Sensory Interaction in Haptic-Augmented Environment and Scientific Inquiry
The metaphor of children as intuitive scientists is well known. Although the processes of scientific thinking differ significantly in children and scientists, evidence exists that children explore their physical environment through sensory-motor interaction and use scientific-like inquiry skills to develop understanding of physical phenomena. Advanced technologies may provide an arena for sensory-based inquiry. In particular, the relatively recent addition of “touch” to software application makes it possible to manipulate visual objects on the screen and to feel actual forces through haptic devices such as the force-feedback joystick. This study analyzed inquiry strategies of middle school students while exploring haptic-augmented simulations in mechanics in three learning sessions (representation of mechanical simulations, exploration of physical parameters, and prediction tasks) and across three sensory displays: (haptic, visual, and haptic-visual). The subjects frequently raised assumptions about physical scenarios, identified consistencies and relations between physical parameters, and made science-like measurements. The use of variable control was less frequent, which may explain why the subjects did not progress beyond naïve ideas about mechanical phenomena and implies a need for socio-cultural mediation. The use of inquiry strategies was task-dependent: exploration of physical parameters triggered more frequent use of inquiry strategies than other tasks. This indicates that learning environments that facilitate direct manipulation of physical parameter may elaborate inquiry skills. Also, differences appeared across sensory modality: haptic and haptic-visual display triggered more frequent use of inquiry strategies than visual display. This implies that haptic sensation may be involved in the development of scientific-inquiry skills and understanding of physics. The findings shed a light on the role of sensory interaction in scientific thought. Practical guidelines are suggested for design and integration of haptic-augmented environment into physics learning.
Keywords: Haptic-Augmented Environment, Inquiry Strategies, Simulations, Sensory-motor Interaction
Dr. Galit Botzer
Affiliation not supplied