Labster simulations have been a valuable tool for increasing engagement with my high school students. By providing a safe and controlled environment for students to conduct experiments and observe scientific phenomena, the simulations empower all students to explore and discover scientific concepts in a hands-on way.
Simulated labs can be particularly useful for providing a common entry point for all students and multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression that are consistent with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) guidelines.
One of the key benefits of using laboratory simulations with students is that they provide multiple means of engagement. According to the UDL guidelines, engagement refers to how students are motivated and interested in the learning material. To effectively engage all students, it is important to provide a variety of options for how students can interact with the material.
In a laboratory simulation, students can engage with the material through hands-on experimentation and observation, as well as through discussion and collaboration with their peers. In fact, many students collaborate more freely with peers while working on simulations than they would in a physical lab setting, which can help to deepen learning and build relationships among students.
Labster simulations allow students to experience tools and materials they may not otherwise have access to, such as specialized microscopes, immunological assays, bacterial cultures, and holotables. They also provide virtual trips inside cells to visualize molecular phenomena, and inside the body to see tissue and organ structure and function.
Another benefit of using laboratory simulations is that they provide multiple means of representation. Representation refers to the ways in which information is presented to students. To ensure that all students have access to the material, it is important to provide various options for how the information is presented. In a laboratory simulation, students can interact with the material through visual, auditory, and tactile representations, such as microscopes, and lab techniques in order to practice procedures before a physical lab activity.
Finally, laboratory simulations also provide multiple means of expression for K-12 students. Expression refers to how students can demonstrate their understanding of the material. To support the diverse needs and abilities of all students, it is important to provide a range of options for how students can express their understanding. In a laboratory simulation, students can express their understanding through written or oral reports, presentations, or projects.
The Labster platform, for example, has a number of features that can support and enhance the learning experience for students. The platform includes a virtual assistant, Dr. One, who helps students navigate the simulations and offers suggestions when students seem to be stuck. There is also a "Lab Pad" with theory pages that provide background information on the topic being studied, and a lab report outline that scaffolds the process of writing a lab report, which can be particularly helpful for students who may struggle with certain tasks or concepts.
One additional benefit of using laboratory simulations with K-12 students is that they provide a safe and controlled environment for students to make mistakes and learn from them. In science, making mistakes and learning from them is an integral part of the process of discovery and understanding. By providing a safe and controlled environment for students to experiment and make mistakes, simulations can encourage students to take risks, develop problem-solving skills, and deepen their understanding of scientific concepts.
Overall, laboratory simulations can be a valuable tool for engaging K-12 students in science education. By providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression, simulations can support all students' diverse needs and abilities, and help them develop a deeper understanding of scientific concepts.
The use of platforms like Labster, with features such as virtual assistants and resources like theory pages and lab report outlines, can further enhance the learning experience for students. By incorporating the UDL guidelines into the design of laboratory simulations, educators can create an inclusive and accessible learning environment that promotes success for all students.
Bonnie Nieves, M.Ed., is a science educator at Nipmuc Regional High School in Massachusetts and the author of Be Awesome on Purpose, a book that invites readers along on her journey as she seeks to improve her biology students’ learning outcomes with some very unique tools: her own motivation, reflection, and empathy. Bonnie is passionate about creating immersive and authentic experiences that fuel curiosity and creating student-centered, culturally responsive learning spaces that promote equity and inclusion. She is a Google Level 2 certified educator, serves on the MassCUE board of directors, and is a member of the National Association of Biology Teachers, Institute for Evolutionary Science, and National Science Teaching Association. You can read Bonnie's article on Using Labster to Scaffold Learning, check out Bonnie’s latest online courses for professional development at www.educateonpurpose.com, and connect with her on Twitter @biologygoddess as well as on LinkedIn.
Virtual Labs are interactive science simulations that accelerate STEM learning through gamification. Educators assign labs to students through their internet browsers, where students can train lab skills, visualize abstract theory, and learn science through real-world scenarios.Try for Free
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