Research Papers in Physics and Astronomy


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Published in Journal of Science Education and Technology, Vol. 8, No. 1 (1999), pp. 33–44. Copyright © 1999 Plenum Publishing Corporation/Springer Inc.. Used by permission.


Frank Collea was a friend of Robert Fuller and David Brooks, and a mentor to Brooks. We miss him for his energy, his enthusiasm for teaching science, and his perception about how to improve science education. Frank Collea was not a big fan of using computers in instruction. Frank was neither an advocate of using computers to deliver instruction, nor an advocate of teaching their use as professional tools. Indeed, he thought that most of those of us who advocate computer use make assertions that are unwarranted. A decade ago, desktop computers were beginning to appear in colleges and universities in small numbers, and we began to explore their use (Sowell and Fuller, 1990). Since then, our thinking has changed substantially, moving away from having computers serve as patient teachers of the classical curriculum, and toward using them as professional tools—to extend, to magnify, to expand, and to enhance human reasoning. This article deals with the issues related to students learning to use computers as such professional tools. Two qualitative data sources inform this paper. The first is a recent doctoral dissertation consisting of a case study of a ‘mathematical methods in physics’ course that incorporated the use of Maple™* software (Runge, 1997). The other is an evaluation of a new undergraduate course, ‘multimedia physics,’ that sought to integrate mathematics and physics content, and involved the use of many media forms (Pytlik Z. and Spiegel, 1997).

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