Beneath, the types of conversations which students had while constructing their model are presented along with the strategies that they used in order to accomplish a comprehensive model of the phenomenon. Also, the motivation and interest they showed toward the specific learning approach are revealed, from the analysis of their answers during the group interviews. Findings from the data analysis showed that students had the same three types of conversations with the group working with computer-based modeling. However, the context of the conversations and the strategies they used present differences.
Students’ conversations and strategies Conversation and strategy type I: Students’ discussing and working on their model in general. Students during this kind of conversation were thinking how they could create a model in order to demonstrate the phenomenon under study efficiently. Each couple was collaborating with different ways and their conversations were based on different issues.
Stefanos and Angeliki (kinesthetic learning preference), in order to decide how to present their model, were trying different materials and ways of representing the phenomenon. Their discussions were short and they were focused on deciding the best way of representing the phenomenon from those they came up during experimenting. On the other hand Kyriakos and Stella (auditory preference), were discussing about the ideas each one had and then trying to decide the best way of representing the phenomenon, while Eleni and Christos were discussing and trying to visualize how they would represent the phenomenon and then trying with the materials available to them.
Conversation type II: Students’ discussions and strategies on constructing their model. Stefanos and Angeliki’s conversations didn’t differ much from the previous kind of conversation since they kept trying various ways of representing the phenomenon and then deciding which was the most appropriate. Eleni and Christos (visual learning preference) were discussing mostly about their model’s appearance and not if the functions of the model were appropriate.
However, during this kind of conversation Kyriakos and Stella were collaborating differently, since now Kyriakos was the one who was having the “control” of the group. Even if the two children were discussing efficiently, Kyriakos was the one who was mainly responsible for the hands-on activities. This might be due to gender differences since Stella had equal preference in auditory and kinesthetic learning, so it would be expected that she would participate equally on the hands-on activities.
Example of a conversation indicating the above: Kyriakos and Stella Kyriakos: How you think we should put Sun and Earth? Stella: Well…I think that the Sun should be here and be still and we should find a way so that the Earth will be moving round the Sun. Kyriakos: No, no… The Earth should be rotating and not moving around the Sun. don’t you remember what the teacher said? Earth’s rotation lasts for twenty-four hours, the same hours that a day lasts.
Stella: Oh…Yes, maybe your right. Ok, lets try to do it with that way… Kyriakos: Ok. I will do it. I know how I can do it.Conversation type III: Students’ discussions and strategies about improving their initial model. In order to help students evaluate and revise their initial models the used techniques were similar with the other group. The findings from students’ conversations showed that, like the students of the other group, all the activities that took place helped each student differently. Actually, it is significant to be mentioned that each group’s conversations were based on the same activities with the couples in the other group, according to each couple’s learning preference. This shows that different techniques should be used in order to respect each child’s needs, the National Research Council (1996) also suggests.
Group interviews As it was mentioned previously, group interviews were recognized important on understanding what activities helped students realize better the phenomenon, what barriers they found during this teaching method and what helped them over come those barriers. An interesting point that worth to be mentioned is the fact that when children were asked if they would like to work with computers and construct a model on a program the answers between boys and girls were different.
The three girls agreed that they prefer the way they worked, by using materials since they think that working with computers would be more complicated and difficult because they don’t have much confidence on using them. Also, Angeliki (kinesthetic learning preference) added: “I believe working with real materials was more interesting since we had the chance to make more things and make a lot of activities, instead of seating in front of a computer and using mostly the mouse. The specific teaching method that we used was more active…well that’s what I think. However, I am not sure since I have never made a model on a computer. I don’t know, maybe that would be also very interesting.”
On the other hand, boys agreed that a combination of the two methods would be the best way of constructing a model, since using the computer would be something first known and therefore interesting for them. Specifically, Kyriakos (auditory strength) stated: “Well…I believe working with materials was really interesting. Even though, if we had to work on a computer we wouldn’t have to use so many materials, something that would be easier. Still, I believe that working on a computer would be more complicated, however it would be challenging and I like that.” Moreover, Stefanos (kinesthetic learning preference) added: “I like computers, so I wouldn’t mind using them for a lesson. That would be fun.”
In addition, when students replied to the question “What activity helped you understand better how day and night occurs”, interesting responses came up. For instance, Kyriakos (auditory learning preference) revealed that from the whole procedure he found more interesting the different worksheets that they had to be filled during the teaching procedure as well as the video that they watched about day and night. On the other hand, Angeliki (kinesthetic learning preference) found the construction of models really helpful on understanding how day and night occurs, since, as she supported, she could understand the functions of the Sun and Earth in a more efficient way. Also, Eleni found helpful the pictures as well as the teacher’s explanations and guidance about how day and night occurs.