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These design principles are exemplified in Drosophila, an activity for learning the genetics of inheritance.Science instructors seek engaging, effective, and inquiry-based activities that are convenient to implement in their classrooms (Flick and Bell, 2000; National Research Council, 2000).After several years of experience in this endeavor, the Virtual Courseware Project has arrived at a set of ten design principles that it uses to guide its development of new web-based learning activities.These guiding principles place an emphasis on educational standards, open-ended inquiry-based learning, scientific methodology, critical thinking, and an intuitive and interactive user interface that includes linear tours, assessment tools, and documentation.The activities include an online assessment quiz that consists of randomized interactive questions.The students’ answers are graded automatically and stored in a database server, and a printable certificate of completion is issued for each student.By augmenting traditional instruction with simulations, science educators provide a more engaging learning experience that emphasizes science as a process rather than a collection of knowledge to be assimilated (Linn, Davis, and Bell, 2004).
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While the Web provides a vast resource of declarative information (some of it multimedia), far less common are Web sites where instructors can obtain effective inquiry-based tools for teaching science.
The Virtual Courseware Project at California State University, Los Angeles addresses this need through the development and implementation of interactive, web-based simulation activities that emphasize the scientific methods of inquiry: making observations, formulating hypotheses, designing experiments, collecting and analyzing data, and arriving at conclusions based on these analyses.
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There is wide acceptance that inquiry-based curriculum programs have positive effects on cognitive achievement, process skills, and attitudes towards science.