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Technology As A Teaching And Learning Tool: Assessing Student Understanding In The Introductory Physics Lab

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.500.1 - 4.500.10

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Paper Authors

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Sarah E. Irvine

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Teresa L. Hein

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2380


Teresa L. Hein, Sarah E. Irvine Department of Physics/School of Education American University Washington, DC Abstract

Technology, particularly computer-based applications are currently being incorporated within many domains of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) education. The primary goal of this incorporation is the improvement of student learning. In this paper we focus on strategies designed to improve student learning following instruction that utilizes technology- based learning tools in the introductory physics laboratory. To address this issue, we describe an interactive laboratory experiment designed to teach the concept of momentum and impulse to introductory physics students. The laboratory activity makes use of a collision apparatus and computer interface to allow students to determine relevant data. An interactive software tool allows students to perform a series of analyses of various elastic and inelastic collisions. We will link the discussion regarding the use of these technology-based learning tools in the physics laboratory to specific strategies that can be used to assess student learning. Relationships between student understanding and individual learning styles will also be shared. This discussion will have broad applications for the effective utilization of technology within the domains of SMET education.

I. Introduction

A growing number of technology-based educational learning tools currently exist within the domains of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) education. In addition, the use of educational technologies is growing both in and out of the classroom and laboratory. Certainly technology has the potential to serve as a powerful tool to improve the educational process for students as well as teachers 1. However, educational technology is only as good as the content it supports 2. Therefore, it is important to address such issues as learning goals and curriculum objectives before one implements any form of technology as a learning tool.

Many traditional teaching methodologies have clearly been shown to put students in the role of passive rather than active learning 3. Traditional instructional methods have also been shown to be inadequate in terms of promoting deep learning and long-term retention of important physics concepts. More often than not physics is taught in a typical lecture-style format in which the instructor provides information to the students by talking to them. This style of instruction focuses primarily on the instructor, the only active participant in the class. Although optimum for some, this mode of instruction is deficient in many ways for most students. One outgrowth of much research in physics learning is the basic idea that in order for meaningful learning to occur, the learner must be given the opportunity to interact actively with the material to be learned 4 – 6.

Irvine, S. E., & Hein, T. L. (1999, June), Technology As A Teaching And Learning Tool: Assessing Student Understanding In The Introductory Physics Lab Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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