The University of Cyprus is a public University with approximately 4,000 undergraduate and 1,000 Master’s and PhD students. There are approximately 350 members of the faculty. The Department of Educational Sciences at the University of Cyprus is a large department with 22 members of the faculty, and 35 associate or assistant personnel. There are two undergraduate (primary and pre-primary school education) programs, a pre-service postgraduate secondary education program (across all subject domains taught in secondary education) and seven postgraduate programs at the Masters and PhD level (including science, math and technology education). In science education it’s active in research into inquiry learning, computer supported collaborative learning, physical and virtual laboratory experimentation, modelling, science curriculum development and assessment, conceptual understanding and educational evaluation.
The Learning in Science Group at the University of Cyprus conducts a co-ordinated program of research, curriculum development and instruction. The group includes faculty, research associates, post-doctoral students, graduate students (both at the Master’s and PhD level), and administrative staff. The group is currently engaged in three major projects: preparation of future teachers to teach science and technology by using inquiry-based science teaching methods; development of computer supported inquiry learning environments; integration of virtual and physical laboratory experimentation in physics learning environments.
The Group has a lot of experience with designing curriculum especially in the area of science and mathematics, with online inquiry oriented environments for science teaching and learning, as well as with distance learning from a project that aimed to provide internet based resources for teachers of rural schools. Furthermore, the Group has experience with evaluating the development of conceptual understanding, reasoning and scientific method skills, as well as changes in student attitudes and perceptions. Finally, the Group is taking a leadership role in the efforts of the University of Cyprus to implement its eLearning strategy through a series of pilot projects including topics such as ICT in science and the school practicum in the context of teacher preparation.
The work of the Learning in Science Group has received continuous financial support from the Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation and the European Commission through the following programs: IST, Science and Society, INCO, Socrates, EUMEDIS, FP 6 and FP 7. In Go-Lab, the Learning in Science Group is involved in WP1 (Pedagogical framework), WP3 (Participatory design), and WP8 (Validation and Evaluation). UCY will act as National Coordinator of the project implementation in Cyprus.
The Learning in Science Group has conducted RTD projects (co-funded by EU and Cyprus Research Promotion Foundation) developing technology based learning environments that entail key characteristics of the Go-Lab system and of the tasks that the department will have in Go-Lab: inquiry learning (SCY, STOCHASMOS, SHEDIA, CoReflect), remote laboratories (Virtual Labs, ITforUS), information technology and learning science (ITforUS, ICT for IST), science curriculum development (Material Science, BIOPEDIA), and modelling (DEMIOURGIA, SYNERGASIA).
Science Created by You (SCY) is a project on learning in science and technology domains targeting students between 12 and 18 years old. SCY uses the metaphor of the student as an engineer or scientist, who gathers knowledge in the course of working on a research or design project. Therefore, SCY missions (i.e., the SCY learning environments) are characterized by an overall research or design goal, e.g. to create a report on water quality or to create a CO2-friendly house. Along the way on creating the final product, the students produce many types of (intermediate) results. An example of such results in the CO2-friendly house mission is a set of hypotheses on the effects of measures that reduce CO2 emission. We call such products, which are created in SCY missions, Emerging Learning Objects (ELOs). Examples of ELO types include: runnable models, concept maps, data sets, hypotheses, tables, summaries, reports, and experimental procedures.
Fulfilling SCY missions requires a combination of knowledge from different content areas (e.g. physics, mathematics, biology, as well as social sciences). Learners perform several types of learning actions that can be characterised as productive (experimentation, gaming, sharing, explaining, designing, etc.). They involve multiple resources, require varying degree of collaboration with peers, and use changing constellations of tools and scaffolds. The configuration of a SCY-Lab is adaptive to the actual learning situation, advising learners on appropriate learning actions, resources, tools, and scaffolds, or peer learners that can support the learning process. Four SCY missions have been developed, each of which addresses specific science content in the context of creating a particular final product.