Open Education Australia Report – iLabs MIT

Dr Philip Long, MIT iCampus Project (now at University of Queensland) gave his view and use of Open Source development of scientific experiments at MIT in iLab. He was talking at the Open Education Workshop in Sydney.

He talked about secondary, under graduate and out reach students using and developing lab based experiments through conversion of parts of the experiment that are normally ‘bench’ based into digital alternatives – and shared online with open access for all.

Some experiments use digital interpreters to data log or produce visual responses to user action over the internet. This includes the use of web-cams to give students the initial ‘view’ that the experiment is ‘real’, and that the enhanced digital interfaces that are being developed through iLabs.

Students can uses existing ‘code objects’ to interact with ‘lab’ devices – via activex or other mash-up to control and conduct experiments. Phillip was keen to point out that students are keen initially to view webcams and see that they would be ‘really’ operating a ‘live and real’ experiment remotely.

There are a number of Open Source project in development that students can either use or develop. Code can be downloaded, modified and re-distributed back through the iLabs community.

There are a number of global competitions run via iLabs for encourage students to learn. Phillip says the key in high school based learning using iLabs is under standing that students don’t know what they can and can’t do in using iLabs – it creates exploration and interest – through participation.

Phillip gave numerous examples of how students had found fault with some of the experiment to digital interfaces from an academic, user interface or programming perspective and then set about working together – online – to solve these issues and re-distribute the improvements though Open Source.

He was illustrating that Open Source and Open Education are not limited to technology, but sharing ideas, information and intellectual property to improve learning outcomes from high school through to Phd.

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