Computers have been used with science learners to teach facts, aid in information processing, facilitate problem solving, and stimulate conceptual change. The hallmark of science learning, however, is independent student inquiry. Although there is ample evidence that computers can support various aspects of students' inquiry activities, such as conducting virtual experiments and visualizing data, there has been limited discussion of how certain classes of software can facilitate learners' development, over time, from simple to sophisticated forms of inquiry. This theory-based article describes how data analysis tools, simulations, and modeling software, when used in the proper instructional contexts, provide young learners with rich intellectual environments for inquiry. Arguments from the research literature support claims that even the youngest elementary school learners have the capacity to engage in inquiry, and that special classes of software can stimulate these capacities and aid the transition from identifying basic patterns in data to conducting systematic experiments and constructing viable models of natural phenomena.
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Windschitl, M. Supporting the development of science inquiry skills with special classes of software. ETR&D 48, 81–95 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02313402