Education Technology Class Paper

I am currently working on my MA in Educational Technology at Western Michigan University. This semester I am taking a class about how to develop online courses. The assignment this week calls for us to post a paper we drafted to a blog. So, included below is my paper that describes a plan/overview of one way to go about designing an interactive online application.

EDT 6460 – Spring 2007 | Week Ten – Paper Two

Online Educational Technology Application

Interactive physics lab module: “Gravity – Do different objects fall at the same rate?”

Target Audience

The interactive physics lab module is ideal for physics students who seek to form and test hypothesis regarding how gravity influences the motion of objects.

Educational Context, Content and Topical Area

This educational technology application is intended to serve as a supplement to a physics curriculum in elementary or high school settings. The interactive physics lab can be used alongside physics learning topics dealing with motion and forces.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the interactive physics lab, students will be able to:

  • State if objects fall at different rates
  • Explain how the mass of an object relates to its rate of descent
  • Discuss the relationship of a hypothesis and an experiment
  • Understand the effects of multiple influences on an object
  • Understand the value and effects of evaluation for refining hypotheses

Learning Environment and Instructional Strategies

The interactive physics lab is designed to serve as an exploratory learning environment where students are given control of an interactive gravity simulation and are encouraged to form hypotheses, experiment, and discover. Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland describe an exploratory learning environment as one “based on the theoretical construct of discovery learning, or inquiry-based learning, in which learners are provided with a scientific-like inquiry or an authentic problem in a given content area.” (Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland, 2005, p. 185)
The instructional strategies employed by the interactive physics lab include:

  • Promotion of hypothesis generation – In a previous writing exercise I described how the physics lab module would promote the formation of a hypothesis: “To promote hypothesis generation for Bob’s students [note: Bob is a fictitious instructor utilized to describe how an interactive learning project would be conceived], we will develop a physics simulation where the question ‘do objects of different weight fall at the same rate?’ is presented. The simulation will prompt students to enter their hypothesis or select one hypothesis from multiple options. Students will be put into a virtual lab where they can select two different objects; for example, a bowling ball, sandwich, t-shirt, television, etc. Details regarding the lab environment, such as vacuum and gravity range will be displayed.” (VanPutten, 2007) Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland cite research done by Bruner, Goodnow & Austin who suggested that “promoting hypothesis generation is an instructional strategy that supports concept acquisition by setting forth tentative hypotheses about the attributes that seem to define a concept, then testing specific instances against these hypotheses.” (Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland, 2005, p. 212)
  • Promotion of exploration – According to Dabbagh and Bannan-Ritland, “exploration encourages students to try out different strategies and hypotheses and observe their effects.” (Dabbagh & Bannan-Ritland, 2005, p. 211) As students progress through the online physics lab, they will be able to modify environment variables such as vacuum and gravity. Next students would try dropping multiple objects to evaluate how modifications to the variables affect the results of the experiment. Finally, students would evaluate their hypotheses in relation to observations from the experiments.

Design and Implementation Plan

During the initial design phase of the interactive physics lab module, developers would work with an instructor to identify and finalize agreed upon learning objectives. Details would be gathered regarding how students would access the learning module. For example, it would be important to know the location where students would be accessing the module in order to determine ideal file sizes for optimal data transfer. The overall size of images and sound files used could be different depending upon whether a student accesses the module from a lab computer at school on a local network or via the Internet from a computer at home. The developers would also gather any necessary scientific background information. For example, the different measures of gravity on earth, the moon, etc. These details will be required when the interactive application is being coded.
The following materials and resources are required for development:

  • Project team: Instructional Expert, Instructional Designer, Multimedia Developer, Interface Designer, Database Programmer
  • Adobe Flash Professional will be used for development of the application
  • Adobe Dreamweaver will be used for development of HTML and PHP documents that support the application
  • Adobe Photoshop or Fireworks will be used for image manipulation and optimization
  • Adobe Captivate for development of rich media training modules for instructors
  • Microsoft Word for authoring of documentation, training, and activity documents
  • Stock photographs of objects including televisions, bowling balls, flags, feathers, etc will be required for the interactive objects.
  • Stock sound effects will be required to enhance the interface elements (buttons, menus, etc.) and events (objects hitting a ground, ambient and environmental sounds) presented in the application.
  • Physics/gravity formulas will be needed for the dynamics used in the simulation
  • Web hosting or LAN connected storage for distribution of the module data files
  • Flash/PHP compatible database(s) would be required for optional data collection of individual student progress

Documentation and training materials would be provided electronically to instructors who plan to use the interactive physics lab module. Instructors would be encouraged to view training ‘videos/movies’ produced using Adobe Captivate. The training movies would demonstrate how to access and utilize the physics lab module. Support staff would be available via e-mail or telephone to provide additional support as needed.
The physics lab could be presented before or after students complete lectures or reading that covers basic gravitational history and theory. However, if the lab were presented first, students could explore and experiment in the lab and then participate in a lecture or complete reading exercises. In this scenario, students may be positioned to make more connections with the details contained in the reading because ‘real’ experiences of how gravity works would be fresh in their mind.
The individual steps a student would progress through within the physics lab include:

  • Generation of a hypothesis
  • Testing/experimentation with falling objects
  • Review and refinement of the hypothesis
  • Additional testing/experimentation if desired by student or instructor
  • Expanding upon the original hypothesis
  • Modify gravity and vacuum constraints
  • Discussion of results with classmates and instructor

The students would be expected to:

  • Understand what a hypothesis is
  • Form their own hypothesis
  • Conduct multiple experiments, try different settings/conditions
  • Be prepared to discuss results, ideas, impressions with their peers


Learning could be assessed in multiple ways depending upon the preference of the instructor.
An instructor could review data collected regarding duration of experiments, hypotheses formed and refined, total number of experiments conducted, etc. Access to this data would require implementation of the optional data collection tools.
The instructor could also assess both individuals and the entire class through discussion. During the discussion the instructor would look for evidence that the students are able to demonstrate retention of the learning objectives specified earlier in this document.

Students could be asked to write a reflective essay where they applied knowledge obtained through the physics lab to other real world instances.
A standardized multiple choice or essay based exam could be utilized to measure the effectiveness of the physics lab in supporting the desired learning objectives.

Dabbagh, N., & Bannan-Ritland, B. (2005). Online Learning Concepts, Strategies, and Application. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey; Columbus, Ohio: Pearson; Merrill; Prentice Hall.
VanPutten, M. (2007, February). Writing Assignment: EDT 6460 – Spring 2007 | Week Eight – Chapter Six. Kalamazoo, Michigan.

One Response

  1. Shaun March 21, 2007

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