The PIs' vision is that high school and college students of the future will be fluently and routinely able to better understand "important ideas" by creating dynamic simulations via a new kind of literacy akin to both mathematics and writing. That is, they will be able to express their understanding of how things work -- devices, systems, and phenomena -- in the language of systems and computing. The kinds of "important ideas" the PIs refer to include systems- and process-related ideas across STEM and other disciplines, including, for example, history and governance. The proposed new medium for expression is called "Dynamic Simulation", and in this EAGER project, the PIs are identifying what a dynamic simulation needs to include so that a new and better medium for representing, understanding, exploring, and communicating complex relationships can be developed. The idea is that this new medium will allow more complex relationships among functions and workings of systems to be expressed than can currently be done with easily accessible mathematical, visual, programming, and natural languages. It is expected that the new dynamic language for expression will be a qualitatively new and considerably better follow on to systems such as Etoys and Scratch. Those languages, though very successfully used to express important ideas of elementary-school and middle-school complexity, are too limited for expression of more sophisticated systems-related ideas. It is envisioned that the new language will allow expression of relationships in natural systems, social systems, technological systems, and the biological, psychological, and anthropological systems we are as individuals. Furthermore, the goal is that use of such expressive tools and the representations will allow learners and users to "see" the dynamic artifacts they are creating from a variety of different perspectives, allowing them to extract meaning and significance that otherwise might be too abstract to envision. Foundations for bringing the vision to fruition are in computing itself. As the proposal states, "[s]ince computing is about processes, the science of computing is the science of processes. And within computing, as with many other fields since the 17th century, science and engineering are in a dynamic yin-yang of making and experimenting, observing, and creating models to further both arts."
As appropriate to the EAGER program, this is "vision-directed" research; it is focused on what might be and its activities are aimed toward "problem finding" so that a later concrete plan can be formulated. The results of problem finding will be concrete characterizations of many of the problems that will need to be solved to turn parts of the vision into reality. The claim is that we can help our youth better understand process- and systems-oriented phenomena by giving them better means of expressing their understanding. What is needed for that is an expressive computational language that will allow them to express relationships between parts of a system and the ways those parts interact with each other in a dynamic way. The expressive language, the focus of this early project, is a first step in achieving the bigger vision and is conceived as a concrete resource that will allow others to envision educational possibilities.