Kieslinger, Barbara and Holocher, Teresa and Barra Arias, Enrique and Fabian, Claudia M. and Gallego Vico, Daniel and Aguirre Herrera, Sandra and Barra Arias, Enrique and Mihai, Gina
Virtual Excursions: a new way to explore science in class.
In: "International Conference on New Perspectives in Science Education", 14/03/2013 - 15/03/2013, Florence, Italy. pp. 1-5.
The educational platform Virtual Science Hub (ViSH) has been developed as part of the GLOBAL excursion European project. ViSH (http://vishub.org/) is a portal where teachers and scientist interact to create virtual excursions to science infrastructures. The main motivation behind the project was to connect teachers - and in consequence their students - to scientific institutions and their wide amount of infrastructures and resources they are working with. Thus the idea of a hub was born that would allow the two worlds of scientists and teachers to connect and to innovate science teaching. The core of the ViSH?s concept design is based on virtual excursions, which allow for a number of pedagogical models to be applied. According to our internal definition a virtual excursion is a tour through some digital context by teachers and pupils on a given topic that is attractive and has an educational purpose. Inquiry-based learning, project-based and problem-based learning are the most prominent approaches that a virtual excursion may serve. The domain specific resources and scientific infrastructures currently available on the ViSH are focusing on life sciences, nano-technology, biotechnology, grid and volunteer computing. The virtual excursion approach allows an easy combination of these resources into interdisciplinary teaching scenarios. In addition, social networking features support the users in collaborating and communicating in relation to these excursions and thus create a community of interest for innovative science teaching. The design and development phases were performed following a participatory design approach. An important aspect in this process was to create design partnerships amongst all actors involved, researchers, developers, infrastructure providers, teachers, social scientists, and pedagogical experts early in the project. A joint sense of ownership was created and important changes during the conceptual phase were implemented in the ViSH due to early user feedback. Technology-wise the ViSH is based on the latest web technologies in order to make it cross-platform compatible so that it works on several operative systems such as Windows, Mac or Linux and multi-device accessible, such as desktop, tablet and mobile devices. The platform has been developed in HTML5, the latest standard for web development, assuring that it can run on any modern browser. In addition to social networking features a core element on the ViSH is the virtual excursions editor. It is a web tool that allows teachers and scientists to create rich mash-ups of learning resources provided by the e-Infrastructures (i.e. remote laboratories and live webcams). These rich mash-ups can be presented in either slides or flashcards format. Taking advantage of the web architecture supported, additional powerful components have been integrated like a recommendation engine to provide personalized suggestions about educational content or interesting users and a videoconference tool to enhance real-time collaboration like MashMeTV (http://www.mashme.tv/).