Web-VLs, Web-Based Physics Virtual Labs
The Web-VLs are three independent micro-world environments, in optics, heat and electricity, with realistic 3D representation of lab objects and appropriate functions for the simulation of relevant phenomena.
In virtual laboratories, which simulate the classic science laboratory in visual and functional ways on the screen of a computer, the dynamics provided by modern multimedia technology, such as interactivity, the direct manipulation of objects and parameters and the synchronized coupling of multiple representations can be unfolded. As a result, new possibilities and prospects, beyond the limits of the classic laboratory, are introduced, which create a technologically enriched environment potentially facilitating students’ active engagement in scientific inquiry.
The Web-VLs were developed as a part of a larger project directed by the Thessaloniki Science Center & Technology Museum, and funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Coordinator: Thessaloniki Science Center & Technology Museum, http://www.noesis.edu.gr/en/
Target groups: general public, parents, primary school students, secondary school students, teachers, trainee teachers
Topic: Electronics, Energy, Optics, Physics, Technology, Education
Start year: 2013
End year: 2014
Contact person: Ioannis Lefkos, Email: lefkos (at) sch.gr
The effectiveness of VL in Science Teaching has been the subject of many research papers. Some have suggested that study with the help of computer and multimedia applications can exceed, to some extent, the technical and instructive restrictions of the classic hands-on laboratory in science teaching (Sassi, 2001, Petridou, 2005) while others have suggested that these applications have been effective in science teaching (Klahr et al, 2007) or that they promote conceptual understanding in various ways e.g. they can eliminate the handicap of the slow development of thermal interactions, and allow experimenting in “extreme” conditions with easy manipulation of variables (Hatzikraniotis et al, 2010). Martinez et al. (2011) mention that “their use fosters conceptual development and change and helps students to comprehend many physical phenomena in different areas of study, such as mechanics, optics or even the entire science curriculum”. Other studies show that combining them with a proportional number of hands-on experiments seems to be necessary for students’ development of all dimensions of their experiment design skills. Although many researchers have found that groups of pupils who have worked with computer simulations make greater strides in learning, others have found that the benefits of learning through simulations are ambiguous (Martinez et al., 2011).
An innovative feature of the labs is the existence of parallel components, which present multiple views of the phenomenon under study. The use of discrete worlds for representing the real and the symbolic entities is a main design strategy followed during the development of these environments and has been presented in previous papers (Hatzikraniotis et al., 2007, Lefkos et al., 2009, Lefkos et al., 2011, Taramopoulos et al., 2011).
Research on these web-VLs is still in the stage of data collection, but some of the theoretical aspects of the developers have been presented in international conferences.
The Web-VLs are three independent micro-world environments, in optics, heat and electricity, with realistic 3D representation of lab objects and appropriate functions for the simulation of relevant phenomena. The direct manipulation of the objects allows the user to compose experimental settings and fosters open inquiry activities and what-if investigations.
There no limit to the number of experimental activities that can be developed. Users can compose practically which ever setting they want, under some limitations of the instruments and materials provided, and the software is able to simulate the proper interactions and provide data and visual representations according to the laws of physics.
Nevertheless, the developers have already provided some example activity Work Sheets for teachers or even self-learners to use to exploit the benefits of the Web-VLs.