PIs: Kylie Peppler, Armin Moczek, Joshua Danish
In this Cyberlearning: Transforming Education DIP (Development and Implementation) Project, the PIs focus on better promoting science learning in early elementary school (grades K-3). They focus in the discipline of life sciences, with specific focus on complex biological systems. The approach to learning about complex systems is through participatory simulation augmented by wearable computers. Children act out the roles of agents in complex biological systems (e.g., bees gathering honey, predators and preys) together, and with the help of electronic puppets that they can wear on one hand, they watch changes in the characteristics of animals they are simulating (e.g., energy, hunger, thirst, need for sleep) as they interact in the environment the way those animals would. Research focuses on how learning happens in the context of 1st person participation in a simulated system and how to best facilitate that learning, how learning about one complex system readies children to learn about other complex systems, how the understanding of complex systems builds over time with exposure to a variety of such systems, and best ways of using technology to affect such learning.
There is little understanding currently of how to teach science productively in elementary school. As is appropriate for this age group, these PIs take a playful approach to immersing youngsters (in grades K through 3) in the lives of animals and organisms and the ecosystems they live in. Children participate in simulations of natural ecosystems, taking on the roles of animals or organisms in those systems. To promote the kinds of reflection on experience that will lead to learning, children are equipped with electronic puppets that help them experience how those animals? lives are affected by their interactions with animal and plant life in their environment.