Interactive Visualizations, Simulations, and Games for Science and Math Learning: Comparing Goals, Affordances, and Challenges across Approaches

This interactive poster session brings together 12 projects using a range of interactive computer technologies to compare goals, affordances, and challenges across approaches.

Thursday, December 2, 2010 - 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Structured Poster Session

This interactive poster session brings together 12 projects using a range of interactive computer technologies to improve science and math learning. The approaches range from interactive simulations to fully-immersive, multi-player games. In addition to increasing communication and collaboration among these researchers, a key goal of this session is to discuss what drives the wide range in approaches to using interactive technologies. These researchers and projects bring multiple perspectives in terms of (1) the goals of the projects; (2) the affordances of the media tools, approaches, and designs, and (3) the challenges faced. Specifically, these 12 research projects cover a range of goals—from content learning to engagement to assessment. They include different approaches to and degrees of scaffolding and feedback—from more open exploratory environments to tools with integrated guidance to tools with feedback provided through intelligent-tutor models or integrated assessments. They range from single-user tools to multi-user environments. They allow more or less teacher control over implementation. And finally, they take a variety of approaches to testing and evaluation. These projects are using existing research on learning as well as conducting their own research on design and use of these interactive computer technologies. 

The session will include very brief introductions to each projects’ work (~1–2 minutes each), followed by an opportunity to visit individual posters for approximately 60 minutes and conclude with a facilitated whole-group discussion for 45 minutes. The whole-group discussion will begin with a broad list of goals addressed and the design approaches used to address these goals. Presenters will identify common affordances of the technologies and effective design approaches that address particular goals. Participant-driven questions may include, What goals do multi-user environments address that are not well addressed by single-user environments? How are integrated assessment tools being used to address goals? What are the myriad approaches used to promote engagement, and what evidence do we have that these work? What drives the design choices about the nature of the scaffolding and feedback in these tools, and what evidence do we have that these various scaffolding approaches influence students’ approaches and perspectives on the activity? How do our choices, as technology producers, drive teacher choices about using or not using available products? Presenters will also identify common challenges associated with these technologies (e.g., dissemination) and identify any solutions emerging from the group as well as discuss next steps towards possible solutions. 

The poster session is designed to benefit both the presenters and the participants. By including such a diverse range of projects, presenters aim to share knowledge about effective design practices, testing practices, and challenges across this group of PIs who do not regularly communicate with each other about their projects. In addition, for participants who seek to include interactive computer technologies as part of their STEM education projects, this session brings together a large number of possible partners and allows these participants greater insight into the affordances and goals of these available tools as well as the limitations and challenges faced by the designers.


  • Poster 1: Katherine Perkins and Noah Podolefsky, University of Colorado at Boulder, Expanding PhET Interactive Science Simulations to Grades 4-8: A Research-based Approach 
  • Poster 2: Marcia Linn, Camillia Matuk, & Jennie Chiu, University of California at Berkeley, Visualizing to Integrate Science Understanding for All Learners (VISUAL) 
  • Poster 3: Marcia Linn, Kihyun (Kelly) Ryoo, & Jennie Chiu, University of California at Berkeley,  Cumulative Learning using Embedded Assessment Results (CLEAR) 
  • Poster 4: Doug Clark and Mario Martinez-Garza, Vanderbilt University, Scaffolding Understanding by Redesigning Games for Education (SURGE) 
  • Poster 5: David Birchfield, Arizona State University, Embodied STEM Learning Across Technology-based Learning Environments 
  • Poster 6: Diane Ketelhut, Temple University, SAVE Science: Situated Assessment Using Virtual Environments for Science Content and Inquiry 
  • Poster 7: James Lester, North Carolina State University, Developing Science Problem-solving Skills and Engagement Through Intelligent Game-based Learning Environments 
  • Poster 8: Karin Wiburg, New Mexico State, Math Snacks: Addressing Gaps in Conceptual Mathematics Understanding with Innovative Media 
  • Poster 9: Uri Wilensky, Northwestern University, Enabling Modeling and Simulation-based Science in the Classroom: Integrating Agent-based Models, Real World Sensing and Collaborative Networks 
  • Poster 10: Paul Horwitz, Carolyn Staudt, and Laura O'Dwyer, Concord Consortium, Evolution Readiness: A Modeling Approach 
  • Poster 11: Frieda Reichsman and Chad Dorsey, Concord Consortium, Geniverse: A Student Collaboratory for Biology Cyberlearning
  • Poster 12: Amy Pallant, Concord Consortium, High Adventure Science