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ALL MODELS ARE WRONG
“ Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful
the practical question is how wrong do they have to be to not be useful. ” – George Box
Thesis Statement – (Option 01) (This is the one that was approved in ITGM 755, but I am not happy with it either )
Effectively use mind tools with direct manipulation to promote higher level thinking and learning.
(Revised Thesis Statement – Option 02) (sun Sept 16) This is the one I am leaning towards the most….
Through direct interaction and manipulation with mind tools, a visual learner can facilitate the construction of new knowledge and active learning by bridging the gap between technical information and higher order learning.
(Revised Thesis Statement – Option 03) (Wed Sept 19)
Through mind tools, a learner can visualize, articulate and materialize their mental vision more effectively and facilitate the construction of new knowledge by bridging the gap between computer technology and analytical and conceptual thinking and learning.
Studies have shown that human beings acquire more information through vision than all the other senses combined.  Visualization and mind tools provide the ability to translate our mental images into rough, tangible, and digital representations of those images to help us better understand our thoughts and more actively engage in the development and exploration processes of what we are learning and why we are learning it. Mind tools can empower the learner to visualize, interpret, organize, construct and design new knowledge based on the learner’s unique experiences. 
Today, with the introduction of HTML 5 and CSS3, mind tools have become part of the new web trends in how we interact online. 
For example, the MacSpartan visualization tool enables chemistry students to view, rotate, modify and measure molecules through direct manipulation. This interaction allows the learner to visually understand the abstract chemistry concepts that are invisible to the naked eye, thereby helping chemistry students to analyze the information, brainstorm, and build new knowledge. 
Another example is the Adobe Kuler application which allows designers and design students to interactively create, save and share custom color schemes for design projects on its website. 
As useful as these tools are in helping the learner to visually understand and process information, it is important to keep in mind that visualization tools alone can’t promote higher order thinking, analytical skills or construct and design new knowledge.
When computer technologies are used as the primary source of knowledge, the learner can become passive in the learning process and develop deficiencies in the critical thinking and learning skills. 
Seymour Papert, a pioneer in promoting “ self directed learning ” through visualization tools, argues that by using mind tools to brainstorm and reflect our inner feelings and ideas, we can make those ideas tangible and shareable. According to Papert, these ideas, in return can help us inform, shape and construct new knowledge that is based on our own individual experiences in interacting with the world around us, thus promoting a deeper understanding about ourselves and our environment. 
In “ What Constitutes Systems Thinking” Will Costello proposes that cognitive tools such as a well designed simulator can simplify the real world experience by actively engaging the student in the learning process through problem-solving and decision-making while shedding light on the complexity of the system that the simulator is representing; this could be any system that promotes contemplative analysis on any given subject matter. 
As a hybrid photography instructor, I have been researching visual simulators that could help students connect the photography technical information with their personal mental vision so they can capture and materialize their stories more effectively through the camera lens.
There are some online photography simulators such as Kamera Simulator  and DSLR Simulator  that allow the user to physically manipulate different camera settings such as the film speed or aperture settings in order to see immediate results.
After testing these applications in my photography classes, and based on students’ feedback, it was unanimously concluded that the interface for these simulators were too complex and confusing for the beginner learner. Furthermore, these applications don’t provide any instructions on how to use the tools so that the learner could apply the technical knowledge learned from the simulator to capture and communicate their personal vision.
These self-contained tools are great gadgets for hobbyists with some basic knowledge in photography, but are not effective teaching tools that could provide a clear understanding of the techniques or promote analytical thinking and learning so the student could better articulate and materialize their mental vision.
To engage and improve higher concept learning, this paper proposes building a customized simulator as a visual mental model through direct manipulation and interaction with a virtual digital camera for hybrid beginning photography students.
By allowing the learner to manipulate the virtual settings and dials related to the lesson plan at hand and instantly seeing changes and results on an image, the student can visually and directly learn about the basic yet abstract technical photography concepts such as film, shutter and aperture settings and immediately establish the relationship between how the interaction of these settings can affect the overall image.
What makes this application a more powerful learning tool than using standalone simulators or traditional online textual photography lessons is that the learner can actively engage in interpreting the abstract technical photography concepts through direct manipulation that provides immediate visual feedback, and the process of analytical thinking and problem solving through complete lesson plans, class projects and discussions, to construct and build new knowledge that is unique to their mental vision.
I plan to design and program this simulator in Flash with Action Script. Based on the feedback that I received from my beginning photography students on the current available simulators, I will create the initial prototype by simplifying the interface to only include the shutter speed, aperture setting and film speed dials and their individual effect on the overall image.
I plan to test the initial prototype in my photography classes to evaluate its effectiveness in
bridging the gap between abstract technical photography topics and analytical thinking and active learning so the learner can visualize, articulate and materialize their mental vision more clearly and accurately.
Based on the collected data and test results, I will make any additional changes needed for my final thesis project prototype, which will be presented as part of a complete lesson plan in Winter 2013.
1- Ware, Colin. (Dec 2007)” Information Visualization – Perception for Design (Dec 2004)” MorganKaufmann : (pp 1-5). Digital PDF. Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012.
< Website: > http://www.ifs.tuwien.ac.at/~silvia/wien/vu-infovis/articles/book_information-visualization-perception-for-design_Ware_Chapter1.pdf
2- David H. Jonassen ( Dec 1993) “Computers as Mind tools for Engaging Learners in Critical Thinking”. Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012.
3- Mao, Bo. “A FRAMEWORK FOR ONLINE SPATIO-TEMPORAL DATA VISUALIZATION BASED ON HTML5.”(2012): Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012.
4- David H. Jonassen (2000) “Mind tools: Affording Multiple Knowledge Representations for Learning”. Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012.
5- “Kuler.” Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012. <http://kuler.adobe.com/>
6- David H. Jonassen (2000) “Mind tools: Affording Multiple Knowledge Representations for Learning”.
Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012.
7- Ackermann, Edith. “Piaget’s Constructivism, Papert’s Constructionism: What’s the Difference?”
Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012
8- David H. Jonassen (2000) “Mind tools: Affording Multiple Knowledge Representations for Learning”.
Web. Last Accessed Sep 19, 2012.
8- Costello, Will. “What Constitutes Systems Thinking – A Proposed Taxonomy. What-Constitutes-Systems-Thinking-A-Proposed-Taxonomy. Web. Last Accessed 18 Sept. 2012.
9- “Aperture, Shutter and ISO Value.” Bländare, Slutare Och ISO-värde. Web. Web. Last Accessed 18 Sept. 2012.
10- “CameraSima” CameraSim Simulates a Digital SLR Camera. Web. Web. Last Accessed 18 Sept. 2012.