Designing an MBL Package for School Science

J. Lavonen, K. Juuti, and V. Meisalo (Finland)


Science learning, Microcomputer Based Laboratory,MBL package, designing research


A research and development project and properties of the designed Microcomputer Based Laboratory (MBL) package, Empirica, for school science studies is reported. The package consists of specifically designed software, an Interface, 21 sensors, and a hypertext manual. The Interface has four analog and four digital channels and two DA converters. The sensors are connected to the Interface, which is connected to a USB port or a serial port of a PC. Collected data can be analyzed and displayed in graphic form, in real or delayed time. Students' and teachers' expectations or needs have been researched to develop the package,. Students working in a school laboratory with the prototype package have been videotaped and a qualitative approach used in data analysis. Designing the prototype has been based on research-based knowledge about the user-friendliness of MBL packages and on an analysis of teachers' and students' expectations of a user-friendly MBL package. The aim of the design process has been to offer hardware, software, and guidance (a hypertext manual) for different pedagogical approaches including sample experiments that are not recipes, but well stated chemically, physically, and pedagogically to introduce novel, computer-aided ways of doing practical work.

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