper level of understanding of key science and mathematics concepts is observed. In addition, problem-based simulation tasks cognitively engaged students, particularly those who otherwise did not see the relevancy of STEM content in their lives. Less motivated students developed interests in STEM content and showed confidence in their abilities to learn mathematics and science.
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STEM Education

STEM Education is defined in many ways by different groups. A common definition of STEM education refers to science, mathematics, and technology educators working together to explore and implement integrative alternatives to traditional, disconnected STEM education (Congressional Research Services, 2012; National Science and Technology Council, 2011). The integrative STEM education is expected to combine technological design purposefully with scientific inquiry, engaging students or teams of students in scientific inquiry situated in the context of technological problem solving. STEM educators have made an increasing effort to employ the integrative approaches using various strategies (Becker & Park, 2011). However, in spite of the emphasis and many efforts to disseminate and implement STEM education, there is limited research on the effects of the integrative approaches among STEM subjects on the students’ understanding of scientific and mathematical concepts (Becker & Park, 2011; Hurley, 2001; Judson & Sawada, 2000; Pang & Good, 2000; Venville, Wallace, Rennie, & Malone, 2000). Moreover, recent meta-analysis of effects of integrative approaches in STEM on student learning (Becker & Park, 2011) shows that while integrative approaches provide a rich learning context and improve student learning and interest, the types of integration impact the effects of these approaches among STEM subjects.

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