The Place for the Computer Is in the Laboratory: An Investigation of the Effect of Computer Probeware on Student Learning
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AbstractComputer data collection technology is commonplace in commercial and research laboratories, and this technology is becoming increasingly available in the secondary classroom. While a number of studies have been conducted comparing computer probeware laboratories to other laboratory methods, these studies have not addressed the larger question of how computer probeware impacts learning. This study investigated computer probeware's impact on student understanding of the phenomenon, the student's understanding of the discourse of science and his or her ability to participate in 362 Marcum-Dietrich and Ford the process of science. This study was conducted in five 10th-grade biology classes. Students were divided into two groups: one group conducted the laboratory using traditional methods that rendered qualitative data and the other group conducted the laboratory experiment using the computer probeware technology which produced quantitative data. Student understanding was measured with a wide variety of data sources that included: a pre and posttest, student designed laboratory procedures, lab reports, and student interviews. Students' ability to use the discourse of science as well as their proficiency in engaging in the process of science was investigated through the analysis of videos of students performing the laboratory exercise as well as student interviews. The study showed that students who used the probeware scored slightly higher on the posttests, lab designs, and reports. The laboratory videos and student interviews revealed that in both groups students experienced trouble with the discourse of science and the process of science regardless of the method used. The computer probeware's greatest benefit was its ability to bridge the disconnection that exists between the laboratory process and the conclusions draw from laboratory data. The computer probeware graphically displayed the data in a manner that enabled students to form a connection between the process and the phenomenon. As a result, students who used the probeware were better able to interpret the data they obtained, drawing stronger connections between the data and the phenomenon.