from a lecture given by Amanda Gunning.
Why a virtual lab?
- Online or downloaded – I recommend the downloaded version if possible since you won’t have to worry about faulty internet.
- “Hands On” – student should still be manipulating variables, making observations, and drawing conclusions.
- Fulfills lab requirements.
- Provides variety to curriculum.
- Easy way to incorporate technology and use school resources.
- Explores complex and difficult to observe concepts in a simpler way.
- Great way to give students lab activities when they are home-bound due to illness or are chronically absent.
Challenges to using virtual labs:
- Availability of computers and internet access.
- Battery-life of laptops.
- Management issues – to get all the computers set up and ready for use cuts into class time. If you have an IT person who doesn’t come from an education background, get to know them and learn as much as you can so that you don’t rely on them in case of a technology issue in class when they aren’t available to help. Be sensitive that they don’t always understand the time constraints and pressures related with teaching.
- If students are sharing a computer, are they both involved or is one student taking control and the other off task?
- Students might want to listen to music while working on the computer – this is a policy that needs to be determined by the teacher if the administration hasn’t already written a policy on that.
Preparing for a Virtual Lab
- Plan for it! A virtual lab isn’t a free period: are you using the lab to introduce a topic, demonstrate a concept, or assess student understanding?
- Scaffold the virtual lab! Introduce using the virtual lab as another way to experiment, explain and model the features students will manipulate, and have an associated assignment or handout.
- Plan for discussion to make meaningful conclusions.
Great Virtual Lab Sites