Real science in virtual school labs

May 14, 2012
Using scientific data provided by the marine researchers involved in the project, the students explored the marine environment of the Gullmar Fjord on the Swedish west coast. The students used a virtual ocean acidification lab to conduct studies on acidification of the marine environment, studies with impressive validity based on the latest authentic data. Credit: Photo: University of Gothenburg

Up-to-date marine data enables students to carry out scientifically valid virtual experiments. The method yields insights on how scientific knowledge is created and developed, according to research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg followed upper-secondary students from the Swedish town of Lysekil for one year. The study was part of the research project I2I, Inquiry to Insight.

Using scientific data provided by the marine researchers involved in the project, the students explored the marine environment of the Gullmar Fjord on the Swedish west coast. The students used a virtual ocean acidification lab to conduct studies on acidification of the marine environment, studies with impressive validity based on the latest authentic data.

The method of using virtual tools has a high level of applicability and can be used in a wide range of learning situations, within both the natural and social sciences. The main point of using the method is that it makes students truly understand how scientific knowledge is created.

'It's a fast, safe and cheap way to get the work done, in contrast to expensive and sometimes dangerous science labs in schools. It's based on authentic research results that the students can compare with their own results. The experiments allow students to for example simulate the future, and they can stop what they're doing at the end of a class and pick up where they left off a week later. That's perfect in a school context,' says Senior Lecturer Annika Lantz-Andersson.

The Gothenburg researchers believe that the methods used in Lysekil could work well on a national scale thanks to the ample access to scientific data and cheap virtual tools.

The project partners at Stanford University in USA assessed the knowledge levels of more than 500 students before and after using the virtual lab. Their results enabled the researchers in Gothenburg to study how the students developed an understanding of scientific work and concepts. Now the researchers are trying to learn more concretely how virtual lab students work to find answers and discuss how studies and experiments should be designed to yield new knowledge. This work is based on about 25 hours of video-taped student interaction in the lab environment.

One conclusion that confirms previous research on digital tools is that the work of the teacher is extremely critical to successful learning.

'The way that the teacher introduces a lab session is crucial, and it is important to realise that computer software is not by any means self-instructive. The teacher needs to actively challenge the students' understanding and give them a chance to ponder over what the virtual experiments are meant to represent. The teacher's communication with the is very important in order to avoid that the virtual experiments end up being just another abstract computer task,' says Lantz-Andersson.

Explore further: Researchers discover what makes us feel European - and it's food

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Students who get stuck look for computer malfunctions

Jun 05, 2009

When students working with educational software get stymied, they often try to find fault with the computer or the software, rather than look to their own mistakes, according to a new dissertation at the University of Gothenburg, ...

Virtual learning environments put new demands on teachers

Apr 23, 2012

Introduction of hi-tech teaching aids in the classroom often comes with great hopes for enhanced learning. Yet a new doctoral thesis from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows that new technologies per se do not improve ...

E-learning a powerful tool for teaching the arts

Apr 07, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Learning in dance and drama has traditionally involved face-to-face tuition, but that may change following Victoria University research into the potential of online tuition.

Giving learning a personal touch

Jul 18, 2008

A learning system that adapts to the abilities and needs of students opens the way to a more personalised approach in delivering education electronically.

Recommended for you

Residents of 'boom time' suburbs face unsustainable commutes

6 hours ago

People living in the 'boom time' suburbs of Dublin are more likely to endure unsustainable commutes to work than those living in older accommodation. Research shows that people living in newly constructed housing in the Greater ...

Male-biased tweeting

Apr 23, 2014

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

Apr 23, 2014

Asia's rapidly developing economies should prepare for a full-throttle increase in motorcycle numbers as average incomes increase, a new study from The Australian National University has found.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...