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This paper, presented at the 2001 Physics Education Research Conference, combines results from a larger research study that focuses on both cognitive and social aspects of learning (Otero, 2001). The study was conducted in a physical science class for prospective elementary teachers. The theoretical perspective used is distributed cognition (Hutchins, 1995), in which interacting with tools and others with tools are considered a cognitive system that generates learning. According to this perspective, each element of the system contributes to the cognitive product by sharing part of the cognitive load associated with a task. Results discussed in this paper suggest that student conceptual development influences the classroom context or cognitive system. Please note that this version of the paper was redacted from the 2001 PERC Proceedings and a corrected version is available in the 2002 PERC Proceedings.
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