N. Machado1, M. Baptista2

1Escola Superior de Tecnologia da Saúde de Lisboa - IPL (PORTUGAL)
2Instituto de Educação da Universidade de Lisboa (PORTUGAL)
Computer-based modelling tools allow students to express their theories in models that can be simulated. In this way, students can use their theories operationally, confronting themselves with the consequences of their ideas. The ability of students to form and express a mental model will be expanded if they are given an opportunity to become aware of their own mental model by expressing this same model and comparing it to other models, like a consensus model.

The building of numerical models of biophysical phenomena, such as the mechanics of breathing, or blood circulation, has the potential for student motivation as well as long-term learning. Our theory is that by re-building well known numerical models of physiological phenomena students will have the opportunity to change their perceptions about the relevance of the contents addressed, simultaneously improving their learning in the topics covered and increasing their motivation in the basic science disciplines in their curricula.

For the implementation of computer numerical models historically it was necessary to use some programming language, such as MATLAB, BASIC, C++, JAVA.

With the development of computer science, it is now possible to these students “construct” models of physical phenomena expressed through dedicated computer tools without necessarily having to do so in a programming language. As for example we have STELLA, MODELLUS, or STARLOGO.

There is also the possibility of using a spreadsheet such as Microsoft EXCEL, Open Office CALC, Google SHEETS, or others, as tools that allow students to express physical models. The current spreadsheets, even those available for free, are very powerful, having many integrated tools, in terms of calculation, and we can count on several other features, such as graphs of various types, buttons and other tools that allow interaction with the model, and databases that can be integrated into the spreadsheet.

There are several advantages of using spreadsheets in science education due to it’s general access, through smartphones, tablet’s and computers, ease of implementation for the basic operations, and ease of the “debug” process, relative to other types of software. Also it does not require prior knowledge of programming languages, or about complex mathematical software, which would an obstacle to the learning in itself. There is also the positive side effect of learning how to use a spreadsheet that is a plus in itself for the future professional’s.

This paper will have a review of the state of the art of using spreadsheets in Modelling Based Learning. Also it will be presented a study with first year undergraduate students of a health care course, using Biophysical models historically very important in the physiology and medicine development.