Historically, teachers determine the mental models that students have of various concepts by asking them to write. In physics, teachers will use lab reports and class tests, with variable success, to encourage the students to critically examine their mental models and to write about them. With the increasing accessibility of movie making, we have found a new avenue for students to examine and to report their models, and this new avenue is often more intriguing to the student. The goal of a lab report is for the students to tell a story, and through that story, critically examine their understanding of the subject. Having a student report on the outcome of an experiment, however, does not always lead to a change in student understanding. And, in extreme cases, a report can lead to the students changing their memory of the experiment to fit their incorrect mental model. Therefore, many teachers have the students predict first and then compare their predictions with their results. In the movie-making program, we try to take this a step further. We can use the movie environment to encourage students to build a simulation of their experiment and test their model against experimental data. As in engineering, this process relies upon strong fundamental math and science knowledge. In the classroom, generating animations serves as a way to strengthen conceptual understanding. Using the animation design process, we have found students (and teachers) to be far more interested in the outcome of their work. This paper shows some of the results of this technique by looking at how high school students have learned about parabolic motion in a physics class. In particular, we will highlight the work of select students to show what they were able to do through making a movie.
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