Doctoral Work

Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL),
Computer Science, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

Embedded Phenomena for Inquiry Communities (EPIC)

Project work and subsequent dissertation work is positioned under a multi-year National Science Foundation (NSF) research program called Embedded Phenomena for Inquiry Communities (EPIC) . A primary emphasis of the EPIC research program is concerned with how to support a classroom learning community working together in creating, maintaining, accessing and applying a collective “knowledge base” (Moher et al., 2015; Slotta, 2013) in their investigation of simulated scientific “embedded” phenomena within their classrooms (Moher, 2006). Scaffolded by the use of tablet computers, large display applications, and “smart classroom” technology frameworks.


Knowledge Places | Dissertation

This research investigates a novel approach to supporting classroom learning communities. The idea is that it embeds community knowledge within the physical space of the classroom, with the aim of mediating opportunistic inter-group interactions, instigated through proximity and shared artifacts. Through ubiquitous computing, proxemic interaction, tangible computing, and ambient visualizations.

Knowledge Place “terminals” are located around fixed locations around the classroom making inquiry activities and emergent community knowledge salient. Each terminal represents all the aggregated knowledge for a particular theme or topic.

Associated Publications

Other EPIC Research Project Work

I was deeply involved at all levels of the EPIC research program from a co-designer of the curriculum units with teachers and other researchers, interaction designer and programmer (i.e., tablet-based and web applications, technology frameworks, and server-side architectures), facilitator of the research in the classroom for deployment, organization, and data collection from classrooms in two countries (Chicago, Illinois and Toronto, Canada), and presenter and co-writing to publications for both computer science and learning science conferences. The proceeding projects are a handful of the projects in which I played these roles.


In Wallcology (Moher, 2006), students are told that there are ecosystems embedded within their classroom walls, including various habitats, species (predators and prey), and vegetation to create food webs. These ecosystems are invisible, except through special “Wallscopes” attached to the classroom walls, where students can see a kind of x-ray view revealing four or more distinct habitats (i.e., one for each wall). The habitats in each wall vary regarding: (1) the specific species and vegetation included, (2) the nature of the habitat, regarding some mixture of bricks and plaster, (3) temperature. Students are tasked, as a “scientific community” to investigate these habitats, developing a knowledge base concerning food web relations, habitat and temperature dependencies, and any other observations.

Students observe and investigate species behavior from dynamic ecosystem simulations through ‘Wallscopes’.


Hunger Games

Hunger Games centered on the development of learner understandings of animal foraging behavior. Inspired by traditional teaching practices employing physical simulations, within the unit students engage in an embodied enactment of foraging using stuffed animals (with embedded RFID tags) as tangible avatars to represent their foraging among food patches (with camouflaged RFID readers) distributed around a classroom. Displays situated near the food patches provide students with information regarding the energy gain as the forage in the environment.

Students situating their avatars at patches to accumulate calories in Hunger Games.

Associated Publications

HelioRoom & SOLAR

Based on Astronomy, HelioRoom – an Embedded Phenomena (Moher, 2006) – digitally maps an orbital planetary system onto walls of a classroom. Students adopt a heliocentric perspective of the solar system and observe dynamic representations of the planets (equally sized, colored circles) though four ambient visualizations (i.e., monitors) during intermittent periods of the day. Students’ work collectively to observe planet occlusion patterns and relative orbital speeds from the phenomena while adding their observations to a collective knowledge base.

The SOLAR instance of HelioRoom ran in a Toronto classroom along with a large “digital poster”; a large vertical multi-touch application in which students were able to create poster-sized representations of their contributions.

Using tablet based tools and large display smart boards, students create an emergent knowledge base of planet occlusion patterns.


Neighborhood Safari

In Neighborhood Safari, students are loaned motion-detecting field cameras (“camera traps”), which they use to investigate the behavior of animals in their backyards. In our pilot study, students investigated self-generated questions related to food preferences, the presence of scarecrows, the presence of pets, differences between day and night foraging patterns, and others. We developed tablet (iPad) applications that allowed students to filter, sort, and tag their photo sets, create note contributions to a common base in addition to providing aggregated representations of their data.

Using tablet based tools, students tag set of camera trap photos to identify patterns of animal forging.

Associated Publications