By Natalie Harr
"Cyberlearning is about designing new kinds of applications and technology rich experiences, learning how to use them well to foster and assess learning, making the experiences work for particular disciplines and populations, and putting them in place in the world in ways that make a difference."
(Blog Post #4)
CYBER is a generic prefix that means of, relating to, or characteristic of the culture of computers. A computer is any
programmable, electronic device, that can store, retrieve, and process data (including smartphones, G.P.S. devices, tablets, and laptops). -Merriam-Webster Dictionary
LEARNING is a relatively enduring change in behavior as a result of experience. People can learn alone or with others in collaboration. Learning can be facilitated by learning environments that incorporate
information and communication technologies.
-How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School,The National Academies Press, 2000
The 21st century requires students to develop a
contemporary skill set for our global economy. Rich skills in computation, collaboration, communication, and creativity are highly valued in our modern society. As the world has evolved, so has our understanding of how people learn. In contrast to traditional teaching methods, in cyberlearning projects, students are designing, creating, solving problems, making mistakes, actively reflecting on their experiences, and gaining deeper understanding as they learn essential 21st century skills.
CYBERLEARNING is an exciting, new field of research that merges these two disciplines of study (learning & computing) to design learning technologies --technologies that can help people learn and assess learning. This innovative field uses what scientists have discovered about how people learn and how to foster learning to inform the design of these technologies. These new innovations can potentially transform who, what, when, where, and how we learn.
Virtual reality (VR) technology can be used to create computer-simulated environments that can immerse learners into a virtual world. Using computer controls, learners can interact with a virtual environment as if it's a real setting. Virtual worlds can mimic real places (e.g., a volcano, the digestive system) or imaginary settings (e.g., a planet from another galaxy) for deep exploration. Learners are then free to explore and investigate phenomena that are too big or small, too fast or slow, or too dangerous to otherwise experience in real life.
EcoMUVE: Multi User Virtual Environment
EcoMUVE: A demo video of the Pond Module. Courtesy of the EcoMUVE Development Team
EcoMUVE, for example, is a 3-D virtual world designed to immerse middle school students in simulated habitats (a pond or forest module) as part of an inquiry-based ecosystems curriculum.This Multi User Virtual Environment, or MUVE, has the look and feel of a video game, but it is used instead to immerse learners within the complexity of a specific habitat.
In the pond module, learners investigate a virtual pond and its surrounding environment during a two-week period to understand why the fish have died off. They begin by going underwater and examining the life below the pond's surface. They take virtual measurements of such factors as water temperature, weather conditions, turbidity (water clarity) and pH levels on different virtual days, working together to understand the fundamental components of the virtual ecosystem and identify the causal relationships that influence them.
The EcoMUVE development team, composed of Chris Dede, Professor Tina Grotzer, Dr, Amy Kamarainen, Dr. Shari Metcalf as well as numerous master's and doctoral students, explains their work below:
"The first module represents a pond ecosystem. Students explore the pond and the surrounding area, even under the water, see realistic organisms in their natural habitats, and collect water, weather, and population data. Students visit the pond over a number of virtual "days," and eventually make the surprising discovery that, on a day in late summer, many fish in the pond have died. Students are challenged to figure out what happened – they work in teams to collect and analyze data, and gather information to solve the mystery and understand the complex causality of the pond ecosystem." -The EcoMUVE Development Team
EcoMUVE is released under a FREE license from Harvard University. REGISTER HERE for access to EcoMUVE downloads and curriculum. EcoMUVE is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences of the U.S. Department of Education.
follow-up research: eco-mobile
The EcoMUVE project team received funding from the National Science Foundation and Qualcomm's Wireless Reach initiative, for a new follow-up research project called EcoMOBILE. (Ecosystems Mobile Outdoor Blended Immersive Learning Environment). Stay tuned to learn more about this augmented reality (AR) technology in a future post.
Common Misconceptions about Cyberlearning