6439 Views (as of 05/2023)
  1. Amanda Dickes
  2. Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  4. Harvard University
  1. Karen Brennan
  2. http://scholar.harvard.edu/kbrennan
  3. Associate Professor of Education
  5. Harvard University
  1. Chris Dede
  2. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/faculty/christopher-dede
  3. Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies
  5. Harvard University
  1. Amy Kamarainen
  2. http://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu
  3. Senior Research Manager
  5. Harvard Graduate School of Education
  1. Shari Metcalf
  2. Project Director
  4. Harvard Graduate School of Education
  1. Joseph Reilly
  2. https://scholar.harvard.edu/josephmreilly
  3. Doctoral Student
  5. Harvard Graduate School of Education

EcoMOD: Integrating Computational Thinking into Ecosystems Science Education ...

NSF Awards: 1639545

2018 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6

In recent years, the field of education has challenged researchers and practitioners to incorporate computational thinking, an analytic problem solving and design approach fundamental to computing, as an essential focus of K12 STEM education. Widely recognized as a “basic skill” necessary for economic opportunity and social mobility, integrating computing within K12 STEM supports learners of all ages in applying computational thinking within established and accessible contexts while co-developing practices essential to mathematical and scientific expertise. The EcoMOD project is an example of such an integration. In EcoMOD, immersive virtual environments are blended with hands-on interactive computational modeling tools in order to support the co-development of ecological knowledge, complex causal reasoning and computational creation in third grade students. This work has implications for both teachers and designers of educational technologies by illuminating aspects of children’s understanding that researchers, designers and teachers can leverage to support students’ learning of computation and scientific modeling in a reflexive manner.

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Discussion from the 2018 STEM for All Video Showcase (8 posts)
  • Icon for: Robert Zisk

    Robert Zisk

    Graduate Student
    May 14, 2018 | 12:04 p.m.

    Thanks for the interesting video and project! In watching the video, I was wondering what was the learning curve for the programming portion of the simulation? How quick are students picking up on it and are they able to explore on their own or do they need guidance from someone?

    I am also wondering about your outcome measures. This program is focused on computational thinking, do you have outcome measures related to that?

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    May 14, 2018 | 12:40 p.m.

    Hi Robert, thank you for your question. It depends on students' prior programming experience. We are piloting in two classrooms right now. In one classroom, more than half of the students have coded before (in school or at home). Those students did well exploring the tool in pairs, co-building a program and then sharing those programs in front of the class. The classroom teachers facilitated very little in the creation of student programs. In our other classroom fewer students have coded before and have needed more guidance, which has often taken the form of physically embodying computational commands and connecting computational outcomes to familiar lived experiences. 


  • Icon for: Scot Osterweil

    Scot Osterweil

    Research Scientist
    May 14, 2018 | 05:26 p.m.

    You do a very nice job explaining and illustrating the project with the video. Overall, it looks very promising. I had similar questions to Robert, which you've answered clearly. I would be interested in knowing more about why you're focusing on third graders. Do you have hypotheses you are testing, or a theory of change that undergirds your efforts?

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    May 14, 2018 | 07:04 p.m.

    Hi Scot, thank you for the feedback on the video.

    We are focusing on 3rd graders for a couple reasons: 1) By third grade learners have typically made the transition from learning to read to reading for understanding. Coding and science both require interpretation of text, and by piloting our tools with 3rd graders we can be mostly certain that any difficulties students encounter are not solely due to misinterpreting unfamiliar words and phrases. I say "mostly" because language difficulties do still arise, albeit less frequently than they would with younger learners. 2) The context of our curriculum - ecosystems and habitats - align with both local and national science standards for Grade 3.

    EcoMOD is investigating four separate research questions. The first two are student-centered and examine two interrelated strands of design-based research: design and cognition. Along the first strand EcoMOD investigates which approaches to abstraction and representation support students ability to construct, interpret and modify computational models of ecological systems.  Along the second dimension, we are also investigating changes in students' understanding of causal dynamics, computational thinking and ecosystems science content. Our hypothesis is that blending virtual immersive worlds with computational models can help make the epistemic goals of science explicit to young leaners. If true, we would expect to see growth not only in knowledge, but also in the practices through which that knowledge is produced. 

    Our remaining research questions look at the role of teacher, how their use of the curriculum and tools unfolds in practice and what scaffolds and supports are needed. 

  • Icon for: Jessica Hammer

    Jessica Hammer

    Assistant Professor
    May 15, 2018 | 03:21 p.m.

    Very nice video! You mention above that in some classrooms, teachers are not needed to facilitate coding, while in other classrooms they are. How are you supporting teachers in assessing the needs of their students and identifying the right kinds of supports to give them? Or is that the work that is currently in progress right now?

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    May 15, 2018 | 04:58 p.m.

    Hi Jessica! Yes, the work we are doing in classrooms now is helping us understand and assess how to support teachers in practice. In both classrooms the teachers have expressed uncertainty with regards to teaching inquiry through programming and supporting their students in the construction, testing and debugging process. This is primarily due to a lack of programming knowledge. We've noticed that teachers confidence with the tool has grown as they've had more opportunities to explore it, watch their students build programs and observe the kinds of questions we ask. Looking to next year, building in more time with the tool prior to implementation and providing examples of common student programs and bugs might help teachers feel more confident. 

  • Icon for: Lei Liu

    Lei Liu

    May 16, 2018 | 09:32 a.m.

    Very nice project! Very much like the idea of integrating different aspects of modeling practice, such as modeling in science and computational modeling, to allow students to make sense of science. This requires students to apply cross disciplinary domain knowledge and skills to investigate the real world ecosystem problem. What kind of assessments were used to evaluate the effect of the intervention? Or are you using students' interactions in the performance tasks as evidence to make claims? 

  • Icon for: Joseph Reilly

    Joseph Reilly

    Doctoral Student
    May 16, 2018 | 09:54 a.m.

    We're currently developing our assessment strategy for EcoMOD during this pilot based on our previous work with EcoXPT and EcoMUVE. Pre- and post-surveys measuring content knowledge, understanding of causal mechanisms, and affective dimensions will be administered, video recordings of the class and screen captures of student computers will allow for grounded qualitative analysis, and student actions in the virtual worlds will be captured in log files. Additionally, interviews with a purposeful sample of students as well as teachers will allow us to refine our initial design for future testing.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.