Understanding electric current using agent-based models: Connecting the micro-level with flow rate

Pratim Sengupta, Uri Wilensky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Rate-based processes comprise an important set of scientific phenomena, as well as an important part of the K12 science curricula. Electric current is one such phenomenon, which is taught in various forms from 4th - 12th grades. Research shows that students at all levels find electricity difficult to understand, and the difficulties persist even after classroom instruction. In this paper, we present a design-based research study and argue that interacting with multi-agent-based computational models based on the microscopic theory of electrical conduction, can enable 5th grade and 7th students to develop a deep understanding of electric current as an emergent process of flow in terms of its microscopic level entities and their attributes, by bootstrapping their repertoire of intuitive knowledge. We present a particular design strategy - representing electric current as a fictive and transient process of charge accumulation, without falling in previously reported traps of the "source sink" mental models - and show how this strategy was effectively implemented in the computational model as well as in the learning activities performed by the students. We identify the mental models that students developed through their interactions with the model, and show that after their interactions, students were able to provide correct, multi-level explanations of the behavior of electric current in a resistive circuit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationCSEDU 2016 - Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
PublisherSciTePress
Pages216-227
Number of pages12
Volume1
ISBN (Electronic)9789897581793
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Event8th International Conference on Computer Supported Education, CSEDU 2016 - Rome, Italy
Duration: Apr 21 2016Apr 23 2016

Other

Other8th International Conference on Computer Supported Education, CSEDU 2016
Country/TerritoryItaly
CityRome
Period4/21/164/23/16

Keywords

  • Agent-based models
  • Computer supported learning
  • Mathematical thinking
  • Modelling
  • Physics education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems
  • Education

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