The exploration of experimental data with the aid of numerical models
Computer-based methods of capturing data in laboratory experiments (data-logging) invite a range of approaches to exploring data. The rich variety of analysis and calculation tools provided in software helps to extend the value of collected data for prompting thinking about the underlying physical principles and encouraging a dialogue between theory and experiment. Such a dialogue has been given a substantial boost in the latest generation of data-logging software which incorporates numerical modelling facilities. Modelling activities are usually designed to encourage thinking which employs previously learned scientific principles, or to make predictions which may be tested by experiment. This paper discusses how each of these aspects is served by new software: A graphical user interface for modelling is designed to help pupils structure their thinking, and the integration of modelling facilities with data-capture and analysis tools is a promising environment for supporting the predicttest-reflect investigation cycle.