The primary feature of timae.us is a workspace in which students construct semantic-narrative maps of scientific processes. The nodes of the map, which constitute the semantic visualization language, correspond to the five steps of the traditional Baconian Method, of which students are no doubt familiar. This set of symbols was chosen to not only enforce a shared language for the facilitated comparison of visual artifacts, but also to aid in the destabalization of the previously learned linear process. The narrative of the scientific process is encoded in the hierarchical ordering of the nodes from top to bottom. Upon creation, nodes may be amended with descriptive text and media attachments that may be subsequently accessed by drilling down into the element. This design foregrounds a visual representation of the narrative and semantic process of a line of inquiry, while also joining it with content upon further inspection.
From a curricular standpoint, we have found that mapping of historical artifacts is a vital entry point for students in both using the technology and in engaging with the scientific process. Fortunately, for many famous experiments there are detailed second and sometimes first-hand accounts of the inquiry process. Those accounts are often textual, but may include images or videos, and may be supplemented with observational and/or experimental data from the inquiry.
If we take, as an example, Robert Millikan’s determination of the charge of an electron as an historical account of interest, there is a particularly rich resource in the form of an article by Alan Franklin of the University of Colorado (Franklin, 1997). His textual account - supplemented with images of Millikan’s apparatus - is an exemplar for the kind of text we would emphasize at the outset of any particular curricular module. By engaging with Franklin’s account of Millikan’s experiment, students could use timae.us to construct an historical map reflecting their own understanding of the account. This in turn serves as a springboard (and an essential shared experience) for conversation about content, process, and the relationship of the two. Furthermore, engaging with and building historical exemplars helps to scaffold the curricular experience for students so that, when they perform their own inquiries, they identify more easily with the work of scientists throughout history. Having developed an understanding of Millikan’s work (or that of any other scientist), students are better equipped to pursue independent inquiry.
Franklin, A. (1997). Millikan’s oil-drop experiments. The Chemical Educator, Vol 2(1), 1-14. doi:10.1007/s00897970102a.