ENHANCING K-12 SCIENCE EDUCATION THROUGH A MULTI-DEVICE WEB TOOL TO FACILITATE CONTENT INTEGRATION AND E-INFRASTRUCTURE ACCESS

A. Gordillo, E. Barra, J. Quemada

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (SPAIN)
An effective K-12 Science education is essential to succeed in future phases of the curriculum. GLOBAL excursion (Extended Curriculum for Science Infrastructure Online) is a European project which main aim is to enrich science teaching in European schools. Via a central web portal, called the Virtual Science Hub (ViSH), we will provide scientists, teachers and their pupils a package of activities, materials and tools for enabling the integration of e-Infrastructures into school curricula.
The main tool that we have developed in the GLOBAL excursion project is called ViSH Viewer and will be presented in this paper. It is an innovative web tool to consume educational content which aims to facilitate e-Science infrastructures access through a next generation learning object called “Virtual Excursion”.

A Virtual Excursion is a tour through some digital context which provides a new way to explore science in class allowing students and teachers to access and control experimental equipment of research laboratories at remote sites, access to natural parks, museums or any other infrastructure with educational or cultural interest which would be too expensive or non-viable to visit in person. A Virtual Excursion is composed by an arrangement of educational resources of any type: text, images, videos, animations, websites, surveys and quizzes, flashcards, virtual experiments, educational games, 3D objects or live streamings: such as a live webcam of a natural park or the microscope video output of a scientific lab.

ViSH Viewer allows users to view and interact with Virtual Excursions from any device, using only a web browser without any installation or previous configuration being needed. Therefore students can use their own mobile devices to view the different educational contents, answer the quizzes or perform any other activity on the excursions.
Furthermore, ViSH Viewer offers enhanced functionalities to present Virtual Excursions in a more friendlier and usable way. It can work as a synchronous web application allowing a teacher to guide his/her students through a Virtual Excursion, ensuring that everyone sees the same content at the same time. It also integrates a video conferencing service which allows real time communication among Virtual Excursions attendants. This service can be used, for example, to receive advice from the specialist staff of the e-Infrastructure, or to allow a teacher to communicate with his/her students remotely.

In order to better understand how this tool can allow teachers and students a joyful exploration of e-Science through e-Infrastructures, we also present some Virtual Excursion examples: a virtual visit to the biological reserve of Doñana (Seville, Spain) where students can observe a huge variety of animal species through live webcams; a remote physics laboratory located in Zaragoza (Spain) where students can control remotely a real pendulum and compare their theoretical calculations with the measurements of the real system; and finally, a live guided online visit to a nanoscience centre in which teachers and their pupils can observe real-time research using different microscopes and interact with the researchers.
Details about the design, development and the tool itself are explained in this paper as well as the specification of the new learning objects and its metadata.