The purpose of this qualitative research project was to answer one main research question and two sub-questions: How does using the software in an Apple computer lab reinforce what sixth grade students are studying during classroom science lessons? How does the software in the lab reinforce and extend lessons taught from F.O.S.S. (Full Action Science System) activity kits? To what extent do students see connections between what they are learning with the F.O.S.S.levers kit and what they are doing with the computer simulation software? This study was conducted as teacher research at a rural K-8 grammar school in theWillamette Valley. I gathered data from October 1996 through February 1997 by watching students work in the computer lab, then interviewing them and surveying them afterwards. I also interviewed the sixth grade teacher whose class I had studied, and I interviewed the building principal. In order to protect the privacy of the people I studied and spoke with I have changed their names and any identifying details. After collecting my data, several overall themes became evident. I found that the F.O.S.S. kits and the computer simulations helped students grasp the process of scientific discovery and analysis. The simulations and kits met this goal in very similar ways. Thus, the computer software did reinforce the lessons taught with the F.O.S.S. kits. When I interviewed students and administered an open-ended survey, I found that students were very aware of this connection.
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