I had the distinct pleasure yesterday of spending an hour or so with Bruno Cinel and Sharon Brewer who are in the Faculty of Science at TRU.
They have been working for several years on providing access to high end chemistry tools with names I can’t pronounce to smaller or more remote schools which wouldn’t otherwise have access.
The use accessible and freely available tools like Skype and Teamviewer to allow remote students to actually operate real equipment in the TRU lab. Students aren’t just setting up simulated experiments in a virtual world, they are preparing their own samples, sending them to TRU, connecting to and controlling a computer which then starts the procedures. They then record the data write up their analysis and send it to their prof.
It is important to note that students can make mistakes, choose the wrong samples, prepare the samples improperly and set the wrong parameters. They can make all the same mistakes and get the same wrong data as students doing the same experiment on site. This is a good thing, because that is what students need to do to learn.
What impressed me most about Sharon and Bruno’s work wasn’t the clickyclickyblingbling that so often blinds educators. It was the obvious passion and commitment to enhancing student learning, to increasing access (how many university chem labs do you know of that offer their equipment for use in high school or elementary school classrooms?) and to promoting STEM courses.
This is an example of getting priorities straight. Learning comes first, technology serves the learning needs of students (not teachers).
Remote Science Labs at TRU by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.