Technological tools in the introductory statistics classroom: Effects on student understanding of inferential statistics
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While technology has become an integral part of introductory statistics courses, the programs typically employed are professional packages designed primarily for data analysis rather than for learning. Findings from several studies suggest that use of such software in the introductory statistics classroom may not be very effective in helping students to build intuitions about the fundamental statistical ideas of sampling distribution and inferential statistics. The paper describes an instructional experiment which explored the capabilities of Fathom, one of several recently-developed packages explicitly designed to enhance learning. Findings from the study indicate that use of Fathom led students to the construction of a fairly coherent mental model of sampling distributions and other key concepts related to statistical inference. The insights gained point to a number of critical ingredients that statistics educators should consider when choosing statistical software. They also provide suggestions about how to approach the particularly challenging topic of statistical inference.