Florence, Italy. Since 2018, the TLTL has partnered with the research arm of the Italian Ministry of Education, the Institute for Innovation in Education Research (INDIRE), to revamp science education in Italy. The partnership is bringing the TLTL developed Bifocal Modeling framework,  a new approach for inquiry-driven science learning which challenges students to explore a scientific phenomenon through two lenses in parallel – a physical experiment and a computer model, to Italian public schools. During Bifocal Modeling based activities, students explore a scientific phenomenon such as heat diffusion, properties of gases, or wave propagation by connecting in real time the information gathered from student designed real experiments and computer models. (Learn more here.)

This November, after a year of curriculum development and professional development training for teachers, a group of TLTL researchers from Columbia University joined INDIRE researchers to collect data on the first schools implementing the project in Italy.

In this Phase 1 implementation, Italian teachers are using Bifocal Modeling to work with students on hands-on biology units. The units explore plant growth using custom-designed hydroponics greenhouses with special sensors, which students use to collect data such as amount of light exposure and nutrients given to plants. Students then compare these real-world data with their computer models in order to predict the success of their greenhouses. 

Teachers from different grades, primary through high school, as well as special education sections, were able to adapt and customize Bifocal Modeling methodologies for their age groups and run the units in their classes. Tamar Fuhrmann, TLTL Senior Researcher, Livia Macedo, TLTL Program Manager and Paulo Blikstein, TLTL Faculty Director,  were joined by their Italian counterparts from INDIRE and collected research data in three schools in the Florence region.

Related Research Publications:

Fuhrmann, T., Schneider, B., & Blikstein, P. (2018). Should students design or interact with models? Using the Bifocal Modelling Framework to investigate model construction in high school science. International Journal of Science Education, 40(8), 867-893, doi:10.1080/09500693.2018.1453175 

Blikstein, P., Fuhrmann, T.*, & Salehi, S.* (2016). Using the Bifocal Modeling Framework to Resolve “Discrepant Events” Between Physical Experiments and Virtual Models in Biology. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 25 (4), pp. 513-526. [PDF]

Blikstein, P. (2012). Bifocal modeling: a study on the learning outcomes of comparing physical and computational models linked in real time. In Proceedings of the 14th ACM International Conference on Multimodal Interaction (ICMI), pp. 257-264, doi: 10.1145/2388676.2388729


Video Interview:

TLTL Senior Researcher Tamar Furhmann discusses the a resent research visit to Florence and the INDIRE / TLTL partnership: