Scientific modeling is thought to help students understand the world and scientific phenomenon. Science laboratory in school should provide well-designed activities to promote students’ model building skills. Thus, this study aims to propose microcomputer based labs with several data acquisition tools and a modeling tool, which can assist students to collect and visualize data in faster and fancier ways, and generate mathematical models to fit the data, thus exercising their skills of scientific modeling. Thirty-two high school students participated in the science laboratory courses within two semesters for four labs. Results showed that students’ overall success rates of model building were approaching 50%; the duration of participants’ modeling time decreased with the increase of the experimental labs; the benefits of doing physics labs with smartphones were confirmed by the success rates, personal preferences, and students’ feedback. Regarding students’ spontaneous model building behavior in the first lab, almost 90% of the participants fitted data with linear equation; most participants adjusted coefficients to fit the data, instead of changing the highest degree of equation; and different strategies were used by successful participants and the others. These results indicated that the combination of modern data acquisition tools and fitting data with a modeling tool would provide an alternative and meaningful approach to doing physics labs at high school.
ASJC Scopus subject areas