What makes the subject matter matter? Contrasting probeware with Graphs & Tracks

Abstract : Previous research has established probeware as an effective tool in science instruction. Less is known, however, about the reasons for its success. In this study, we investigate this issue further by contrasting the use of probeware with the use of a simulation called Graphs & Tracks. By carrying out an in-depth analysis of pre-service teachers' interaction, we want to demonstrate that the two environments – despite many structural similarities – afforded different contexts for learning. When working with probeware, the students had to make distinctions between different graphs and different concepts in kinematics to accomplish the task. When the students used Graphs & Tracks, their actions and interactions occasionally related to concepts of kinematics but more often implied a trial-and-error approach. We claim that the results show why the use of probeware, in contrast to many other interactive learning environments, often improve students' performance on conceptual tests. At a more general level, the results point to the importance of designing activities where students are forced to focus on relevant aspects of the subject matter in order to complete the task; in this case, activities where students make the relation between representation and the represented a central part of their interaction.
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Chapitre d'ouvrage
J. Ivarsson. Renderings & reasoning: Studying artifacts in human knowing, Universitatis Gothoburgensis, pp.115-143, 2004, Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis
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Oskar Lindwall, Jonas Ivarsson. What makes the subject matter matter? Contrasting probeware with Graphs & Tracks. J. Ivarsson. Renderings & reasoning: Studying artifacts in human knowing, Universitatis Gothoburgensis, pp.115-143, 2004, Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. 〈hal-00190383〉

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