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Seven tips to get the most of CloudLabs Virtual STEM in the classroom

At CloudLabs, we offer an ecosystem of resources that seek to facilitate teaching, providing adjacent supporting materials to the simulation environments that accompany teachers in their educational work. However, it is likely that when we face these environments for the first time, doubts arise as to how to implement and make the most of these tools; likewise, we may wonder about what strategies are effective for implementing the simulation environments in a class that is facing for the first time this type of digital resources.

Being aware of these needs and situations that may arise, we share below seven tips that will help you implement CloudLabs in your classes effectively, making the most of all its features.

1. Take advantage of Teamwork

Encouraging collaboration among students can enrich the experience in a virtual laboratory. Proposing the collaborative development of a simulator, where students analyze and solve problems together, can generate greater participation and interest. It is because students will feel that their contributions and ideas are valuable to achieve the objectives set. This strategy not only improves communication and teamwork skills but also provides diverse perspectives to the group about the concepts, allowing them to make decisions based on the contributions of each participant and build knowledge together.

This practice can lead to each team submitting a single lab report; however, it is also possible for the team to develop the activity as an all-together but for each member to be responsible for submitting their own report.

2. Articulate pre- and post-lab activities

Using simulators in the classroom does not have to be considered a separate task from the content developed throughout the course. On the contrary, CloudLabs simulators are a tool to reinforce and consolidate knowledge by applying acquired knowledge in real problem situations and ensuring a deeper understanding of the concepts by the students.

For this reason, it is good practice to propose and design activities that complement the concepts addressed in the simulations. These activities are not limited to a specific moment, as they can take place before or after the simulation. For example, there are several ways to integrate a simulator into activities. One option is to create presentations that show the results, findings, and conclusions obtained through the simulation. Also, trivia-type dynamics using platforms such as Kahoot! This option is effective as it fosters a competitive spirit and motivates students to get the highest score.

Another alternative is incorporating the simulators into the school’s or college’s Science Fair. It is feasible to highlight one of the simulators at these events and even take the simulation into practice, using the simulator itself as the fundamental basis. Projects developed with simulators at the fair allow students to showcase their achievements and generate interest among their peers in these simulation tools.

3. Define Rewards for Lab Work

Establishing tangible rewards and recognition for engagement and performance in CloudLabs virtual laboratories can motivate students. Recognizing their effort and achievements through incentive systems, such as points, additional grades, or even token prizes, can boost their participation and desire to engage more deeply in activities of this type. With the reward system, you create an environment where students feel their contributions and performance in the labs are valued and recognized. It can foster a greater sense of healthy competition among students and encourage them to strive for excellence in their performance.

This system can complement summative activities using this tool, interactive workshops, and classroom projects. 

It is critical that these rewards align with educational objectives, and it is fundamental to maintain transparency in the process. So that students clearly understand how they can earn the incentives and what is expected of them in terms of performance and participation.

4. Provide support during the first approach to the platform: 

It is crucial that the introduction process is guided by the teacher when students first encounter the CloudLabs platform. This initial approach ensures that students comprehensively understand all the available features and resources in a simulator, finding its basis in efficient learning experiences.

The role of the teacher is to introduce each component of the simulator, such as buttons, hotspots, and parts of the environment, and provide clear guidance on how to navigate the platform. Explore with students the areas where they will find support resources, such as guides, tutorials, and reference material. Also, explain what aspects the simulator assesses and how that assessment process will be conducted in your classes. This knowledge allows students to focus on the learning objectives and prepare adequately.

Early familiarization with the platform should also include instructions on how the interaction with the simulator tools works and how to access the results of their activities. By providing a detailed overview, students can gain confidence and feel more confident when exploring on their own account.

Maintain an open environment for questions and clarification during this introductory process. As learners gain more autonomy on the platform, they will take full advantage of the learning opportunities CloudLabs offers. A solid, well-guided start lays the foundation for a smooth and enriching experience in their educational journey with virtual simulations.

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5. Create Opening Questions or Guiding Questions

Before students begin exploring and developing any laboratory, present opening questions or guiding questions. These questions orient their approach and help them anticipate results. Teachers can obtain outstanding results with this strategy, but it is pertinent that the designed questions provoke reflection and activate critical thinking in students; questions should be thought of to direct their exploration and encourage research during the approach to the CloudLabs simulation environment.

Teachers establish a solid foundation for learning by posing questions that prompt students to think about the context, objectives, and possible solutions before diving into the activity. These questions can help students’ attention focus on relevant issues, consider different perspectives, and formulate informed hypotheses.

In addition, opening questions can also act as a bridge between prior knowledge and the new concepts in the simulation. They create a more coherent connection between theory and practice, allowing students to understand how abstract concepts apply in concrete situations.

When designing opening questions, make sure they are challenging but accessible and that they guide students toward discovery rather than providing direct answers. Encourage class discussion based on these questions, which can enrich collaborative learning and provide different perspectives on the topics addressed in CloudLabs.

6. Share support material with students

For CloudLabs, it is essential to provide all the necessary tools that ensure effective learning and enriching experiences. For this reason, and to support students in their journey through the simulations, we have varied resources within the platform that you can share and socialize with your students.

The Student Version Guide is a detailed resource that provides a complete step-by-step guide for each simulation and is accessible to students in each learning environment. This guide is the ideal companion for the student to navigate the different aspects of the simulator and approach the challenges confidently. In addition, under the information button for each simulation, students will find key concepts and equations necessary to develop the activities. They will allow them to quickly access relevant information without leaving the platform.

Whether doubts arise about concepts or theories, they will always have learning units that explore the concepts related to each simulator in-depth. These units were designed to provide clear examples and detailed but accurate explanations, ensuring students have a solid foundation before or during the simulation interaction.

We understand that every class and every student is unique; for that reason, we give teachers the freedom to generate their own support material if they deem it necessary. This material can include customized worksheets, instructional videos, documents with equations and detailed steps, and more. These additional resources can help address the specific needs of your group of students and further enhance their understanding and success in the simulations.

7. Assign Monitors

Designating monitors or leaders within student groups can be an effective strategy to optimize the CloudLabs experience in the classroom. These monitors can be students with a high understanding of the platform or the topic in question, and their role would be to provide support and guidance to their peers.

The presence of monitors can reduce the teacher’s load and allow for a more personalized approach to learning for each student. Monitors can answer questions, offer technical assistance if needed, and encourage collaboration among group members. In addition, by explaining concepts or resolving doubts, monitors also reinforce their own understanding and knowledge.

When assigning monitors, it is essential to ensure clear communication about their responsibilities and expectations. They include willingness to help, availability to clarify doubts, and fostering an inclusive and collaborative environment. Rotating roles among students can allow everyone to take on the responsibility of being a monitor at different times, which in turn fosters leadership and communication skills.

Ultimately, assigning monitors helps to create a more dynamic and collaborative learning dynamic, where students can support each other and get the most out of the educational experience at CloudLabs.

If you follow these carefully designed tips, we are confident that you will be able to make the most of CloudLabs resources in your educational environment. From team collaboration to the guided introduction, from guiding questions to comprehensive support, each strategy is designed to enrich the learning experience and make integrating CloudLabs into your classes more effective and rewarding.

We’re here to support you every step of the way as you explore and utilize all the possibilities CloudLabs has to offer. Onward, and may your educational journey be filled with discovery and success!

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