As the Next-Lab Expertise Center (NEC) in Cyprus, the Research in Science and Technology Education Group (ReSciTEG) at the University of Cyprus, offers training workshops for in service (primary and secondary) as well as pre-service teachers. It also participates in several national academic and social events. Our main goal is to increase the awareness about the Go-Lab Ecosystem and invite teachers and schools to benefit from integrating the Go-Lab Ecosystem into their teaching practice. Go-Lab in Cyprus was first introduced in 2013, when the Go-Lab project started. Up to 2016, about 300 teachers participated in training events, 20 of them participated in the Go-Lab pilot studies and approximately 450 students had the opportunity to complete at least one Inquiry Learning Space (ILS).
In the frame of the Next-Lab project, more teachers have already been trained and many more training events are about to come! Specifically, 11 training events were carried out around the island from January 2017 until today, which resulted in 264 registered users on Go-Lab’s Authoring Platform, Graasp, and 3842 standalone users. Taking into consideration the small size and population of the island, these numbers suggest a satisfactory dissemination of the Go-Lab Ecosystem and related activities within our teacher community. In general, as a NEC, we collaborate closely with the Ministry of Education, Cyprus Pedagogical Institute, and teachers’ associations such as Cyprus Physicists Society, Cyprus Biology Teachers Society and Cyprus Chemistry Teachers Society. In collaboration with these partners, we frequently organize training events and carry out workshops in local conferences. Moreover, as the Teacher Training Institute at the Department of Education in the University of Cyprus, we have included the Go-Lab Ecosystem in two mandatory undergraduate courses, “The Teaching of Natural Sciences” and “Computer Science Applications in the Teaching of Science in Elementary School”. Both courses address Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) students in primary education.
Our national training events can be categorized in two types, namely, short-term (at least three hours) and long-term (more than two days). Moreover, the target group is another factor that may differentiate the training focus. For example, if the target group is ‘beginners’ and the duration of the event is two hours, then the focus is on exploring the Go-Lab platform and searching for labs and ILSs. At the end, we distribute materials including more information about the authoring environment developed within the Go-Lab and Next-Lab project (Graasp). Specifically, we have designed a short Greek manual on how to use Graasp, which contains the basic steps for a novice user to employ Graasp for the creation of ILSs. In this way, we support our beginners to try Graasp at home and contact us if they need more help. Additionally, we created short manuals on how to configure some apps, such as the Experiment Design Tool. As for the long-term events, they are held at the University of Cyprus, with undergraduate students (prospective primary teachers) as target group. In such events, we have more than two days to focus on all aspects of the Go-Lab Ecosystem, including the overarching pedagogical framework, the Go-Lab platform, the Graasp authoring tool, the Learning Analytics apps, and the design criteria for creating ILSs, among others. Furthermore, undergraduate students, within the context of their courses’ obligations, create their own ILSs and implement them with a small number of users (either students or peers). Many of these ILSs have been already published on the Go-Lab platform.
Supporting the Community
After the training events, our group, as a NEC, supports the national Go-Lab community in several ways. For instance, undergraduate students receive direct support from us during the creation and implementation of their ILSs, through personal communication (office hours), emails and phone calls. As for in-service teachers, we provide them with contact information for support after each event. Since the teacher community in Cyprus allows for a close and sustained interaction between our group and the teachers, we offer personalized support, either by phone, by email or during face-to-face meetings. We also provide support for the implementation of the Go-Lab Ecosystem in schools, whenever needed.
Meanwhile, as a research group we participate in several national and international events, like science festivals and conferences, where we disseminate the Next-Lab project and the Go-Lab Ecosystem among students, teachers, parents, policy makers and researchers. For example, we were invited by schools, which had organized conferences related to technology, and we carried out workshops that included the implementation of an ILS, for the students to realize how technology can help us learn and perform investigations. Finally, through our website and Facebook pages we share several events, news, good practices and materials to promote the Go-Lab Ecosystem and the Go-Lab Community.