Recent reform efforts and the next generation science standards emphasize the importance of incorporating authentic scientific practices into science instruction. Modeling can be a particularly challenging practice to address because modeling occurs within a socially structured system of representation that is specific to a domain. Further, in the process of modeling, experts interact deeply with domain-specific content knowledge and integrate modeling with other scientific practices in service of a larger investigation. It can be difficult to create learning experiences enabling students to engage in modeling practices that both honor the position of the novice along a spectrum toward more expert understanding and align well with the practices and reasoning used by experts in the domain. In this paper, we outline the challenges in teaching modeling practices specific to the domain of ecosystem science, and we present a description of a curriculum built around an immersive virtual environment that offers unique affordances for supporting student engagement in modeling practices. Illustrative examples derived from pilot studies suggest that the tools and context provided within the immersive virtual environment helped support student engagement in modeling practices that are epistemologically grounded in the field of ecosystem science.
Kamarainen, A. M., Metcalf, S., Grotzer, T., & Dede, C. (2015). Exploring Ecosystems from the Inside: How Immersive Multi-user Virtual Environments Can Support Development of Epistemologically Grounded Modeling Practices in Ecosystem Science Instruction. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 24(2), 148-167