Thanks to so many great and engaged teachers and Go-Lab users, our Repository Golabz meanwhile counts more than 500 Inquiry Learning Spaces (ILSs). As the 500th ILS has been published, we decided to conduct an interview with its author - Stella Constantinou, a primary school teacher from Cyprus - and share it with the Go-Lab community.
Stella, how did you find Go-Lab and how did you decide to create your own ILS?
I have heard about the Go-Lab Project for the first time in a masters course at the University of Cyprus. Directly from the beginning I found it interesting and, in my free time, I visited the project webpage to find out more about the virtual science laboratories. As a part of the masters course I was participating in, we had to create an ILS in collaboration with other course participants as well as an own ILS.
Have you participated to any Go-Lab training (face-to-face or online)? If yes, where and who organized it?
No, I have not participated in any training devoted to the Go-Lab platform. In the university course I attended, where the aim was to create own ILS, the professor spent two lessons briefly explaining the process of how a teacher can make her own ILS or use already existing ones in her classes (in workshop form).
Starting from the ILS you have created, based on what criteria did you choose the specific subject? Have your students’ preferences influenced your choice?
As stated above, there were two options for the creation of ILSs: When creating the first ILS, I collaborated with other teachers, who were physicists, so the focus was already given on a subject in physics for high school. It was a topic related to hydrostatic pressure. For the second ILS I worked independently on a topic related to my profession, to primary education. The ILS was devoted to forces and motion. I must admit that when creating an ILS, I felt quite excited since I had the chance to create learning materials considering the different stages of inquiry. This was important for my studies, as I taught several scientific subjects based on inquiry.
What challenge did you face during the development of your ILS?
During the ILS planning period (referring mainly to the individual ILS because everything related to its creation relied on my own background and my own ideas and thoughts), the challenge was to find out whether teaching science topics using inquiry (which I have already realized in practice) can be organized on a screen. Especially, whether such virtual workshops are suitable for elementary school children (students who are not used to work this way in science classes).
Have you used your ILS in the classroom? What were students’ reactions during the implementation?
Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to make use of ILSs in my teaching practices so far. But I would love to. I am curious to see how the students will react and what their responses will be.
Have students enjoyed the activity in relation to science?
Although I have no experience with the use of ILSs in science lessons, I think their use will trigger the interest of the students. Science courses are interesting for students, especially if they are related to everyday life. Students’ participation in experiments is quite intense and active, lying far beyond the usual limits observed in other subjects.
Have your students become more interested in science as the result of this activity?
Students’ participation in virtual workshops has a potential to cause higher interest and attention to science. Not to forget that we live in an age, where electronic media and general technology is part of our everyday life. Most children are familiar with operating a computer. Therefore, handling skills are already developed. Students can handle the computer very well and will learn beyond that.
What would be your advice to teachers who are eager to start creating their own ILSs, but are hesitating?
When first hearing about the use of ILSs in teaching, some teachers react negatively, some consider it quite interesting and promising, some are hesitant but might want to try. My advice as a teacher is to try things out, but always take into account the audience we are addressing. I find especially virtual labs very useful, for example, if we cannot implement certain experiments in real classroom (as some experiments are dangerous or there are no facilities, such as materials or general infrastructure, available). As for me personally, as a teacher, I will make use of virtual laboratories when I have the opportunity to teach natural sciences. If you do not take chances and if nobody tries anything new, then nobody will learn. So we try new methodologies and if the test has not achieved the expected learning outcomes, then we make adaptations until we reach the desired results.
Go-Lab team is happy to work together with such innovative and engaged teachers, who have lots of fun using our tools. We are looking forward further cooperation in the future! To become a part of the international Go-Lab family, you are welcome to apply as a Go-Lab (Next-Lab) Focus Teacher! The Call for Focus Teachers will be published shortly at http://project.golabz.eu.