The intensive use of technological devices such as computers, tablets, and cell phones has become an opportunity to innovate and strengthen the practices and experiences of teachers and students in and out of the classroom. CloudLabs is a virtual environment created from a pedagogical point of view to fulfill the role of a laboratory within the learning process. In this sense, it has not been designed to substitute the teacher but to provide practices and laboratory experiments that, as in real laboratories, must be accompanied and mediated by the teacher.
The purpose of these is to provide educational alternatives for the teaching and study of science. Considering the above, CloudLabs was created as a complement to traditional laboratories. To that extent, the same characteristics are retaken: elements, situations, procedures, and concepts of physical laboratories but from a virtual perspective. As a result, there are no scripts or warnings for procedural errors because the results are obtained through experimentation, whether they are correct or incorrect, which allows students to face reality and generate alternative solutions based on the situations presented. Also students can determine conclusions through experimentation in an open space simulated in real-life laboratory practices, oriented to the construction of knowledge through the interaction of theory and practice.
Theoretical – practical relationship in CloudLabs.
CloudLabs leads the student to understand all those theoretical concepts that are part of the thematic content proposed by the school curriculum and are within the reality of their context. i.e., when students face a situation presented by the simulations, they understand the meaning of the concepts and theories, and most importantly, they know the relationship established with reality. As a result, the use of virtual laboratories is potentiated since it does not fragment or isolate scientific knowledge from the experiences that students have in their daily and academic context.
From this perspective, virtual laboratories offer the students learning activities developed from models or simulations so that they can assume an active role in a series of decisions, depending on specific events, or change variables to test previous hypotheses. These situations are simulated with different video game components (gamification) where the student is presented with practices based on challenges.
Some advantages of using laboratories are:
- Negotiation and problem-solving skills
- Linear, scientific, analytical, and deductive thinking.
- Ability to learn through hypertext.
- Communication skills
- Collaborative learning so that objectives can be established by working together to find solutions to the challenges proposed in the different practices.
- Significant learning
This is how CloudLabs uses gamification to harness students’ motivation and energy as powerful resources for learning and knowledge development.
The feedback generates the construction of knowledge.
Another important aspect is the reinforcements or feedback that arise during the development of the laboratory practices. In this way, the students receive a compliment message such as “congratulations” when they get it right in their configurations or procedures, which motivates self-learning and self-interest in developing the laboratories.
Also, from the experimental field, the student receives reinforcement when making mistakes in one of the configurations or procedures; for example, the simulation makes it possible to see how one of the laboratory pieces of equipment can burn or how an ecosystem can die. All these processes are carried out according to the simulator and the context presented, where the student receives messages such as “try again,” “the data are not correct,” and “enter new data,” among others.
Data recording and scientific thinking
CloudLabs has a data recording process in its laboratory practices to record all the information generated in the experiments performed by the student. In this way, the approach to knowledge is organized through observation and recording of results in diagrams, graphs, and tables in an organized manner. This recording tool is designed for training that responds to current needs and the development of 21st-century skills, since CloudLabs seeks to promote the development of scientific thinking in students through the use of different elements within the training process.
Data analysis: another way to build knowledge.
Another characteristic of CloudLabs is that it seeks to bring students closer to scientific knowledge in a contextualized way. This is accomplished by using mathematics to model, analyze, and solve the situations presented in the laboratories, in which it is necessary not only to identify the problem to be solved but also to use the best option in terms of mathematical equations that allow the student to find the correct result. CloudLabs is programmed so that the student is aware of the units and conversions of magnitudes with certain margins of tolerance for their answers, thus encouraging the interpretation of the results taking into account the order of magnitude of the experimental error. At the end of the laboratories, reports are handed out, allowing the student to relate the information collected with the experimental data.
This entire educational ecosystem provided by CloudLabs allows students to awaken an interest in learning science in a fun way, promoting the development of knowledge associated with the competencies of the 21st century.