New York University Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Navigation Skip to Sub Navigation

Computer Simluations by NYU Steinhardt's Jan Plass, a Catalyst for Chemistry Learning for Urban and Rural High Schoolers

May 21, 2012
361

Thanks to Jan Plass, kinetic molecular theory can be as easy as making a cup of hot chocolate.

Following a four-year study of 357 rural students, 361 students in urban areas, in a total of 25 high school classrooms in New York City and rural Texas, Plass’ research found that well-designed computer simulations are an effective tool in boosting comprehension of chemistry subject matter including topics of diffusion, gas laws and phase change.

“Our goal was to focus on underserved and underprivileged learners as many of these students were not introduced to important chemical principals in their middle school science classes,” Plass said. “At the high school level in particular, success in science classes is seen as opening doors to science careers as well as promoting scientific literacy – a prerequisite for being an informed citizen. We designed our simulations specifically for those learners whose previous experience of chemistry was very limited.”

The study was funded by a $1.35 million grant by the Institute of Education Sciences to Jan L. Plass, Catherine Milne, and Trace Jordan of NYU Steinhardt along with Bruce Homer of CUNY Graduate Center, to study simulations aimed at enhancing chemistry learning for a broad range of learners.

Starting in 2008, Plass and his research team partnered with high school teachers and students to design and develop a sequence of simulations for use in high school chemistry classrooms based on theories of learning, research in cognition and multimedia, and best practices in science education. Using narrative and visual icons, such as flames to signify heat, the simulations told a story of phase change in the characters attempt to heat hot water to make hot chocolate.

“Kinetic molecular theory requires an understanding that matter is composed of particles in constant motions,” Plass explained. “Multimedia can communicate this idea in a visually dynamic way that is not available in static resources such as textbooks.”

The results of Plass' effectiveness studies illustrated that students in both urban and rural settings with use of the simulations, led to better performance in chemistry compared to learning without simulations.

“This study demonstrates practical principles for the effective design and use of computer simulations in science classrooms,” Plass explained. “These types of simulations do contribute to the understanding of complicated subject matter and are examples of digital tools that can foster learning of science knowledge that students need to succeed academically and beyond.”

Plass is co-director of the Games for Learning Institute, Paulette Goddard Professor of Digital Media and Learning Sciences at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, and the founding director of the Center for Research and Evaluation of Advanced Technologies in Education (CREATE).

To learn more about the Consortium for Research and Evaluation of Advanced Technology in Education (CREATE), visit: http://createlabs.org.

To learn more about NYU Steinhardt, visit: http://steinhardt.nyu.edu.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
NYUToday-feature, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Type: Press Release

Computer Simluations by Jan Plass, a Catalyst for Chemistry Learning for Urban and Rural High Schoolers

Search News



NYU In the News

CUSP Unveils its “Urban Observatory”

Crain’s New York Business profiled CUSP’s “Urban Observatory” that is continuously photographing lower Manhattan to gather scientific data.

Post-Sandy Upgrades at the Langone Medical Center

NY1 reported on the major post-Sandy upgrades and renovations made at the Medical Center to protect the hospital from future catastrophic storms.

Steinhardt Research Helps Solve Tough Speech Problems.

The Wall Street Journal reported on research at Steinhardt’s Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, including an interview with Assistant Professor Tara McAllister Byun, that uses ultrasound to help solve tough speech problems.

Times Column Lauds Professor Stevenson’s New Memoir

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote a column about “Just Mercy,” a new memoir by Law Professor Bryan Stevenson, the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, whom he noted has been called America’s Nelson Mandela.

Entrepreneurship Lab Opens at NYU

Crain’s New York Business covered the opening of the Mark and Debra Leslie Entrepreneurial eLab, which will be the headquarters for NYU’s Entrepreneurial Institute and all of the University’s programs aimed at promoting innovation and startups.

NYU Footer