Blended learning across virtual and natural ecosystems


EcoMOBILE (Ecosystems Mobile Outdoor Blended Immersive Learning Environment) is an extension of the EcoMUVE curriculum, developed at the Harvard Graduate School of Education with funding from the Institute of Education Sciences.
In EcoMUVE, students explore a virtual representation of a pond ecosystem. Learn more about EcoMUVE here. In EcoMobile, funded by the National Science Foundation and Qualcomm's Wireless Reach initiative, students will use the EcoMUVE software and also extend their learning with mobile technologies through one or more field trips to a local pond environment. Two forms of technology for science education will enhance their experience in the real world.

First, students will be able to access and collect information and clues using a mobile broadband device (a smartphone with Qualcomm technology). Students can capture pictures, video, or voice recordings to serve as evidence in solving an environmental mystery. The MBDs will also allow students to access special features through an Augmented Reality (AR) interface using FreshAiR , which will provide students with information that would not otherwise be apparent in the natural environment.

Second, students will use environmental probes that allow collection of real-time data similar to the kinds of data ecosystems scientists study. These probes will allow students to collect some of the same data (dissolved oxygen concentrations, temperature, turbidity, and pH) that they collected in the virtual environment. Texas Instruments is providing technical support and equipment (NSpires with Vernier probes) for the project.

Students have a need to connect the abstract ideas they are learning in science class to experiences they have in the real world. This process can be mediated by the affordances offered by mobile wireless devices. The EcoMobile project will study the extent to which current technologies can accomplish this goal in an affordable, practical manner and what implementation challenges are involved in going to scale.

Project Team

Chris Dede - Principal Investigator

Chris Dede is the Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. He has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Foundations of Educational and Psychological Assessment, a member of the U.S. Department of Education's Expert Panel on Technology, and a member of the International Steering Committee for the Second International Technology in Education Study. His current funded research includes a grant from the National Science Foundation to aid middle school students learning science via shared virtual environments and a Star Schools grant from the U.S. Department of Education to help high school students with math and literacy skills using wireless movile devices to create augmented reality simulations. His co-edited book, Scaling Up Success: Lessons Learned from Technology-based Educational Improvement, was published by Jossey-Bass in 2005. A second volume he edited, Online Professional Development for Teachers: Emerging Models and Methods, was published by the Harvard Education Press in 2006.

Tina Grotzer - Co-Principal Investigator

Tina Grotzer is an Associate Professor of Education at Harvard's Graduate School of Education and a Principal Investigator at Harvard's Project Zero. She directs the Understandings of Consequence Project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Her current funded research includes a follow-up NSF grant, "Learning to RECAST Students' Causal Assumptions in Science through Interactive, Multimedia Professional Development Tools." She serves on the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Panel on Reasoning and Evidence in Science and on the Editorial Advisory Board for Studies in Science Education. She publishes in both academic journals and teacher-oriented publications and is deeply committed to helping teachers use the knowledge gained through research. She is the lead author of the Causal Patterns on Science series of curriculum guides. She collaborates with scientists from organizations such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Institute of Ecosystem Studies, and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Prior to her work at Harvard, she taught in public and private schools for 14 years.

Shari Metcalf - EcoMOBILE Project Co-Director

Shari Metcalf holds a S.B. and S.M. from M.I.T., and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, where she designed and developed Model-It, a software tool for students building models of dynamic systems. She has been working as a researcher in educational technology for over 10 years, particularly in middle and high school science. Along with a strong technical background, she has extensive experience in assessment design, data collection and analysis. Her professional interest is the design of educational software tools, particularly the use of modeling and simulation to support science learning.

Amy Kamarainen - EcoMOBILE Project Co-Director

Amy Kamarainen holds a B.S. in Zoology from Michigan State University, a Certificate in Research, Teaching and Learning (through the NSF-funded CIRTL), and a Ph.D. in Zoology from UW Madison. Amy uses ecosystem models to study nutrient and pollutant processing in aquatic ecosystems embedded in urban and agricultural watersheds. She is also interested in using technology to enhance learning of complex concepts related to ecology and ecosystems science. In particular, she is interested in combining technology with outdoor experiences to build student efficacy in 21st-century modes of scientific inquiry. Amy is designing teaching materials and curricula that place science learning in the context of real-world issues and that appeal to a diversity of students.

M. Shane Tutwiler - Doctoral Student

Shane is an advanced doctoral student in the Human Development and Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research interests are centered on measuring and impacting student learning in virtual and augmented environments. Shane has taught high school mathematics and science in the United States and Taiwan, and was a radiation health physicist and nuclear water chemist in the United States Navy. He holds a B.S. from Temple University and an Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.


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