The following aspects describe the aims and methodology of the CLOUDLABS Virtual STEM SIMULATORS. It offers a wider range of information about the characteristics of this virtual learning environment and focus on the methodologies structure value these simulators consist of. Particularly, it highlights the educational innovating component which makes a difference to other laboratories simulators and connects to teaching and methodologies changes over learning activities.
Therefore, educational sector nowadays requirements are met by the development of these kind of activities, which also address to strengthen the innovating resources access to all learning process participants. Additionally, this methodology helps to improve the quality of education through transforming the learning of the different members of the educational system by doing.
When different high quality strategies and pedagogical resources, high standard organizational levels and considering the students, teachers, schools and contexts’ needs are incorporating those improvements occur.
CloudLabs prioritizes learning by doing, logical thinking and reading comprehension through using highly intuitive videos games. These games are presented to the students in order to respond to challenges and solve problems in a complete virtual experience. Thus, the educational institutions’ ICT structure is employed fully; it is computers and tablets used in offline mode.
Consequently, it also has a great impact on children and young people who do not have access to expensive laboratories with high realistic simulators, so that they gain knowledge about physical phenomena.
All the simulations and learning units that are part of this product are focused on problem solving and real contexts situations features. They enable students to study theories and understand concepts to experience challenges in a real and meaningful contexts. In addition, students can learn by making mistakes, analyzing different variables according to their simulations interaction, experiencing different possibilities and learning experiences which help to build up their knowledge.
When implementing virtual simulators, different approaches can be used and related: from challenges to learning evidences. For example, learning units become a useful strategy because they can support and work as complement of the simulations. The basic learning units reinforce the concepts connected to one or more simulations. That is to say, students work on these concepts before they practice on a simulation or specific simulations. Thus, the teacher can adopt the learning activities that are on each of the units.
Furthermore, this aspect can be supported by some in-classroom or virtual lessons, with the assigned teacher, and where units’ concepts can also be discussed. Teacher and students can use the learning units while developing virtual laboratories too. It makes evident the connection and reinforcement between the concepts and the development of the course and virtual laboratories.
On the other hand, virtual laboratories are developed out of models and simulations where students are vital and active part in making decisions. These are based on specific facts or variables changes aimed to test previous hypothesis. ICT supports these methodologies through constant active teaching techniques and a definite methodological orientation. They intend to respond to challenges in a learning environment.
When the teacher leads and develops virtual laboratory practice, it is important to consider and identify the use and functions of each of the available buttons these have. Secondly, a guided and detailed comprehension of the challenge situation should be presented. It is from here where the student will be able to identify the context, the assigned role, the proposed problem, the variables as well as the tasks to be developed during the virtual laboratory practices, which look for solving the given situation.
After understanding the concepts, the function of each available tool in the interface of the simulator and the proper analysis of the challenge situation, the procedure and solution of the problema will start. It allows the student to review and practice all the previous and acquired knowledge during the learning-practice process. Then, we can deduce that virtual laboratories may introduce and implement appropriate and meaningful teaching resources needed to the students learning process.
The conceptual framework of CLOUDLABS is based on the competences development which must integrate four aspects to work on:
✓ Active teaching techniques development.
✓ Teacher as a guide and facilitator of the learning process.
✓ Proper and effective use of ICT.
✓ Learning activities contextualization.
The implementation of active teaching techniques must be prioritized the development of general and specific competences. They should consider the object of study and the context. Thus, the challenge is to connect this strategy to educational material as well as the study plans. It is important to consider there are a variety of actions to follow that aim to use those techniques in developing competences such as problem solving and understanding the concepts at the start of each laboratory practice or activity. It enables a balance between autonomous learning and guided behavioral learning.
For this reason, the traditional learning purposes are based on basic behavioral repetitive concepts of the physical variables and without any students’ active participation in problem solving.
Contrary to the traditional teaching, here the students must solve problems and make decisions to challenging situations through:
Educational resources as planned practice or
The teacher using open simulators that are widely described on the teachers and students, guides.
Students are made to solve problems, interact and make decisions by the use of concrete situations activities so that they will achieve a specific objective. This makes evident their learning and the reason to develop competences. The main methods to consider are: problem solving and the sequence learning identification through project based learning. Projects are used to emphasize the procedures knowledge and the supporting and mandatory knowledge of concepts, principles, aptitudes and general competences as well as the factual knowledge, all orientated to achieve the activities goals.
The guide and learning facilitator role are proposed from two approaches. The first one deals with the proper and accurate use of virtual laboratories and their learning units by the teachers. The second perspective is a planned educational process based on the student and student’s performance. It certainly contradicts the traditional educational programming. Thus, this innovating strategy does not focus on the memorizing concepts required by the educational standards but it considers this method as part of the first learning process stages.
Additionally, since teachers are thought to be experts on the discipline they teach, sometimes teaching training is necessary because of several factors and as part of the educational process.
Inferring teachers master the tool, the second approach becomes easier to achieve due to the fact they will plan ahead. For example, imagine a physics group of 30 students who were given tablets for education. Each student has a tablet and the teacher has decided to group them in six teams. They are guided about the topic to learn, “vectors” that day, so that they are taught the adding vector concept; specifically adding vectors using the parallelogram method. How different the teacher addresses the activity invites the groups to solve the problem and promote competing. Additionally, teacher should put into the context the situation to call the attention of all the participants. The teacher can tell the situation loudly and make some questions to promote comprehension.
After proposing the challenge situation, it is suggested to approach the contents of the simulator and give the corresponding instructions. If necessary, it is recommended a topic presentation to reinforce some concepts. However, the main objective is to focus on the activity procedure to be solved. It is here when different situations emerge that provoke the development of group of competences and beyond the progress on specific abilities.
The curriculum component of each institution becomes a relevant factor to be considered when implementing virtual laboratories. The relation between curriculum components and the study plan of a school/ classroom or CloudLabs virtual laboratory is a curriculum interrelation. This connection becomes fundamental to implement a laboratory because allows teachers to know what ideal practices support better the learning process in the classroom. It helps teachers to identify basic curriculum characteristics for the laboratories practices which also orientate the appropriate competences to be developed and the results to be achieved.
For this reason, a curriculum interrelation guides the teacher to plan their lessons, consider the disciplines’ study plan as well to enable them to understand how practices complement those theories presented in the lessons.
Thus, if physics teacher whose study plan competences includes to understand the sound and light traveling as wave phenomenon, and as learning evidence the classification of light and sound waves according to the medium they travel. That is to say, the curriculum interrelation will guide teacher to what are the most appropriate practices to develop with the students and test those phenomena to obtain the planned results.
For this situation, the laboratory practice named “producing a radio wave” will be ideal. This laboratory Will allow the student to apply all the waves concepts to set up the power of a radio signal, understand the purpose of radio waves, identify the causes of wave motion, analyze the characteristics of a wave and the conservation of energy principles and their interaction with the travelling medium.
Another available laboratory to practice these concepts learned is “electromagnetic spectrum” which guides students to classify the types of waves inside of the electromagnetic spectrum, identify the causes of wave motion and instruments that produce different waves’ frequency inside the electromagnetic spectrum.
To conclude, the strategies to implement virtual laboratories are thought to incorporate systematically digital tools. These instruments must promote the use of ICT in the classrooms and the integration of virtual laboratories and the learning units with the curriculum while educational institutions make their pedagogical plans. Virtual laboratories are mainly structured to be used pedagogically.