Mamoncillo1 is the name of a popular small fruit in Colombia and other Caribbean countries, yet it is not well known in other countries. It will be an example of a hypothetical situation. Let’s imagine for a moment that we are with a foreign person who asks us what Mamonsillo is and its flavor. Which would be the best way to answer such particular fruit to someone who has never seen or tasted something similar? We could describe the relevant characteristics of that small fruit with a green shell and hard seed; however, would this be enough for our foreign friend to recognize the flavor of Mamoncillo based on our words? Our description will allow our foreign friend not to mistake Mamoncillo for an apple, pineapple, or even a plum. Until he tastes Mamoncillo fruit, there will not be a flavor to associate with this name in his brain. Something similar happen if we were to explain the appearance of a flower, the mechanics of riding a bike, and the sensation of extreme sports that someone has never seen or experienced.
The above is because experience is an indispensable and individual process to know the world meaningfully for each of us. We know that even if it is the same object, the approximation through our experience will mark and create a unique association in the brain. For example, we can observe in the first years of life the cognitive development of a child and how essential experiencing is for learning processes. Long before a child learns to talk, he first identifies the elements in the surroundings, the pleasant flavors, and the process of calling parents’ attention. The sound of words he listens to in his environment are engraved in his head, and they start to be associated with references that make sense to him. In this order of ideas, we conclude that a natural process has occurred, the child learned to speak. Even without reading and writing skills, the human being learns to name elements, associate concepts, and communicate orally based on experiences and interactions in the environment. Will experiences be relevant for knowledge construction in humans?
This analysis, the result of a simple observation process, serves as an antechamber to the main topic of the text: experiential learning. This concept can be defined as a process by which individuals build their knowledge, develop skills and reinforce values based on experiences2 (AEE). Furthermore, From the observation process, we can appeal to some theories as the one suggested by the North American educationalist Edgar Dale (1900-1985). He established an experience cone in which diverse learning methods are ordered, being the most specific in the pyramid’s base and the most abstract ones on top of it. Out of this, we can infer that knowledge construction from an experiential perspective represents an eminent benefit over other methods that include the senses to a greater or lesser extent. Relating this theory with the example of Mamoncillo, we can say that activities such as doing, experimenting, and starting practical processes allow individuals to create their concepts and makes sense of the world. It guarantees the successful integration of knowledge.
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Currently, there are challenges in education, such as a world in constant change, an arising lack of attention, external overstimulation that makes it difficult to concentrate (publicity, mobile devices, social media), and vocational confusion, among others. With all these phenomena happening, keeping students’ attention is hard every time, and it makes clear the need for alternative teaching methods that allow dynamization in the learning process. From an educational perspective, we can talk about experiential learning as a process by which individuals are guided through experiences that allow integral, dynamic, and engaging learning. In experiential processes, learning is not the direct focus but the activities that allow it. Interacting, for example, generates feelings that contribute to knowledge easily rooted.
In that sense, experiential learning seeks to accompany diverse experiences that serve such a purpose. Walter Lema, president of the International Association of Experiential Learning, says there are two moments in the process:
- Experience- can be through readings or videos, fieldwork, simulations, dramatizations, games, and community projects.
- Processing- can be through open forums, discussions in subgroups, logs, presentations, elaboration of documents, and questionnaires.
We see many resources that can be harnessed for the transformation of the educational process, resources directed to the inclusion of practical and experiential activities, since, as John Dewey, one of the leading promoters of experiential learning in the middle of the last century, said: “School should not be a preparation for life, it should be life itself.” In a loose interpretation, the school should be akin to real life, and the best way to achieve this is to include more experiences based on real contexts within the classroom since activities that involve practical environments allow for the generation of high-value learning experiences.
To bring students closer to different practical environments, schools and universities rely on resources such as physical laboratories, field visits, forums, projects, etc. However, we live in a digital era with a wide range of possibilities than ever, with technological resources that facilitate access to differentiated practical activities, in scenarios often inaccessible by conventional means. In this context, the Simulated Environments offered by virtual platforms such as CloudLabs become innovative and disruptive elements to bring practical activities to students. The main objectives are clear: to transform learning processes and complement theoretical studies in the classroom.
There are already several features identified as fundamental to experiential learning that can be found in Cloud Labs’ Simulated Environments, for example:
- The theory is present within practice, and creates the possibility to learn complex concepts properly through practice that simulates real scenarios.
- With the wide variety of scenarios and thematic available for students, they can explore what calls their attention. It represents an advantage because it faces challenges related to personal interests and creates motivation and interest among individuals.
- In CloudLabs, students have decision-making abilities, analyze results, and take responsibility for the possible results to correct and learn of any made mistakes. It develops transversal abilities that go beyond academic knowledge.
- Students with only a few clicks, an internet connection, interest, and access to CloudLabs can explore over 600 practical activities proposed within the gamified scenarios. Some practical activities as the laboratories, have unlimited resources incorporated within safe digital environments.
- CloudLabs’ users can access a variety of simulated scenarios, many of which would be access limited or restricted in the real world. Students meet different realities and identify their vocational tastes and preferences for their personal and professional future.
- CLoudLabs consolidates itself as an innovative and versatile digital tool that promotes experiential learning in schools.
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On the other hand, in this experiential model, teachers are challenged to make a paradigmatic shift that leads them to be facilitators rather than teachers per se during the practices, that is, to do the work of accompaniment during the development of the activities. Part of their role is to create proper conditions so that students can develop practical activities, find solutions, and answer, on their own, without direct teaching, just accompanying the knowledge construction process of learners. In these practices, the teacher does not give answers but uses questions as a pedagogical to motivate students to question themselves in different ways. At the same time, the teacher discovers new and different perspectives related to the topics already known, thus, learning different ways of seeing the world with the students.
In this sense, CloudLabs is a strategic ally for teachers as it provides multiple resources prepared within the simulations, allowing them to have a complete experience in each activity solved. The tools offered in CloudLabs enable students to work autonomously so that the teacher can exercise his role as facilitator, include exclusive teacher guides that facilitate the monitoring of the activities together with the students, and the automatically corrected reports allow you to quickly review and identify points in which students may need some reinforcement.
In short, anyone can tell us that the sea water is salty and share their perception of it with us, but no one can record an experience of how it feels to swim there for us. To create this experience, you need to enter the water and create your perception through practice. Thus, by involving more senses and putting our hands in the dough, we will build our knowledge and become specialists in the topics that most catch our attention. We could tell you here, in great detail, how wonderful it is to work with CloudLabs’ simulated environments, but being consistent with our reasoning already exposed, until we live this experience personally, the “taste” of learning with this platform will remain a mystery. We invite you, dear reader if you have not yet had the experience of knowing CloudLabs, we invite you to contact us so you can immerse yourself in our platform. On the other hand, if you are already a user of our resources, how about telling us about your experience?