Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My original concept for a Doctor of Philosophy ( PhD ) study

My original concept for a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) study
Leveraging on open source tool, Easy Java Simulation (Ejs) to design interactive virtual laboratory and advancing computational modeling in Physics education.
(A) Proposed Area of Research
Leveraging on open source tool, Easy Java Simulation (Ejs) to design interactive virtual laboratory and advancing computational modeling in Physics education.
General overview of area
Easy Java Simulations (Ejs) is an open source java code generator tool developed by Prof. Francisco Esquembre (Universidad de Murcia , Spain) for the conceptual learning of science. Ejs is designed for the purpose of allowing teachers and students to create (or modify) scientific simulations. The tool provides an easy to use graphical drag-and-drop interface to build the simulation so that teachers and students can concentrate on a small amount of code for the scientific models and relations, while the Ejs software tool manages most of the java programming techniques. Though I have little programming experience as a teacher, I have already created and remixed complex simulations for use by others by means of sharing on the Ejs community forum by Prof. Fu-Kwun Hwang (National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan ). My physics teaching experience in a Junior College for 7 years, my Masters of Arts in Instructional Design and Technology (NIE, 2007) and informal & self directed learning with use of the Ejs tool with the community of Ejs expert-users, allows me to design virtual laboratory experiments for inquiry learning purposes.
The Open Source Physics Project and other rich library of simulation source codes provide the opportunity for finer customization of virtual laboratory to promote engagement of learning, allow student centered inquiry learning and computer modeling. I intend to customize a series of virtual laboratory simulations for the learning of electromagnetism and conduct case study educational research in secondary schools, with physics learners in the topic of electromagnetism, probably secondary 4 classes, during (not hopeful) or outside (hopeful) formal curriculum time. This research takes experimental group study approach with interviews, surveys to have an indication of the learners’ affective domains towards learning of physics through the research intervention lessons. For the virtual lab lessons is targeted at 10 weeks with 10 virtual labs lessons staggering between the schools existing practical lessons. Research into the design of the virtual labs and curriculum materials to support the learning is to be conducted. A co-design approach will be used to help the teachers take ownership of the research intervention. Where appropriate, students and teachers world view on practice, knowledge and modeling of physics will add to the data captured.

Identification of the relevant literature
There are interactive digital media, such as, java applets that allow users to manipulate variables to observe changes in the affected variables. Most are closed sourced, editing is not allowed and some are produced by commercial entities thus the sources as well as the simulations are closely protected for monetary gains. There is a small but increasing number of physics academia that ride the wave of internet collaboration in the creation of physics simulations and sharing through open source physics projects. These models and simulations are created by physics professors with their undergraduate targeted audience in mind thus, some level of finer customization is required to suit the specific educational objectives of high school physics syllabus. The Ministry of Education (sg) is well position to infuse meaningful learning through ICT by investing on suitable candidate to tap on the Ejs community and develop meaningful virtual laboratory in the learning of physics in high school. I am that person poised to lead the infusion of meaningful activities with use of technology especially in the area of Physics education.
My research is targeted on development of virtual laboratory simulation, to support and complement existing real life classroom and laboratory demonstrations. This Ejs tool uses existing java language that is very suited for creating powerful and realistic physics models, probably limited by the authors modeling and coding knowledge.
The open source architecture also allows physics learners to examine how the simulations are model. By modifying the modeling codes, Ejs can serve as an effective teaching and learning tool especially when students create their own remixed simulations in order to understand the concepts on how a physics phenomenon is modeled.
Being aware of the issues of school practices with over emphasis on national assessment and concerns of teachers needing to improve the efficiency of learning curriculum contents, a virtual laboratory intervention is a good fit as it does not deviate too much for current science laboratory practices. Modeling science is probably difficult to implement without the support of the school principal, teachers and syllabus articulating the need for it.
Thus, my research is an original piece of work because of my creation and remixing of virtual laboratory source codes customized to complement the physics curriculum in mainstream high school in Singapore. The instructional design of the virtual laboratory, the scaffolds and hints within the learning environment and the activities to guide the inquiry learning, are niche area which will lead on to the thesis preparation.
Key research questions
The research can be completed within the time period allowed because of my focus in the area of electromagnetism within the boundary articulate in MOE curriculum syllabus guide. I will manage the study to include only a few secondary schools pure physics and combined science classes depending on availability and teachers readiness. The key questions within my niche area are:
1. What does the designed virtual laboratories tell us about it’s affordance to support physics inquiry learning?
2. What is the appropriate blend of real life practical sets and virtual laboratory that can help the inquiry learning?
3. Did the virtual laboratories encourage students to develop good attitudes and affections towards learning, as compared to the teachers existing teaching practices.
4. Did the virtual laboratories encourage teachers to develop good attitudes and affections towards teaching?

First component –Literature Review on the following
• Existing Web technology tools that can be virtual labs environments
• Learning theories in science education
• Curriculum practical design
• Educational psychology
• Affordance of real physics laboratory setup and virtual ones
• Need assessment
Second component – Development of virtual labs design and curriculum materials to support the learning of electromagnetism for secondary schools syllabus. ( involving practitioners and learners)
Third component – Rapid prototyping the curriculum and virtual lab materials with a few learners, consultation with community experts in the area of physics education and/or virtual lab designs.
Fourth component- Data collection
• Schools Leaders and Teachers will be approached to get their support.
• Discuss and check with the school whether they have existing real life demonstrations sets to allows some hands-on for learners. This will affect research question 2 (RQ2).
• Minimum professional development need to be conducted to level up low ICT maturity teachers to a point when they can conduct these lessons.
o Survey, interviews with the teachers involved on the research question 1 (RQ1)
• 3 schools will be selected for the study, discussions with teachers on the number of classes for the data collection.
• Preferably the same virtual labs sets can be used in different schools and different times, data collection may spread over 2 years.
• After 5 virtual practical lessons, spanning 10 weeks, after each lessons, students feedback are collected. Additional interviews will be conducted by the teachers and researcher to triangulate their attitudes and affections. At the 3rd and 5th lessons, students are to write a paragraph to describe their feelings towards learning in this context, as a process. (RQ3)
• Teachers will be conducing the lessons, their passion to continue or not, similar lessons for non examination semesters, whether their attitudes and affections towards teaching has changed? (RQ4)
Fifth component – Improving the proposed method.

Timescale/research planning
1st year go through 1 to 4 once
2nd year completed all electromagnetic induction virtual labs (5 of them)
3rd year start data collection
4th year analyse data plus additional data collection
5th year report completed.
Esquembre, F. (2004). "Personal Web page of Francisco Esquembre." Retrieved 10 November, 2009, from http://fem.um.es/.
Esquembre, F. (2007). "Easy Java Simulations." Retrieved 13/03/2007, 2007, from http://www.um.es/fem/Ejs/Ejs_en/index.html.
Hwang, F.-K. (2007). "NTNU Virtual Physics Laboratory." Retrieved 13/03/2007, 2007, from http://www.phy.ntnu.edu.tw/java/.

(B) What is the significance of your proposed research project?
This research is significant because it can contribute to the inquiry learning based virtual laboratory pedagogy that has the potential for advancing learner centered activities with technology. The suitable blend of real life practical setups with the virtual ones, uniting the best features of the real and virtual worlds, can transform the learning in the science of physics education. With the world struggling to educate its citizens, this research and its virtual labs can allow for virtual pathway for virtual experiential learning in the physics of electromagnetic induction and other topics. With the learning of science that is invisible to the naked eyes, these virtual labs can provide some form of representation that makes them visible.
There are currently not enough realistic and scientific learning environments, free to redistribute and legal to modify to suit each nations’ physics curriculum needs. My work will be significant to the world because it will be free of monetary charge to use, anyone is free to redistribute my work under condition of attribution and anyone is free to modify and remix to meet their learning and teaching needs.
In time to come, my research artifacts and learning environments will be used, remixed, by educators all over the world and used in physical and virtual classrooms for 21st century physics education.

PhD phd