One of the more challenging aspects of science education for many public elementary school teachers is the lack of a dedicated science laboratory space. Teachers must conduct science experiments in the same room where they will be teaching literature or math in the very next period. For many teachers this severely limits the kinds of experimentation that can occur in the course. By moving experimentation to a Virtual Science Laboratory space (VSL), teachers will be relieved of these logistical challenges and expand the type of experiments that elementary students are able to conduct.
The technology offered through the proposed software platform will put students in control of two virtual hands that allow them to naturally coordinate bimanual movements to execute complex tasks in a virtual 3D space in ways that mirror those same tasks in the real-world. By carrying out experiments with their hands, students will learn by doing, absorbing the material more quickly and at a deeper level.
The VSL will be developed and validated in three steps.
- Implement a Virtual Science Laboratory platform that is capable of expressing elementary school physical laboratory lessons. The platform will consist of hardware and software components that support two-handed motion-tracked interaction to let students carry out investigations and experiments in a natural real-world manner.
- Build a typical lesson in terms of that platform. The core-based lab assignment will directly target the performance expectations of fifth graders to demonstrate grade-appropriate proficiency in planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, using mathematics and computational thinking, engaging in argument from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.
- Determine the effect of the VSL lesson in a live classroom setting and analyze the results. Specifically, the VSL’s effectiveness and potential cost savings will be measured by comparing how it conveys the learning material in two classes—one using the traditional physical lab and the other using the VSL. Assessment of content learning will follow the interaction in addition to assessment of student engagement and enjoyment.
Public Health Relevance: This project will build a virtual laboratory framework to expand the types of experiments that elementary students are able to conduct and relieve teachers from the logistical challenges of physical labs. The platform will consist of hardware and software components that support two-handed motion-tracked interaction to let students carry out investigations and experiments in a natural real-world manner. The easy engagement engendered by the virtual laboratory will reach the underserved as well as provide tools to gifted kids that help them go further and faster.
Science teachers and their students, grade 5
Science, curriculum, lab, VSL, 3D software, motion gaming