Virtual chemistry laboratory: effect of constructivist learning environment
The lab applications, which were started to be applied through mid 19th century, not only provide a new point of view but also bring about a new dimension to the lessons. At early times they were used to prove theoretical knowledge but lately they turned into environments where students freely discover knowledge as an individual or in groups. The activities that have come up with the recent form of labs substantially contributed to training ideal students for constructivist approach, who research, inquire, test, seek solutions, wear scientist shoes and deeply reason about the concept of concern. However, on the present stage of our educational system, these activities cannot be included in science lessons for several reasons. At that point virtual labs emerged as an alternative solution for the problems of the instruction in science courses. Thanks to virtual labs presenting different disciplines in a flexible manner, the interaction between the teacher and the learner become 7/24 independent from time and place. This article presents a study that provides insight in the appropriateness of Virtual and real laboratory applications on constructivist learning environment using interactive virtual chemistry laboratory (VCL) development was used in academic year of 2009-2010 for a six week period. The sample of this quasi-experimental study was 90 students from three different 9th grade classrooms of an Anatolian Secondary school in the center of Trabzon city. The student groups were randomly attained as one experimental and two control groups. The data collection tools of the study were; questionnaire of teaching philosophy (QTP), Semi-structured interviews and unstructured observations. The results showed that virtual chemistry laboratory software was just as effective as real chemistry laboratory and it positively affected the facilitating of constructivist learning environment. It was determined that the students in experimental group conducted the experiments as precise as the real ones; they felt themselves safe during the experiments; they could relate the experiments with daily life; they had the opportunity to investigate both macro-molecular and symbolical dimensions of the experiments. It was speculated that using virtual chemistry laboratories as a supportive complement in education will become an indispensable instructional material in terms of both the economy of the nation and the persistency of the learning.