When the Internet was just beginning to shake up American education, a chemistry professor photographed thousands of test tubes holding molecular solutions and, working with video game designers, created a simulated laboratory that allowed students to mix chemicals in virtual beakers and watch the reactions.Read the rest of the article, "No Test Tubes? Debate on Virtual Science Classes" by Sam Dillon, here. NYT registration is free, but should be able to use Bug Me Not, too.
In the years since, that virtual chemistry laboratory — as well as other simulations allowing students to dissect virtual animals or to peer into tidal pools in search of virtual anemone — has become a widely used science teaching tool. The virtual chemistry laboratory alone has some 150,000 students seated at computer terminals around the country to try experiments that would be too costly or dangerous to do at their local high schools. “Some kids figure out how to blow things up in half an hour,” said the professor, Brian F. Woodfield of Brigham Young University.
Now, however, a dispute with potentially far-reaching consequences has flared over how far the Internet can go in displacing the brick-and-mortar laboratory. Prompted by skeptical university professors, the College Board, one of the most powerful organizations in American education, is questioning whether Internet-based laboratories are an acceptable substitute for the hands-on culturing of gels and peering through microscopes that have long been essential ingredients of American laboratory science.
October 20, 2006
From today's New York Times: