WallCology: Design of a Simulation Engine for Learners’ Embodied Inquiry in Population Ecology
Authors: Bhatt, D. S.
Publication: Submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Computer Science, Graduate College, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
WallCology is a population ecology simulation built on the Embedded Phenomena framework (Moher, 2006). The primary motivation for the creation of WallCology is to bring an engaging and authentic means of studying ecology in the classroom with technologies that are readily available in most classrooms. WallCology, currently in its third iteration, has been tested in three different classrooms. Student and teacher feedback from these studies have helped to continuously modify and expand the simulation.
Population ecology, because of its largely observational nature, can be difficult to teach in a typical classroom setting. Ecology study in the classroom usually involves textbooks, worksheets, maybe a classroom pet, and perhaps a trip to the zoo. These usual methods may be augmented with the use of modeling applications such as NetLogo to highlight mathematical principles in population ecology. While each of these are informative and can be engaging, they lack the experience of how ecologists conduct science in the field. WallCology aims to help bring this experience into the classroom by creating an environment within which students can take on the role of ecologists and learn while engaging in activities that, at least at the basic level, approximate those used by ecologists in the field. Students are given a partial view of a larger virtual ecosystem using computers as portals. These portals, called WallScopes, allow students to view the environment, as well as the inhabitants of the ecosystem. The inhabitants of the virtual ecosystem are imagined “creatures” with observable characteristics such as morphology and behavior. The second implementation also simulated creature life cycles and predator / prey relationships between creatures. WallScopes also act as points of interaction between the real world and the virtual ecosystem. In the first version of WallCology, the portals were in fixed locations, but could be moved around in the second version, thus giving students the ability to choose where to place the WallScopes.
Date: August 28, 2008
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