Jerry P. Suits (University Northern Colorado, USA)
The design and use of dynamic visualizations should focus on creating interactive learning environments that provide a spectrum of goals ranging from explanations of concepts (i.e. animations) to explorations of phenomena (i.e. simulations). To accomplish these goals, the instructional sequence starts with learning objectives sensitive to students’ prior knowledge and culminates with assessments that transcend mere recall while allowing students to develop their own mental models. Both animations and simulations can induce heavy cognitive loads for students, which can interfere with this developmental process. Certain design features can reduce these loads by allowing user control over some factors, e.g. simplicity versus realistic, while providing program control over other factors, e.g. narration and segmentation. Overall, design should support appropriate levels of student interactivity such that they can develop and use their own mental models. Thus dynamic visualizations can provide opportunities for conceptual assessment. Examples of these features will be presented.