1. Amanda Dickes
  2. Postdoctoral Research Fellow
  3. EcoMOD: Integrating Computational Thinking into Ecosystems Science Education via Modeling in Immersive Virtual Worlds
  4. https://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu/ecoMOD/overview.php
  5. Harvard Graduate School of Education
  1. Karen Brennan
  2. http://scholar.harvard.edu/kbrennan
  3. Associate Professor of Education
  4. EcoMOD: Integrating Computational Thinking into Ecosystems Science Education via Modeling in Immersive Virtual Worlds
  5. https://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu/ecoMOD/overview.php
  6. Harvard Graduate School of Education
  1. Shari Metcalf
  2. Senior Researcher
  3. EcoMOD: Integrating Computational Thinking into Ecosystems Science Education via Modeling in Immersive Virtual Worlds
  4. https://ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu/ecoMOD/overview.php
  5. Harvard Graduate School of Education
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 09:06 a.m.

    Welcome! We look forward to reading your comments, and engaging in thoughtful discussions about our project!  ~The EcoMOD Team

  • Icon for: Gerad OShea

    Gerad OShea

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 11:29 a.m.

    Thanks for sharing your work!

    You mentioned having tested EcoMOD over the last few years. Can you share some of the methods you've used to gather feedback from students and a few barriers or challenges you've overcome from which others in the field trying to design content for elementary students may benefit?

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 02:56 p.m.

    Hi Gerad, thank you for your question. We employ a mixed methods approach to collecting and analyzing student discourse and activity. These include pre and post surveys which measure growth in student's science content knowledge and ideas about modeling, as well as affective dimensions such as identity and feelings of competency related to science and programming. We also gather information on students' prior programming experience, as well as collect back end data during tool use to help us put together individual and aggregate-level trajectories for students and classrooms in terms of their tool explorations and programming decisions. We also conduct exit interviews with all teachers and collect daily feedback on each lesson. Each of these pieces of data help us assess the efficacy of our curriculum. 

    Regarding your second question, in terms of design one of the biggest challenges are the curricular and institutional constraints placed on teachers - which often results in limited time each day and each week to teach science and tight restrictions on what can be taught - and how those constraints interact with our desire to support inquiry-based approaches to science learning. For this reason, we've made strong efforts to anchor the design of our curriculum in practice-based approaches to science learning, while at the same time designing for real classrooms. For example, all of our lessons are between 45 and 50 minutes and are closely aligned to both state and national science standards (e.g NGSS) as well as several standards in mathematics and digital literacy. There are, of course, other difficulties associated with implementing this type of curriculum, including supporting teachers in teaching programming. We have designed professional development tools and resources for this purpose, and have received good ideas for how to continue to support teachers in practice from our veteran EcoMOD teachers. 

     
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    Gerad OShea
  • Icon for: Gerad OShea

    Gerad OShea

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 06:40 a.m.

    Thanks for your response, Amanda. This is a really exciting project!

    Your point about being adaptable to meet the realities of classrooms really resonated with me. Can you share a little bit about the general structure of a lesson? For example, how much of each lesson is spent using the simulation vs. group work or discussion? Can that 45-50 minutes be broken up across multiple class periods?

    Thanks!

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 04:16 p.m.

    We think the project is pretty exciting, as well! Thank you for the kind words. 

    In general, roughly half of the class is spent exploring the immersive tools or the programming environment, and the other half of the class is a combination of physical activities (for example, embodied modeling activities), sharing ideas or presenting and sharing programs. Each of our lessons also begin with a "Do Now" activity relevant to the day's goals, which has the added benefit of occupying students while the program loads. Depending on the strength of the school's wifi, our program can load in as little as a few seconds or as long as a couple of minutes. We didn't want to waste this time so designed brief orienting activities to start each lesson. 

    This, of course, is a rough estimate. The actual time on each task varies as teachers adapt in the moment to student ideas. And yes, I believe the 45-50 minutes can be broken up into smaller chunks and we have observed some teachers do just that if circumstances prevent completing the lesson during the allotted timeframe.

  • Icon for: Bess Caplan

    Bess Caplan

    Ecology Education Program Leader
    May 13, 2019 | 12:57 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing.  I'd like to know more about how EcoMod is incorporated into existing curriculum.  Is this a stand-alone module that teachers are using in place of other curriculum at this grade level? 

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 03:13 p.m.

    Hi Bess, thank you for your question. EcoMOD is a stand-alone curriculum but has been designed to align with both state and national science standards, as well as several standards in mathematics and digital literacy. We designed EcoMOD in this way so that we can support teachers across diverse school districts, which often have different requirements for science teaching and learning. This also shifts agency to the school and teachers, who can decide how best to integrate the curriculum.

    We do not have complete data on whether or not the unit was taught in addition to or in place of other curriculum, but it appears to be a mixture of both. In one of our schools, the district only requires two units on science (magnets and fossils), so EcoMOD is incorporated as a means to enrich the relatively thin science requirements. In other schools, EcoMOD is taught as an extension curriculum to prior lessons on ecology or as a final end-of-year unit after all other required curricula has been taught. 

  • Icon for: Feng Liu

    Feng Liu

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 04:44 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing this work! It seems your team has already collected a list of data quantitatively and qualitatively, and conducted some evaluation. I would like to know more about the evaluation process. Could you share some information about how you account for different formats of the program implementation during the evaluation process (i.e., some schools used the unit to enrich their existing curriculum while others use it as an end-of-year unit)? Have you looked at student academic achievement on state standardized test as one of the outcomes? And, do you have a comparison group in the evaluation?

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 06:20 a.m.

    Hi Feng, thank you for your question. The research questions investigated on the current grant include two questions on student learning (essentially, 1. what knowledge do student's gain 2. through what scientific or computational practices?) and two questions on teacher use and attitudes towards the curriculum. Given our questions, the natural variation between schools was not something we accounted for, however, as we move into next year we are considering conducting comparison studies where we will would account for some of the variables you mentioned.

    Re: state standardized assessments. No, we have not looked at student achievement on those assessments.

  • Icon for: Nancy McGowan

    Nancy McGowan

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 05:05 p.m.

    Amanda, 

    EcoMOD looks AMAZING! I see that you are using a keystone species in the demonstration and that students have coding options.  I am just curious as to how many different options students have in terms of animals, environments, and food sources in order to see impacts made when one is altered.  Great job! :)

  • Icon for: Amanda Dickes

    Amanda Dickes

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 06:30 a.m.

    Thank you for the supportive words, Nancy! You've hit on one of our big discussion points as we designed our curriculum - how many animals or variables will students be able to program or manipulate? Given the high variability in student prior programming experience (some classrooms might have all novice programmers, while others might have greater than 50% that have programmed before), we intentionally limited the animals that students could program to one or two (beaver and woodpecker). As soon as you increase the complexity of the system, in terms of number of animals students can manipulate, the difficulty of the modeling task increases. Based on our classroom studies, the level of programming difficulty is about what it should be given the length of the curriculum. 

    Although students are only programming, for example, a beaver, non-programmable animals like fish and water fowl are also present in the model and students can observe and interpret data on those animals to see how they are impacted by the beaver. Additionally, students can add a predator to the system (and code predator avoidance behavior) as well as manipulate set up variables such as water flow, tree density, tree location and width of the stream to observe how those variables affect the beaver, the environment, and the other animals in the system. 

  • Icon for: Mary Murphy

    Mary Murphy

    K-12 Teacher
    May 16, 2019 | 07:02 p.m.

    Nice work!  Any plans for another module?

  • Icon for: Shari Metcalf

    Shari Metcalf

    Co-Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 07:58 p.m.

    Thank you, Mary! Great question. No, there are no plans for another module as part of the EcoMOD research project. Perhaps a future grant! In our prior research, though, our EcoLearn team has developed other immersive virtual world-based curriculum modules for middle school science with EcoMUVE and EcoXPT. You might be interested in checking out our website at ecolearn.gse.harvard.edu.

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