There's much to see here. So, take your time, look around, and learn all there is to know about the Lab-O-Matic. We hope you enjoy the journey and take a moment to consider how it can add excitement to your own classroom.
One of the first comments we often receive when introducing the Lab-O-Matic to students is “so, where do I start?”. We’ll address that question a little later, but wanted to let you know that from our experience in the research lab and visiting with scientists about their work, there is no perfect area to begin. The nice thing about the Lab-O-Matic is that its “ambiguous” layout forces the conversation about where students should begin. True, we’re used to beginning in the upper left hand corner and making our way across the page, but that doesn’t always work when employing the Lab-O-Matic.
To address this idea of ‘where do scientists begin?’ you might consider using some prompts like these with your students:
Just from these questions, you could develop conversations about beginning in any number of places on the Lab-O-Matic. Although the Design Basics box is likely a natural place to start, it certainly shouldn’t be your students’ only option.
Your Lab-O-Matic can play any number of roles in your classroom. The way we see it, there are three ways you can use your Lab-O-Matic:
As loyal owners of our Lab-O-Matic, teachers will want to consider the three ways to include it in classroom activities very carefully. Should you begin by using the Lab-O-Matic as a design tool? For some students, that might be okay. For others, it might be necessary to begin using the Lab-O-Matic as a tool to deconstruct an existing lab – letting them get used to the format, and maybe only requiring a portion of the sections, not all of them.
We should also note: there is a Mini Lab-O-Matic available. It has only the Design Basics, Hypothesis, Predictions, Constants and Results sections. It fits conveniently on the front and back of ½ a piece of paper, so it’s a little more approachable. You’ll hear us say it several times, but we can’t over-state this: the Lab-O-Matic is a teaching tool. It is not “the end”, but a path on which your students can travel and become more confident of their skills in designing experiments.
Regardless of how you intend to use your Lab-O-Matic, one thing’s for sure…it’s crucial that your students have a solid understanding of some basic vocabulary before they embark this exciting journey. According to Andrew Biemiller, “If we are serious about ‘increasing standards’ and bringing a greater proportion of schoolchildren to high levels of academic accomplishment, we cannot continue to leave vocabulary development to parents, chance and highly motivated reading.” (American Educator, Spring 2001) It’s this idea that prompted the creation of our Lab-O-Matic vocabulary tools: cards, builder, and handout. Laid out with exactly the same attractive “user interface” as the Lab-O-Matic and Mini Lab-O-Matic, they are a great place for classrooms to begin the discussion about experimental design, and to see what [mis]conceptions students may have about the topic. Use the cards to “diagram” an existing experiment (example/reference shown in the vocabulary builder), then move on to the Lab-O-Matic vocabulary handout.