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A Mobile Technology Enabled Collaboratory for Physics & Biochemistry

Sunil and Jason Clarke University Chemistry Department
Dubuque, Iowa, USA
Sunil Malapati, Jason J Stecklein

Photo on the right: Sunil Malapati and Jason Stecklein at the HP Worldwide Higher Education Conference, February 2009. Click here to view a PDF of the poster.

PROJECT ABSTRACT: The chemistry department used the HP Technology Grant to create a ‘Collaboratory’, a discovery-based active learning environment for Physics & Biochemistry in which teacher and students interact using Tablet PCs and DyKnow. Clarke University renovated an old Chemistry laboratory to create a physical space that eliminated traditional barriers between a ‘lecture’ room and a ‘laboratory’ room. Special curriculum materials were developed using constructivist pedagogies to foster a structured collaborative learning environment.

Impact on Student Learning

The traditional barriers between a lecture classroom where visual and kinesthetic models are taught and a laboratory where models are tested hinders the scientific learning process. This discovery-based learning environment was created with structured collaboration allowing students to actively construct their own learning. Specific group projects were designed including the modeling and measuring forces of the human body engaged in athletic activities (Physics) and generating 3-D models of proteins to expose their functions (Biochemistry). Data was collected in the form of student interviews and surveys, concept maps, test scores on specific subjects in final exams, and videos of group presentations. Preliminary data based on student interviews indicates better engagement with course material and precision in note-taking.

Impact on Teaching

The goal of the collaboratory is to adopt constructivist teaching pedagogies to facilitate collaborative student-centered learning. Traditional lectures and labs are now replaced by structured collaboration between the students themselves and between the instructor and the students. A traditional vertical control hierarchy is replaced with a horizontal (Biochemistry) or an assisted horizontal (Physics) hierarchy. While curriculum materials are course-specific, strategies employed are transferable to other fields. Data was collected in the form of student and instructor surveys and an ongoing instructor diary. Preliminary findings indicate that technology enhanced instructor’s delivery of course material and students’ conceptual understanding in some areas.

Technology Implementation

HP Tablet PCs with DyKnow Vision are used to facilitate an active-learning environment. DyKnow Monitor was employed to provide instructor control. Thinkstation was used to collect and analyze experimental data. LoggerPro, MS Physics Illustrator, DeepView, ChemSketch were employed for individual projects as necessary.

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