Edmark's Virtual Labs: Light
Every now and then a computer program that is easy to use, content-rich, open-ended, educationally sound and interesting reaches the market--Virtual Labs: Light is one of these programs. This program introduces students to basic light, lenses and mirrors via ready-to-use on-screen tools. The more advanced student can perform very complex light activities using the lab tools to create and save his or her own setups. In addition, students can consult the Sci-Clopedia or look through articles in the World Book Bonus Science Reference that is found on the CD.
There are 42 experiments in this program that the teacher can duplicate and distribute from the teacher's manual. These sheets provide information about the basic light concepts involved in the activity, and Why Try It? provides the reason for doing the activity in the first place. This is followed by a step-by-step procedure for the student to follow, along with plenty of space to record answers to open-ended questions.
The main program screen is divided into several sections. The workspace is where the student builds the setup and where various icons allow access to lasers, mirrors, lenses, filters, barriers and targets. There are also buttons that allow entry to the guided tour, Sci-Clopedia, reference cards,print, save and exit. All of these areas are well constructed visually and are easy to access. The student opens a drawer, selects a part and drags it to the workspace. After arranging the lasers, lenses, mirrors and barriers, a button is pressed to turn on the power. The laser beam bounces off a mirror, passes through a lens and ends according to the properties of the lens.
The authors take great pains to use accurate science techniques and verbiage, while at the same time keeping the content light and interesting for the students. Virtual Labs: Light contains safe, simple, open-ended simulated experiments that allow students to experiment without getting hurt when using lasers or candles as a light source.
If you want to engage your students in a science laboratory lesson, allow them to "see" science concepts and work with virtual science experiments in a safe manner, then Virtual Labs: Light is the one program that should be included in your school's science library. You might also include the sister program Virtual Labs: Electricity in the library. It works in the same manner and has the same outstanding qualities.
Science Education Consultant
This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2001 issue of THE Journal.