The effect of introducing computers into an introductory physics problem-solving laboratory Documents

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The Effect of Introducing Computers into an Introductory Physics Problem-Solving Laboratory 

Computers are appearing in every type of classroom across the country. Yet they often appear  without benefit of studying their effects. The research that is available on computer use in classrooms has found mixed results, and often ignores the theoretical and instructional contexts of the computer and the classroom. The University of Minnesota's physics department employs a cooperative-group problem solving pedagogy in its calculus-based introductory physics course. This study examines the effects of introducing a computerized data-acquisition and analysis tool into this pedagogy as a problem-solving tool for students to use in laboratory. To determine the effects of the computer tool, two quasi-experimental treatment groups were selected. The quasi experimental group used a computer tool to collect and analyze data in the laboratory, while the control group used traditional non-computer equipment. The curriculum was kept as similar as possible for the two groups. The groups were examined for effects on performance on conceptual tests and grades, attitudes towards the laboratory and the laboratory tools, and behaviors within cooperative groups. Possible interactions with gender were also examined. Few differences were found between the control and quasi-experimental groups. The control group received slightly higher scores on one conceptual test. The quasi-experimental group had slightly more positive attitudes towards using the computer tool than their counterparts had towards the traditional tools. The quasi-experimental group perceived that they spoke more frequently about physics misunderstandings, while the control group felt that they discussed equipment difficulties more often. This difference interacted with gender, with the men in the control group more likely to discuss equipment difficulties than any other group. Overall, the differences between the control and quasi-experimental groups were minimal.

Released under a © Laura McCullough

Published June 1, 2003
Last Modified December 29, 2006

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