Using Immersive Virtual Worlds to Support Learning of Ecosystems Science and Complex Causality

This session seeks feedback on hands-on experiences for learning causal dynamics through collaborative inquiry activities in an immersive virtual ecosystem, including exploring potential opportunities for expanding the curriculum.

Date/Time: 
Wednesday, August 6, 2014 - 9:45am to 11:45am
2014 Session Types: 
Feedback Session (Work in Post-development)

EcoMUVE (ecomuve.gse.harvard.edu) is a middle school science curriculum in which students explore an immersive virtual ecosystem and learn its causal dynamics through collaborative inquiry activities. In one experience, students explore a virtual pond and its biodiversity, traveling in time to see changes over the course of a virtual summer. They discover a fish kill and are tasked with figuring out why it happened. In another experience, students explore population dynamics and predator-prey relationships over 50 years in a virtual forest. Students construct hypotheses about the relationships in the virtual ecosystem, using as evidence the data and observations collected through their virtual experiences.

During the session, the presenters provide hands-on opportunities for participants to interact with the software and share ideas. The presenters describe prior research that has demonstrated the curriculum’s value for teaching ecosystems science concepts, observational scientific inquiry, and complex causality. EcoMUVE places students in a richly immersive context with many learning resources and has found that these opportunities for situated and virtual experiential learning support students in building rich explanations of the ecosystems phenomena represented in the virtual environment.

The presenters invite participants to explore additional uses of the curriculum, including  (1) wide-scale dissemination, (2) teacher professional development, and (3) potential extensions of the curriculum to include experiment-based inquiry—as practiced in the ecosystems science field—through adding iterative cycles of experimentation, reflection, and revision that enable new dimensions of learning and engagement.