1. My English is far from perfect. So, I’ll stick to my notes and, please, be patient.
This is only a theoretical reflection about the potentialities underlying the integration of remote labs in Web 2.0 learning communities. How this can open school labs and supplement experimental work. For this school year, there are scheduled studies about the use of e-lab in formal and informal settings. So, for data, we’ll have to wait until next experiment@...
The fostering of online networks and communities that we’re assisting in web 2.0 provide learning opportunities until today never envisioned, that tend to escape from the control of institutions. A new autonomy is emerging and the bus, I mean the school, is no longer the main place to access knowledge. Well, a bus ride, may be useful to start exploring an unknown city… I mean to acquire the foundational bases of a discipline….However, once acquired the city plan, we may prefer…
… go by bike. Decide where to stop, what to see in more depth and explore new routes. In terms of Web 2.0 this translates in the development of a personal network of contacts, places, and objects, on which the learner relies for support, to provide and receive help and to follow his interests. All this, without the pressure of formality conveyed by institutions, that in advance structure and decide what to learn.
Online learning communities, such as “FQ em rede”, tend to be safe and quality places to facilitate and promote diverse learning experiences. These, by its informal nature, tend to expand school activity and free science from the classroom. In particular, “FQ em rede” is an online community for Physics and Chemistry secondary students and teachers. It’s online since January 2010, and it has about 450 members. It operates on Ning platform and has several points of interaction and sharing of content. One of these points is the “e-lab” discussion group.
“ e-lab” was added to “FQ em rede” in last March, enriching the community in terms of innovative science features. For the present school year there are scheduled quarterly webinars, for “FQ em rede” members, that volunteer to attend the meeting and engage around an experiment at “e-lab”. The data generated around the event will be subject to careful research. We aim to obtain insights about: the use of remote labs as facilitators of learning about scientific events the role of teachers as moderators in this kind of activity and the role of students as autonomous learners.
The first “experimental” webinar took place last October, with the presence of 4 teachers and 3 students who, spontaneously, attended the call done by “FQ em rede”. The meeting was marked by technical difficulties, such as echos and delays. However, the feedback was encouraging and the participants expressed their desire to back again and explore e-lab in more depth. It follows an online survey to collect data. A new webinar around an e-lab experiment will be scheduled next january. The idea is to gradually introduce the use of remote labs to teachers and students as a way to collaborate, teach and learn. Certainly, this way of work and the use of platforms such as openmeetings will be a growing trend next years, as technological constrains will be overcome.
Back to “e-lab”, as a remotely controlled lab, it operates at school frontiers. Not by replacing laboratory work, but by expanding and supplementing this activity. It puts experimental work wherever one or more minds are willing to connect and interact around real experiments remotely controlled.
e-lab is based on real events observed life by video, from any computer with internet connection and a media player installed.
Through its multiple points of interaction such as chat in the e-lab software, open meetings VC and the associated communities, e-lab uses technology to provide learning spaces, where users can exercise their mental capabilities, exploring real data at their own pace. Thus providing a more personalised experience, that relies on a credible network of people to assist in whatever is needed.
Finally, it worth to mention that another distinctive aspect of “e-lab” and “FQ em rede” is that they insert in the growing category of free access educational resources. This kind of materials reduce many of the social and economic constraints inherent of teaching based in classrooms, giving voice, time and space to all – a greater sense of empowerment - a new autonomy.
So, the technological means exist. The opportunities for interaction and communication with peers and experts are several and diversified. However, we might take people to the internet, but we can’t force them to participate. The learning experience will be as rich as the users are willing to engage and develop learning partnerships around their personal interests.
As I said at the beginning, the story continues. So keep in touch and don’t miss the next chapter!
“FQ em rede” and “e-lab” Openning the school laboratoriesVera Monteiro, Alda Pereira and Horácio Fernandes Lisbon, Portugal November 17, 2011