The IMSS Pilot Project: activities and results
IMSS - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza - worked within the Pencil Project by developing informal learning activities that had their background in the history of science, a discipline whose contents are often disregarded in the educational programmes at school, both in the sciences and in the historical disciplines.
The birth of modern science, linked to the figure of Galileo Galilei, was the focus, in terms of content, of this Pilot Project.
The project referred to Galileo’s scientific work, in his times, to show the way scientist creates new patterns in unknown fields, often overcoming current and established traditions in knowledge.
It also cast light on the relevance of the “objects” (in the sense of instruments) for the development of science by emphasizing that each instrument has a complex network of meanings, both historical and scientific.
- Producing multimedia tools by making virtual tools with pedagogical purposes modelled after instruments in the museum’ collection.
- Creating a didactic experiment based on Galileo’s early researches on the basic laws of natural motions.
1. Multimedia tools:
We have been working on how the multimedia applications of scientific instruments designed by the Imss can be transferred onto an e-learning platform, to improve their educational potentiality. The “Galileo’s Compass”, an application of a scientific instrument invented by Galileo to perform a wide variety of calculations, was used as a reference for this study.
The “Galileo’s compass” has also been used for creating contacts with teachers, to whom we have asked an evaluation on how this kind of application may aid in the educational activities and in enriching the teacher background and competences. Through their suggestions we aimed at improving the didactic efficacy of those tools and specifically the next one under implementation within the pilot project: the Galileo’s microscope.
We also worked, in conjunction with Percro Laboratory (a research laboratory in Simultaneous Presence, Tele Presence and Virtual Presence) of Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, in the application of an interface, “Information Landscapes” to create a tri-dimensional representation of various aspects of Galileo’s life focusing on his scientific work and the instruments he designed and used.
The objective of this collaborative effort with Percro was to make the history of science more appealing to students and to encourage the use of the new media for intensifying the exploration of certain historical-scientific aspects of our culture.
2. The didactic experiment: Galileo and experimental science.
This didactic experiment took inspiration from some features of Galileo’s researches in the period of his mastery of the basic properties of natural motions.
The principal aim was to teach about the nature of science as a continuing research activity. A parallel aim was to stimulate an enriched comprehension of the fundamental elements which have featured the birth of the modern sciences by recovering some aspects of the original historical context and the initial steps.
The project was implemented, according to the following steps:
- IMSS has worked with 19 teachers and 15 classes of secondary and middle level students relatively naive of the elements of basic mechanics.
- IMSS has organized meetings with the teachers to discuss the content of the project and stress the aim of “not-teaching” in the ordinary sense but of inciting and boosting the “students” to discover on their own what Galileo discovered 400-odd years ago both in terms of knowledge and of learning by doing research
- IMSS has set up the classes, where students were left free to explore both blind and productive paths. A “facilitator” was present to offer stimulation from another perspective and further prodding of an active, explorative attitude.
The aim of the activities was to convey the idea of the complexity of scientific development and to show that a deeper understanding of the history enhances our comprehension of present world.