In "Educational Computing: Learning with Tomorrow's Technologies", Maddux, Johnson, and Willis (1997) describe The Jasper Woodbury Series as follows:
To say that Jasper Woodbury is designed for use in upper elementary through high-school math classes is correct, but it does not really convey what it is all about. It is based on two important principles of teaching: anchored instruction and problem-based instruction.
The major goal of anchored instruction is to overcome the inert knowledge problem. We attempt to do so by creating environments that permit sustained exploration by students and teachers and enable them to understand the kinds of problems and opportunities that experts in various areas encounter and the knowledge that these experts use as tools. We also attempt to help students experience the value of exploring the same setting from multiple perspective. (e.g., as scientist or historian). (Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1990, p.3).
All the lessons in Jasper Woodbury are related to simulations that put students in real problem situations where they must solve realistic, and hopefully interesting, problems. Through video clips from a videodisk, readings, and teacher-supported discussions, students are introduced to the situations Jasper Woodbury finds himself in. He may, for example, be proposing to his school principal that a dunking booth be part of the next school fair (a teacher falls into a tank of water if the student hits the target with a ball). Jasper must use several types of math to complete a proposal for the dunking booth. Jasper woodbury's efforts to get a dunking booth at the school fair is the "anchor" around which the math lesson resolves.
Williams (1994) described the anchored simulations in the Jasper series as an effort to situate learning in the context of a single problem that students can work on over an extended period of time. Each unit in the Jasper series has a number of simulated mathematics problems students are challenged to solve. Before playing a simulation, students view from a laser disk that presents a complex mathematics problem as a story they can solve by working collaboratively with classmates and the teacher. The Jasper series provides a sequence of anchor problems within the simulation, and students work on both the original problem and variations on it. As they problem solve they learn fundamental concepts and procedures in math.
Williams (1994) describes one of the problems in a Jasper lesson:
The prototype simulation is anchored in a trip-planning problem in which the main character purchases a boat and must decide if he has sufficient daylight and gas to drive the boat home. the student learns to solve this 16-step problem in class before using the simulation. Within the simulation, the student is challenged to a race by the main character an must make a single modification to an otherwise identical boat in order to win the race. The student then makes qualitative predictions about the race and confirms them quantitatively. When the [computer] simulation is run, the two boats race against each other, giving the student feedback on the predictions and calculations. The student is encouraged to undertake a systematic series of changes to the parameters affecting the boat's performance. Through this process, the student acquires a general model of trip-planning problem. (p. 692)
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