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Chapter 4 only dec7

  1. 1. Using Motion Probes to Enhance Students’ Understanding of Position vs. Time Graphs A Project Presented to the Faculty of the College of Education Touro University In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of MASTERS OF ARTS In Educational Technology by Jefferson Hartman
  2. 2. Chapter IV This study examined a problem with the sequence of the California StateStandards which expect eighth grade students to understand and calculate slope prior tothe exposure to the physical science curriculum. This expectation is based on theassumption that students have previous experience with the mathematical concept ofslope. In fact, in the mathematics sequence, the concept of slope is not introduced tomath students until well into the algebra curriculum. Students who have developed theirabstract thinking skills and are competent in mathematics have no trouble with sloperegardless of prior instruction. Students who are just developing their abstract thinkingskill and/or poor in mathematics have a difficult time with the concept of slope. This creates a knowledge gap when it is time for a middle school science teacherto teach motion graphs. This study was conceived in response to observations by theresearcher after utilizing WISE 4.0, Graphing Stories and Vernier motion probes thatthere was a change in student behavior when they learned how interpret position vs. timegraphs using those tools. This study attempted to quantify the degree of change whenusing the combination of Graphing Stories and motion probes to teach motion graphs.This combination of tools is considered to be an MBL approach, which refers to anytechnique that connects a physical event to immediate graphic representation. This study had similar outcomes to Brungardt and Zollman (1995) who found nosignificant differences between learning with real-time and delay-time analysis, but didnotice that students using MBLs appeared to be more motivated and demonstrated morediscussion in their groups. The purpose of this study was to show that motion probe
  3. 3. usage, despite the knowledge gap, would help students interpret position vs. time graphsbetter than the previous non-motion probe teaching techniques.Study Outcomes This study tested the hypothesis that students would have a better understandingof graphing concepts after working with Vernier motion probes and Graphing Storiesthan the students who work without the motion probes. Two main research questionsguided the study: • Does an MBL approach increases student understanding of graphing concepts? • Does motion probe usage increases student engagement?Along with the main research questions come several secondary goals which included:utilize the unique opportunity of the partnership between UC Berkeley and MJHS,reinforce the idea that the project Graphing Stories is an inquiry based learning tool andutilize students’ enthusiasm for technology. Even though the researcher had access to approximately 130 eighth gradestudents, the experimental and control group samples could not be randomly assigned.The only option was to utilize the fact that the students were separated into four classesand create a convenience sample. This may have caused the samples to be slightlybiased. The four classes were separated into two groups of two classes each, one groupwas designated the motion probe users and other became the non-motion probe users.The pre-test results found the groups to be similar in their position vs. time graphknowledge. Both groups worked through the Graphing Stories lesson. The motion probeusers utilized the motion probes for several steps while the non motion users did not. The
  4. 4. post-test results also showed the groups to be similar in their position vs. time graphknowledge. Although the results did not show that an MBL approach increased studentunderstanding of graphing concepts, this result was consistent with the literature.Preliminary evidence showed that while the use of the MBL tools to do traditionalphysics experiments may increase the students’ interest, such activities do not necessarilyimprove student understanding of fundamental physics concepts (Thornton and Sokoloff,1990). This statement was also reinforced by the data from the student survey. Moststudents felt that motion probes increased engagement and were advantageous forlearning how to interpret position vs. time graphs. As for the other three goals, this study was successful. The partnership betweenUC Berkeley and MJHS is still in effect as of fall 2010. Every WISE 4.0 project run isfollowed by an in depth interview about successes, failures and ideas to improve WISEprojects. The fact that students are engaged in self-discovery and create individualmotion graphs and stories helps reinforce the idea that Graphing Stories is an inquirybased learning tool. The students who took part in this study expressed enthusiasm forutilizing technology when the student survey showed that motion probes increasedengagement. The finding of the researcher are to similar to Vonderwall et al. (2005) whofound that all teachers report increased student motivation and excitement by usingtechnology to learn science concepts.Proposed Audience, Procedures and Implementation Timeline The idea for this study spawned from the problem that the California StateStandards assumes that eighth grade students understand slope prior to entering physical
  5. 5. science class. They are not taught slope until well into algebra class (currently eighthgrade math). In the fall 2009, the researcher was introduced to Graphing Stories and theuse of motion probes. An increase in student engagement and possibly an improvedmethod of teaching motion graphs was noticed. In spring 2010 the researcher enrolled inthe Educational Technology masters program at Touro University. A small bit ofsearching revealed that the approach being applied by using computers and motionprobes was called Microcomputer Based Laboratory (MBL). More searching revealedthat most literature stated the MBL approach was beneficial yet none had proven it. Theresearcher noticed such a change in student behavior during the fall 2009 that the MBLapproach must be useful. Graphing Stories provided the perfect balance of implementingthe MBL approach, inquiry based learning, technology usage and teaching student how tointerpret motion graphs. Data collection started in October 2010. Two groups ofapproximately 60 students were given a pre-test. After the students worked through theproject a post-test was given. Finally, a student survey was given to test for studentperceptions on the motion probes. Although the data did not reveal the desired result ofhaving the MBL approach be directly beneficial, it has supported the general findings ofmuch of the research surrounding graphing misconceptions, probeware and motiongraphs. This study has contributed to the field of education buy reinforcing the idea thatteachers can utilize emerging technologies, like probeware, to encourage students to learndifficult concepts like motion graphing with enthusiasm. The new age of student as digital natives is causing teachers to search for newway to engage students. There is overwhelming competition for adolescent attentionwith cell phones and video games leading the way. Teachers who are willing to
  6. 6. incorporate technology into their tool box (digital immigrants) are better off than thosewho are afraid. Digital immigrants are trying to improve an educational system that is nolonger designed to meet the needs of today’s students. The researchers (UC Berkeley andConcord Consortium) involved with WISE 4.0 have expressed interest in the finding ofthis thesis. The proposed audience includes any person involved with education whowants to utilize technology to increase student understanding and enthusiasm for learningscience concepts.Evaluation of the Study As stated earlier, the analysis of data revealed that the Vernier motion probe didnot give its users an advantage over the non-users in interpreting motion graphs. Astudent survey, however, found that students felt the motion probes made the lesson moreengaging. The overwhelming agreement of students who felt usage of motion probes wasengaging and advantageous must be an indicator that they work. Another study with alarger sample size (n=1000) and spread over several years might reveal a desired result.Since eighth grade students are still developing their abstract thinking skills, the studymight work better with high school or college students. It is not feasible to ask in-depthmotion graphing questions to someone with limited graphing experience. In order to getan accurate representation of a student’s knowledge of position vs. time graphs it isimperative to ask thorough rather than superficial questions. Another limitation ariseswhen considering that the space for motion probe usage is about four feet by ten feet.The space requirements are particularly inconvenient because all furniture has to becleared away Murphy (2004). In large classes, this is nearly impossible. The motionprobe users in this study had a space of about two feet by seven feet. A future study
  7. 7. should include a larger sample size over a longer period, in-depth questioning and amplespace for motion probe usage.Summary In general, research has revealed both positive correlation and no correlationbetween real-time graphing of a physical event and improved interpreting graph skills ascompared to traditional motion graph lessons. Substituting the MBL approach fortraditional motion graphing lesson appeared to have no effect on improved interpretinggraphing skills according to the results of this study. Even though no correlation wasfound, the researcher will continue to utilize Graphing Stories and motion probes toteaching motion graphing. Graphing Stories provided a perfect balance of inquiry-basedlearning, technology and interpretation of position vs. time graphs. The student surveyreinforced the idea that technology in form of motion probes is helping the digitalimmigrants to teach digital natives. Observing students work with motion probesallowed the teacher to discover misconceptions that might go unnoticed like iconicinterpretation and slope/height confusion. Students walk out of the range of the motionprobe in an attempt to “draw” the picture that they think the graph represents. Studentsalso move slower, rather than faster, when they see a steeper slope because in reality thesteeper hill the slower you walk. A teacher unaware of these misconceptions will missthe “teaching moment” when it arises.
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