Assumptions about the superiority of hands-on use of computer simulations over projecting them in whole class have seldom been tested. Contrary to expectations, preliminary pre-post results from two lesson sequences yielded no evidence for an advantage for students in the hands-on condition. We conduct qualitative analyses of one of the lesson sequences, in which a popular simulation was used in eight high school physics class sections, half in whole class discussion and half in small groups. Videotape and activity sheet analyses of such factors as percentage of time spent on conceptual difficulties and amount of support for using key visual features of the simulation yielded no evidence for an advantage for small group students. No small group students in lower level physics sections showed evidence in written or drawn work for having utilized key visual features. A balance of complementary small group and whole class use is recommended.
Stephens, L., & Clement, J. (2014). Hands-on small group vs. whole class use of an interactive simulation: Qualitative comparisons. Polman, J., Kyza, E., O'Neill, D., et al. (Eds.). Learning and becoming in practice: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2014, Volume 1. Boulder, CO: International Society of the Learning Sciences. http://www.isls.org/icls2014/Proceedings.html