Residing in the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech, the Modeling and Educational Demonstrations Laboratory (MEDL) is an innovative curriculum materials center designed to foster new collaborative teaching and learning environments by producing, testing, and managing hands-on physical models combined with education technology for instructors and outreach coordinators.
Mission Statement: The mission of the MEDL is to provide and support the use of advanced curriculum material resources for the purpose of increasing and sustaining high impact instructional capacity in STEM education for both formal and informal learning environments.
The MEDL works synergistically with the Museum of Geosciences as well as other education and outreach support units in Virginia Tech.
- Align teaching content with preparation of the learning environment and teaching strategies by:
- Producing and managing a diverse collection of hands-on curriculum materials;
- Developing infrastructure that allows for efficient access to the curriculum materials, as well as internal and external information resources; and
- Assisting instructors in developing or adopting teaching strategies that best fit the students, setting, and available resources.
- Produce an environment designed to monitor and support interdisciplinary activities by developing and implementing the MEDL Circulation Policy and Procedures in addition to online user reviews of the curriculum materials.
- Determine the infrastructure needs that allow for interdisciplinary activities by creating assessments that utilize the continuous circulation data, online user feedback, and teaching/learning assessments;
- Foster the multi-place experience of being a student by providing physical analog models with data-acquisition products.
- Become an invaluable resource within Virginia Tech for enabling sensor-rich environments that allow for multi-modal communication and feedback in learning/collaborative environments.
Keys to Success
- Organizational Capacity – Build organizational capacity by developing policies, procedures, and goals so that our efforts are sustainable and will produce a long-lasting and successful future in both education and public outreach.
- Curriculum Materials Inventory – Improve instructors’ direct access to effective instructional tools for STEM education by building and cataloging an inventory of hands-on curriculum materials.
- Information Resources – Provide information services and instruction on curriculum materials available in our teaching collection and ways these materials can be used to produce high-quality teaching and learning environments.
- Streamline Physical Access to Curriculum Materials – Strive to increase the efficiency, usability, and effectiveness of instructional support by streamlining the physical access to curriculum materials and providing set-up assistance at various support levels.
- Build Interdisciplinary Collaboration – Foster interdisciplinary collaboration by engaging, listening and offering retooling of curriculum to multiple disciplines.
- Develop the Working Model of the MEDL– Continuous development of the MEDL working model by collaborating with other institutions who wish to start their own MEDL in order to improve learning environments across educational institutions.
STATEMENT OF INNOVATION
The MEDL increases opportunity for interdepartmental sharing of curriculum materials because it is designed to develop infrastructure and manage curriculum materials across a broad range of disciplines. As the MEDL grows, it will collaborate with other curriculum repositories on campus to provide instructors with greater access to curriculum materials university wide.
The MEDL affords a hands-on multi-place experience for students in both physical and digital environments. Physical analog models bring systems in nature to the student through an analogical experience. Field experience can often be difficult to achieve for many reasons, such as limited time and budget. Often, concepts are based on temporally and spatially challenging phenomena for humans to sense. Students can explore these systems using sensors for gathering data from physical analog models. Once a learner has collected data, she/he can use it to produce a variety of expressed representational modes, such as graphs, charts, and/or computational models. Thus, these kinds of sensor-rich environments afford multimodal communication and feedback in learning/collaborative environments.
Systems-based physical analog models are unique because they are cross-cutting along many facets of education. Instructors who harness the deep causal structure of these tools have the power to align the perceptual with the conceptual in the learner’s understanding. The analogical affordances of physical analog models activate memory and help the learner identify and work through their cognitive dissonance. Physical analog models are arguably an icon of STEM education because these kinds of models are often the analogical representation of scientific phenomena, are enriched when used with sensor technology, can induce an engineering thought process during development and refinement, and provide a focal point for mathematical reasoning.
DESCRIPTION OF THE MEDL
The Modeling and Educational Demonstrations Laboratory (MEDL) is a facility specializing in researching, developing, and managing hands-on physical models and demonstrations for use in science education. The overall objectives of the MEDL are to:
- Increasing teaching capacity by supplying physical analog models and education technology which affords active hands-on learning and visualization.
- Providing a variety of support structures to reduce lesson preparation time.
- Actively developing the MEDL to stay in line with educational standards, and the needs of students and instructors.
The MEDL uses an interdepartmental and interuniversity collaboration to develop and sustain growth. Actively pursuing diverse resources will maintain the strength of the MEDL in order to focus on and keep up with a constantly changing education system from which our students come from each year.
- Virginia Tech's Department of Geosciences focuses on research, education, and outreach dealing with the nature of the earth. Students and faculty investigate earth processes at scales that range from atomic to planetary. Their undergraduate program offers B.S. degrees with Geology, Geochemistry, Geophysics, and Earth Sciences Education options.
- "TLOS leverages an array of activities, services, and leadership in online programs and technology-enhanced learning to significantly benefit student learning with a range of high caliber, technology-enabled programs and activities. TLOS will collaborate with colleges and departments on advancing technology-enhanced learning by incentivizing and supporting highly effective distance learning programs, online content for on-campus courses, and hybrid courses."