(source: PhET via phet.colorado.edu)
Lave believes that PhET’s circuit simulator makes possible learning experiences that are more streamlined in certain ways than their in-person equivalents. The tool allows students to virtually experiment with all elements of a circuit like in a traditional laboratory setting.
As students assemble the circuit, they get instant feedback through an animation showing the outcome of their circuit build. Likewise, in a lab, if students want to move one part of a circuit, they have to take most of it apart and assemble it again.
Previously, Lave often needed to troubleshoot problems like these that students would encounter. But while using PhET for her online lab lessons, she has been spending far less time troubleshooting or helping students to put their circuits together.
The students have been experiencing little to no problems understanding the material or doing the work, and the ease and straightforwardness of the PhET platform has allowed Lave and her students to focus on teaching and learning, respectively, and to not waste time with steep learning curves.
3. Customized learning pathways through simulation apps for a biology lab
What started for biology professor Stacy L. Donovan as using social media to connect with her students and the Maryville community during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to promote the “wonderful things” that they are doing, led to a discovery of some remarkable EdTech tools that have allowed her to translate her teaching objectives into a fully digital form in a short amount of time.
One of these tools is LabXchange, a platform provided by the Amgen Foundation and Harvard University, which Donovan has been using to simulate the Western blot technique.
LabXchange allows Donovan to visually and systematically guide students through the entire process just like she would do in person, but what she likes about it is that it allows her to tailor the learning experience for each student, via customized learning pathways, depending on their strengths and preferred styles of learning.
For instance, she creates sequences of instructional materials that cover the same material but switch from textual learning to visual learning (and vice versa) so that students can choose the methods that match their learning styles. A system of tracking student engagement then allows Donovan to assess which components are most helpful for her students and which ones could perhaps be removed or replaced, thereby customizing it even further.