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A Simple Electricity Concept for STRONG

The ability of humans to harness and use electricity has created numerous affordances to people over the past three centuries. Yet, several challenges and possibilities lie ahead in sustaining, generating, and using electricity in meaningful ways. Searching the Scientific American Archive using the key word “electricity” returned 388 results (on March 26, 2005, translating to over 30 articles per year), that students will have meaningful opportunities to influence during their lifetime! These include renewable energy, medicine, and materials.

Students in elementary school upwards are required to know that "electrical circuits require a complete loop through which an electrical current can pass," according to the National Science Education Standards (1999). In reality though, several students in K-16 have difficulties understanding and applying this concept to solve simple problems.

Although students, middle-school and above, tend to invoke personal experiences as evidence to justify particular hypotheses, the discrepant events and ranking task assessments in our STRONG prototype will challenge their beliefs and thinking. We will use the Circuit Construction Kit Java simulation developed by the Physics Education Technology Project Team as an embedded and available resource.

The STRONG prototype will activate learners' existing domain knowledge as they advance through different levels of the game. The learning goals for STRONG are predominantly the knowledge (ideas) and skills outlined in Science for All Americans and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy. These learning goals for the beginner, intermediate, proficient, and advanced levels in STRONG correspond to the primary, P, (K-2), elementary, E, (3-5), middle, M, (5-8), & high, H, (9-12) grades in the Benchmarks.

For example, to decode the Benchmark 12E/P1, click on 12. Habits of Mind, E. Critical-Response Skills, and look at the first bullet in Kindergarten through Grade 2 to find P1 in the Benchmarks for Science Literacy. Along with the concept "electrical circuits require a complete loop through which an electrical current can pass," we would like players of STRONG to learn and use the knowledge and skills in three labeled strands from the Atlas for Science Literacy (2001): lines of reasoning, failure, and interacting parts. The same knowledge and skills can be developed through other design activities.

Lines of Reasoning Failure Interacting Parts
Beginner Ask "How do you know?" in appropriate situations and attempt reasonable answers when others ask them the same question. 12E/P1 (SKILL) Something may not work if some of its parts are missing. 11A/P2 When parts are put together, they can do things that they couldn't do by themselves. 11A/P3
Intermediate Offer reasons for their findings and consider reasons suggested by others. 12A/E2 (SKILL)

Seek better reasons for believing something than "Everybody knows that . . ." or "I just know" and discount such reasons when given by others. 12E/E3 (SKILL)

Buttress their statements with facts found in books, articles, and databases, and identify the sources used and expect others to do the same. 12E/E1 (SKILL)
Something may not work as well (or at all) if a part of it is missing, broken, worn out, or misconnected. 11A/E2 In something that consists of many parts, the parts usually influence one another. 11A/E1
Proficient Notice and criticize the reasoning in arguments in which fact and opinion are intermingled or the conclusions do not follow logically from the evidence given. 12E/M5. . . (SKILL) Systems fail because they have faulty or poorly matched parts, are used in ways that exceed what was intended by the design, or were poorly designed to begin with. 3B/M4. . . Thinking about things as systems means looking for how every part relates to others. 11A/M2 . . .
Advanced Insist that the critical assumptions behind any line of reasoning be made explicit so that the validity of the position being taken - whether one's own or that of others - can be judged. 12E/H4 (SKILL) To reduce the chance of system failure, performance testing is often conducted using small scale models, computer simulations, analogous systems, or just the parts of the system thought to be least reliable. 3B/H6 Understanding how things work and designing solutions to problems of almost any kind can be facilitated by systems analysis. In defining a system, it is important to specify the boundaries and subsystems, indicate its relation to the other systems, and identify what its input and output are expected to be. 11A/H2

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