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Evaluation of educational software regarding its suitability to assist the laboratory teaching of electrical circuits

Abstract : The present research effort is aimed at investigating of students' perceptions relating to the criteria they themselves would choose in order to select amongst various similar software packages, with the aim of selecting the one most suitable to assist them in their study of electric circuits. For the purpose of the present study, software simulating electrical circuits was deliberately selected. This was precisely because electricity experiments are simple enough to be constructed in a school-lab environment, and are not hampered by friction which (being so difficult to minimise) makes it so hard to take lab-measurements that follow the simple laws of mechanics – often the ones simulated by software aimed for younger students. Considering the electrical circuits, students may find it difficult to correlate the image they see on the bench with the (abstracted) image presented to the drawing of the electrical circuit (all strait lines square corners and symbolic representation of component). Among educational software that is used as modern tool for the teaching of natural sciences, a distinct and particularly significant category is formed by those packages that closely simulate real laboratory work. The use of software simulations transforms the student into a virtual researcher, by promoting the construction of a model for the problem-at-hand and the study of the effects we get by altering the various physical parameters. The sample consisted of 101 students from Vocational Schools of all grades and sectors (aged 16 to 20 year old), and in total each student worked for about 9 hours to complete the task of getting acquainted with the packages and then using them constructively before setting on the task of evaluating what they liked in them and what not. The Bessel-corrected standard deviation was calculated for all data points to be presented and the total experimental error was then calculated by combining in the systematic error of the experimental setup. The results are discussed and some interesting conclusions are drawn, which do not only reflect on the particular packages evaluated but on all other simulation software as well, irrespective of topic taught. It is discovered that the most important characteristic of the package favoured by the students concerns the human-machine interface, namely the ability provide a “virtual representation” which is closely simulating the real laboratory situation, while at the same time providing an (interconnected) “abstract-symbolic representation”, closely resembling the ones used to be drawn on the blackboard for the study of circuits.
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Charilaos Tsihouridis, Denis Vavougios, George. S. Ioannidis. Evaluation of educational software regarding its suitability to assist the laboratory teaching of electrical circuits. Conference ICL2007, September 26 -28, 2007, 2007, Villach, Austria. 15 p. ⟨hal-00257123⟩



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