Using Digital Technologies in the Science Classroom to Promote Conceptual Understanding

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Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching


For decades some have asserted that digital technologies can promote more meaningful learning in science. Yet, these assertions have not been sufficiently documented with classroom data. This article reviews findings from a study that examined interactions between learners, instructors, and technology tools in an introductory college physics course. (The course had been designed to engage students in investigation supported by computer tools.) The study substantiated assertions, that: (a) Dynamic matching of supplied graphs of motion and time can engage students in cognitive conflict, enables discussions of alternative explanations, and promotes conceptual growth and understanding; (b) Technology tools can provide students with means to rapidly gather, reflect on, and analyze trends in data and related representations; (c) Technology tools can provide students with means to rapidly evaluate hypotheses with multiple representations. Data gathered in the study also offered evidence that multiple representations responsive to adjustments in variables controlled by students can enhance their understanding. The dynamic representations made possible by MBL tools enabled students to negotiate meanings and to examine alternative explanations throughout the course. The article also discusses ways that teachers could increase the effectiveness of the student dialogue to promote more effective conceptual learning.


© 2002 Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE)