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We present studies documenting the effectiveness of using a computer simulation, specifically the Circuit Construction Kit (CCK) developed as part of the Physics Education Technology Project (PhET), in two environments: an interactive college lecture and an inquiry-based laboratory. In the first study conducted in lecture, we compared students viewing CCK to viewing a traditional demonstration during Peer Instruction. Students viewing CCK had a 47% larger relative gain (11% absolute gain) on measures of conceptual understanding compared to traditional demonstrations. These results led us to study the impact of the simulation's explicit representation for visualizing current flow in a laboratory environment, where we removed this feature for a subset of students. Students using CCK with or without the explicit visualization of current performed similarly to each other on common exam questions. Although the majority of students in both groups favored the use of CCK over real circuit equipment, the students who used CCK without the explicit current model favored the simulation more than the other group.
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