Lesson 2: Examining Various Types of Visualization Tools

Return to: ETAP 623 Spring 2015 by Dr. Zhang | Mini-Course Home | Lesson 1

DYI - Make a Model Cell

Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:

  • compare and contrast the three types of visualization tools and identify the potential benefits and limitations of each
  • given a hypothetical scenario, choose at least two different visualization tools and discuss how they could be used to enhance student learning

Case Study

Consider the following scenario:

Ms. Smith has begun a unit of study on the behavior of matter with her eighth grade physical science class. During the course of study, students will be learning about the physical properties of matter (including density, solubility, boiling point, and melting point) that can be used to explain its behavior. Although she is new to teaching, Ms. Smith knows that students often have misconceptions about scientific concepts that can interfere with their learning. One such misconception is the belief that matter disappears when it dissolves or evaporates. Ms. Smith knows that she must somehow make her students "see" what happens during these processes in order for them to gain an accurate understanding of the nature of matter. How can she help her students to visualize what is happening at the microscopic level in order to explain what they see in the macroscopic world?

Driving Questions

Consider the following questions as you view the resources below:

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages associated with each of the visualization tools described?

2. What types of visualization tools could Mrs. Smith use to help her students gain a deeper understanding of the behavior of matter?


1. Resources

Read or view the resources below to learn more about the three types of visualization tools and the advantages and limitations of each


Physical Models

2-D Models (videos, animations, and drawings)

View pages 72-74, Representations of Air Pressure

Computer Simulations

Explore some of the chemistry interactives (Phase Change and Intermolecular Attraction) and any others that look interesting.

2. Summary

Choose one example from each of the three types of models explored in the resources above. Write a three paragraph summary in which you describe the advantages and limitations associated with each model. Save your assignment as a pdf file or Word document and attach and send it to me by email. I will provide my feedback via email as well.

3. Discussion

Use the discussion tab for this lesson page to post your response to the following two questions.

1. Suggest two possible visualization tools that Ms. Smith could use in her unit on matter. Tell why you chose those particular visualization tools. Be specific as to how they could be used and include the advantages and disadvantages of the models you chose.

2. Identify one common misconception related to the subject that you currently teach. Why do you think this misconception continues to be perpetuated? Describe one model that you could use in your classroom and how it could help your students to recognize and clarify their misconception.

Advance to Lesson 3


1. Capra, L. (2013, July 19). Models in science. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-9RhLyuqWg

2. Ribblett, J. (2014, Feb 14). Lab 5 - structures of hydrocarbons: A molecular modeling lab – 101. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t0rS0P2D9Q

3. Perkins vision. (2015, Jan 9). Tactile science lesson: Using play-doh with Kate Fraser. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_qVibnpPPM

4. Sams, A. (2012, Jun 18). How to speed up chemical reactions (and get a date). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OttRV5ykP7A

5. Waldrip, B., Prain, V., & Carolan, J. (2010). Using multi-modal representations to improve learning in junior secondary science. Research in Science Education. 40, 65-80. DOI 10.1007/s11165-009-9157-6

6. Smithsciencegms. (2015, Jan 15). 3D Printing in the middle school science classroom. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jp-RemY-_4

7. The Concord Consortium. Next Generation Molecular Workbench. Retrieved from http://mw.concord.org/nextgen/#interactives


1. Courtesy of DIY.org