My ninth grade algebra-based physics students are a culturally diverse group from the inner-city of one of New Jersey's large urban districts. Freshman year is a critical transition period in the lives of my students, as they enter a new educational phase and begin to think about college readiness. Embracing technology and yearning to discover new ways to use technology is what drives this generation.
Although my students live in a relatively poor urban area, they have the same intense interest to engage with technology as children everywhere.
Our school district received a grant for access to the largest educational site of virtual labs and simulators for math and science; however, our physics department is currently not equipped with laptops, chromebooks, or tablets. I introduced virtual labs, simulators, and gizmos to my students via my Smartboard; however, the students are still deprived of the ability to individually engage in a virtual lab or simulator, and generate, analyze, and report on their own data. Similarly, my students are unable to conduct online research and gather data for physics labs and reports.
These Chromebooks will allow my physics students to engage in valuable virtual labs, simulators, online research, and data analysis, reporting, and presentation. Virtual labs are vital for our students' learning because our district lacks proper laboratory space and equipment to conduct experiments; therefore, virtual labs provide students the opportunity to conduct experiments without requiring access to lab facilities and equipment.
Virtual labs support Inquiry Based Science Learning (IBSL) in physics.
Laws in science arise from detailed observation processes, with clearly more chances of clarification, understanding and acceptance if regarded in detail. Virtual labs encourage collaboration and communication between teachers and students.
With virtual labs, students acquire a tool with which to experiment without limitations of space or time. They are available all year, as opposed to school laboratories, limited to a specific place and for a limited time. The use of virtual environments makes students acquire better computer skills, which can be considered skills for lifelong learning.
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