The Fourth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF4)
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Peter Fenrich

Workshop description: Can Technology Be Used to Effectively Teach Practical Skills?

Peter Fenrich
British Columbia Institute of Technology

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     Last modified: October 18, 2006
     Presentation date: 11/02/2006 11:45 AM in ST Middlesex
     (View Schedule)

Where there is no qualified science teacher or functional science lab at the secondary school or first-year university level, are there alternative ways to enable students to learn practical science skills? Can vocational skills be supported through technology? Can hands-on developmental skills be taught via technology? The answer to these questions is “Yes”, with the recognition that not all practical skills can or should be taught entirely through technology. This presentation will highlight how lab and other practical skills can be effectively taught or supported through combining educational technology with uncommon but effective instructional strategies. For example, through simulations, active experimentation, discovery-learning techniques, video, animations, photographs, questions based on media, and detailed feedback that can include media, one can effectively teach and test practical hands-on skills through multimedia technology. This can solve an inherent problem in many open and distance learning opportunities where theoretical skills can be taught and practical skills are addressed inadequately, even though many essential skills are practical or hands-on. This kind of software can also be used to reduce the number of actual labs. For example, if every second lab is done virtually, there can be significant cost savings (as many labs are expensive to run) and the potential to enable more students to proceed through limited lab resources. Software can also be created to teach essential practical skills, such as troubleshooting skills, that are not possible or practical to teach through traditional means.

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