Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More Than One Way to Skin a Lab

Options galore for playing with pendula!
When last discussed, I identified "practice" along with "feedback" as critical components of the process of learning. In a lab setting, what different types of practice can be facilitated? What are the best ways to facilitate practice?

Perhaps one of the best ways to practice a skill or process to the point of mastery is repetition in different contexts. This allows for both deep mastery of fundamentals, and an interesting exploration and transfer at higher orders of knowledge. What contexts are available? One is the traditional lab setting. This is the way things have been done for many decades in brick and mortar schools. Others have become more recently available facilitated by improved communication and technology and include virtual simulations, virtual labs (which I will differentiate in a later post), video recreations of procedures with data analysis, and labs as design challenges. All of options mentioned are opportunities for repetitive practice and varied contexts.

Let's consider the PhET simulations produced by the University of Colorado as an example. These are simulations that are web-based, therefore available annywhere and anytime one has connectivity to the internet. They are JAVA based and accessible. The link provided above will take you to the pendulum simulation that you can explore as many times as you wish. Thereby, it provides the element of repetition and practice.

In future posts, I will be exploring other forms of labs, diving in more deeply into the different species of labs that have evolved over the past 20 years through technology. In the mean time, what are some of these types of experiences that you have found? What have you liked, and disliked? I look forward to hearing you comments!

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