1. Shari Metcalf
  2. Project Director
  3. EcoXPT
  4. http://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu
  5. Harvard Graduate School of Education
  1. Chris Dede
  2. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/faculty/christopher-dede
  3. Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies
  4. EcoXPT
  5. http://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu
  6. Harvard Graduate School of Education
  1. Tina Grotzer
  2. Faculty
  3. EcoXPT
  4. http://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu
  5. Harvard Graduate School of Education
  1. Amy Kamarainen
  2. Senior Research Manager
  3. EcoXPT
  4. http://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu
  5. Harvard University
Facilitators’
Choice
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2017 | 08:20 a.m.

    Welcome! I hope you enjoy our video about EcoXPT. We are currently testing the EcoXPT curriculum in middle school classrooms, and will appreciate hearing your thoughts and feedback on the project. Please leave comments and questions below.

  • Icon for: Julia Geschke

    Julia Geschke

    May 16, 2017 | 10:26 a.m.

    I would have LOVED this back when I was in middle school. Awesome idea! How are you hoping to promote/market it to teachers and school districts once testing has finished?

  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 11:14 a.m.

    Hi Julia, Thanks for your positive comments. Like all of our grant-funded work, we plan to make the final version of EcoXPT available for download from the EcoLearn Project website. You can currently download software and curricular materials for two previous projects - EcoMUVE and EcoMOBILE. We don't have funding to "promote/market" the work, so we rely primarily on word of mouth, presentations to teachers and district leaders, and informal mechanisms for distribution. This STEM Showcase is providing a nice opportunity to share our work with a wider audience. Also, Harvard is open to licensing the curriculum to vendors, and we’re happy to hear from qualified organizations. Please spread the word!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Julia Geschke
  • Icon for: Michael Stone

    Michael Stone

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 12:42 p.m.

    This is really interesting work! What training is required/suggested for teachers to use this in the classroom? 

    On a separate note, what engine is this designed with on the back end? The visuals shown in your video made me think of Minecraft, which made me curious about the possibility of students synthesizing new tests once they engage in the simulation. Is that possible in the current software?

    This seems like a great solution to help students interact with ecosystems from a scientific standpoint! 

  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2017 | 01:41 p.m.

    Hi Michael, thanks for your thoughtful questions. As part of our research, we have been providing professional development sessions for teachers - typically 2 sessions and a total of ~4-6 hours with time spent becoming familiar with the technology, understanding the EcoXPT curriculum, practicing guided inquiry, and becoming familiar with our research protocols. EcoXPT is a problem-based inquiry curriculum in which students are challenged to build evidence-based arguments. It has been important to help teachers anticipate the kinds of challenges students will encounter during open-ended inquiry, and give them a chance to develop and practice strategies that encourage students to develop their evidence-based reasoning (rather than focusing on whether they got "the right answer").

    EcoXPT is built using Unity. Students can design their own experiments within certain constraints, but they cannot develop new kinds of tests. That's a neat idea - I wonder what they would come up with. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Judi Fusco
  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 12:46 p.m.

    Hi Team,

    I saw some new components of EcoXPT in this video that you hadn't introduced me to previously. I am especially taken by the Thinking Moves. I understand now why you thought my new ideas might not add a lot.;-) Some things I love in EcoXPT (and EcoMUVE):

    1. The reality of the environment and the opportunities it gives kids to experience changes in an ecosystem up close, to be surprised by what affects what, and to be awestruck by what is usually invisible.

    2. The many ways it gets and keeps kids' attention -- puzzle solvers, gamers, those interested in ecosystems, those interested in animals, those who enjoy water experiences (e.g., going to the beach, fishing) -- are all ways in.

    3. The opportunities they have to try out ideas in the lab.

    And more.

    I have a bunch of questions too:

    1. You talk about 6 types of experiments kids can do. Why did you choose those 6? I guess I'm asking for the hypotheses you have about how to help kids better make sense of what is going on in the complex system.

    2. Tell us more about how the kids use the Thinking Moves and what their effects have been I know you don't have definitive data on that yet, but I wonder what you are seeing in your piloting that gives you hope that Thinking Moves will make a difference.

    3. You designed EcoXPT with a lot of features you thought were needed to help kids make better sense of ecosystem science they were encountering in EcoMUVE; what are you seeing so far with respect to their science content learning and their ability to make causal explanations? Again, I know there is not definitive data yet; so maybe just tell us what you have been seeing as you test the pieces that is different from what you say with EcoMUVE and that gives you hope.

    4. What do you see kids doing with the continuous data from the buoy? I am wondering whether middle schoolers can actually handle it.

     

    Janet

  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 09:35 a.m.

    Thanks for your insightful comments and questions, Janet! We appreciate the kind comments you've shared here and in other posts :)

    1) To understand how we designed the tools, you might think of the overlapping area in a Venn diagram where one circle represents the approaches that real ecosystem scientists use and the other circle represents tools through which students gain new ways to view, think about and test core ecosystem science ideas. Through talking with our stellar advisory board and interviewing 10 practicing ecologists, we gathered a suite of candidate approaches and tools. Based on prior work with EcoMUVE, we had a sense of some of the ideas that remain challenging for students - like thinking about spatial and temporal scales, distinguishing between relationships that are correlational versus causal, and thinking about interacting and/or indirect causes. We define "experiment" fairly broadly (as we heard ecosystem scientists do) and use it to refer to opportunities students have to intervene in a system and witness or measure the outcome. Not all the tools are experimental (like the buoy), but they all emphasize different perspectives on causal relationships or dynamics.

    2) We have only just begun testing the materials, so as you suggest, I can't provide any concrete findings at this time. Based on my initial observations, the Thinking Moves seem really powerful in supporting the interactions between teachers and students. They provide a common language and a resource the teacher can point to if students feel "stuck". I think they will help support guided inquiry.

    3) Again, I can’t offer anything definitive on this point. The comparison study we’re conducting right now provides an interesting contrast. We are offering the experimental tools to only half of the students, and I find those without the experimental tools asking questions that they cannot always answer, like “why does X go down”. Students who have been provided with the experimental tools have a way to continue this thread of inquiry and unpack some of the causal mechanisms that might otherwise be “black boxed”. We are exploring whether providing these tools will help students develop their understanding of the distinction between correlation and causation as well as to develop more sophisticated causal explanations.

    4) The continuous data from the buoy is scaffolded to provide views of the data at daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal time scales. We also overlay points based on data students are able to collect using water measurement tools, thus helping students to relate their experience with collecting water measurement to the continuous data stream provided by the buoy. Students appear to interpret these data fairly easily and have been incorporating buoy data as evidence in their explanations. Our tests so far have been with seventh grade students.

  • Icon for: Janet Kolodner

    Janet Kolodner

    Facilitator
    May 18, 2017 | 03:44 p.m.

    Amy,

     

    I love hearing/reading about all the thinking you guys do about this!!! You guys have such good sense about getting to understanding; what a great team! I still want to go beyond that and address the issue of getting to insights. We'll do it together!!!

     

    Janet

  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 08:11 p.m.

    Thanks, Janet!

  • Icon for: Emerson Smith

    Emerson Smith

    May 16, 2017 | 06:52 p.m.

    I really love how you're using a game-like environment for EcoXPT. One thing that I find fascinating is how these types of learning activities are adapted from the field to the computer screen, especially after working on VRFE. Could you speak to some of the biggest challenges and biggest successes you've had in make that transition from the real world into the virtual?

     
    1
    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Judi Fusco
  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 09:35 a.m.

    Thanks, Emerson! As described above, we interviewed ecosystem scientists and found an incredible range of tools, strategies and approaches they employed in order to address their research questions. A big challenge has been to provide both support and freedom for students to engage in open-ended inquiry, while recognizing that they don't have the kind of background knowledge and expertise that experts would have. We focus on meeting the students where they are in their learning, while also ensuring that the options available are modeled on approaches that are authentic to the practices of ecosystem science. So far, one success has been that students are demonstrating a greater awareness and appreciation for the diversity of approaches and tools that are used by ecosystem scientists.

  • Icon for: Chris Thorn

    Chris Thorn

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2017 | 11:23 p.m.

    I'm interested in the thinking moves as well. I'm wondering about the enactment of those same stances by the instructors - how well that aligns with physical space practices. I'm also wondering about the sort of typical misconceptions students have and how (or I guess) if that is scaffolded for the teachers. I can imagine that constraining the types of of experiments to this specific subset would also constrain potential student misconceptions. 

    I found the set up really well done and would love to follow the research results to see the impact on students' abilities to create causal explanations of complex phenomena.

  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2017 | 09:53 a.m.

    Hi Chris, I hope that you could say more about what you mean by "physical space practices", as I'm not sure how to interpret that part of your question. That being said, I am excited to look more closely at how the Thinking Moves are used by both teachers and students.

    As I described above, we have developed a clear sense of the kinds of misconceptions students have and overcome when working with EcoMUVE, so we've designed EcoXPT to go further in addressing some of those challenges. In both the Teacher's Guide and the professional development sessions we review with teachers some of the challenges they can expect their students to face. These range from challenges in motivation (a student may feel lost or unmotivated when their first hypothesis doesn't pan out), to challenges in causal thinking (pushing beyond direct causal connections to considering indirect or interacting causes), to challenges in applying science concepts (like thinking about photosynthesis and respiration in the context of the pond). The Thinking Moves, the experimental tools, and the curriculum all provide support for teachers and students to address misconceptions, and the Teacher's Guide and professional development session highlight pedagogical moves teachers can make to address issues that arise. In some cases we link well-known misconceptions with specific prompts, Thinking Moves and/or experimental tools that a teacher can leverage when working with students.

    We'd love to stay in touch as our work unfolds. Thanks for your questions!

  • Icon for: Judi Fusco

    Judi Fusco

    Researcher
    May 18, 2017 | 05:58 p.m.

    EcoXPT looks great! I am excited to learn how it works in the classroom and my questions are about what you'll be doing next year when you examine how it is working. I know it's all next year, but I'd love to hear more about what's in the works if you can share. 

  • Icon for: Amy Kamarainen

    Amy Kamarainen

    Co-Presenter
    May 18, 2017 | 08:17 p.m.

    Hi Judi! We have a few studies underway and planned. We are currently conducting a comparison of EcoXPT with the experimental tools versus EcoXPT without those tools in order to really focus on the utility of providing tools for experimental intervention. We are working with middle school teachers who tend to have 4 classes of students, and 2 of their classes (randomly assigned) use EcoXPT and 2 use EcoXPT without the tools. We are also planning a comparison between EcoXPT and another 'best practice' ecosystem science curriculum, as well as a more focused qualitative study of the development of students ideas and practices throughout the curriculum. Stay tuned!

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.