LinkIt : design, development and testing of a semi-quantitative computer modelling tool
This research is about the design, development and testing of a semiquantitative computer modelling tool called Linklt. The aim of the software is to provide secondary students with a computational environment where they can think at a system level about models and the modelling process by expressing and testing their own ideas about phenomena without having to pay attention to the analytical relations between the variables involved. The research involved two exploratory studies using two different versions of the software. These studies were carried out in Rio de Janeiro - Brazil with students aged 13-18 years old. During the studies, the students worked in pairs and used the computer tool to perform the expressive and exploratory tasks presented to them. The interviews were tape-recorded, some were also videorecorded and the models used and created by the students together with the steps to create them were saved and used for later analysis. The design of the first version of the software - Linklt I - was based on an analysis of another computer modelling system called IQON. This first version of the software was then tested with students during a Preliminary study. The analysis of the data collected led to a rethinking of the conceptual model of the system. A new interface and changes in the properties of the objects of the system were discussed and implemented, resulting in a new version of the software: Linklt II . The second (Core) study aimed to investigate students' success and failure with the new version of the system, paying attention to the ease of use and learnability of the software, as well as to how they explored and externalised their ideas when using it. The analysis of this study provided evidence that the students could learn to use the software in a short period of time and that they could undertake work of at least potential educational value with the tool.