How Modeling Instruction Uses Technology

Adapted in 2007 from an article by David Hestenes
Distinguished Research Professor of Physics
Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona

Educational research has established that computers do little to enhance student learning without carefully designed adjustments to the curriculum implemented by a well-trained teacher. This is particularly true in science courses, where students need to learn how to use the computer as a scientific tool for data acquisition, analysis and problem solving. In other words, the pedagogy is responsible for the learning. The computer can enhance pedagogy, but not replace it. Therefore infusion of computers into science classrooms must be coupled to reform in science pedagogy.

The Modeling Instruction in High School Physics program at ASU cultivates physics teachers as local experts on use of technology in science teaching. Infusion of technology into the classroom is a key component of this program, but it is secondary to pedagogical reform with intensive physics content. Implementation of the Modeling Method in the classroom is best done with computers with laboratory interface and at least three MBL probes: motion detector, a pair of photogates, and force probe. We recommend one computer for every three students.

Internet training is not a specific focus of Modeling Workshops, since other venues for this are available to teachers. For all teachers, electronic networking provides support from the program staff and enables the teachers to interact during the school year.

The quality of student understanding depends on the tools, both conceptual (e.g., modeling tools) and technological (e.g., computers), at their disposal. Computers are tools for model development; they are used for modeling activities from data collection and analysis to mathematical modeling and simulation. For example, MBL software provides real time graphical representations of physical data. This greatly facilitates students’ learning how to interpret and evaluate graphical models. Simulation/interactive software helps learners to visualize key features of models and affords them opportunities to test their understanding by exploring “experiments” not readily performed in the lab. We anticipate that in the future classroom networking and internet access will become increasingly important for student modeling.

The greatest promise of computers is to augment and extend human powers to think. In Modeling Instruction, students learn to optimize the use of new tools, especially technological tools, since the modeling method induces students to discuss, analyze, and criticize computer representations such as graphs. Students thereby learn to evaluate computer models. Such skills help students become proficient and critical consumers of educational technology and prepare for entering a technology-infused work place.

Recommended types of classroom technology and technology trainings by teachers who use Modeling Instruction.

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