May 1st, 1999 - August 1st, 2002
The “virtual ambients” are worlds which investigate the effectiveness of virtual environments as simulated data collection environments for children engaged in inquiry-based science learning activities. Data collection has long been believed to be a valuable component of activity-based learning strategies, but for practical reasons is often replaced by pre-constructed databases. VR appears attractive for this purpose because it can provide access to simulated environments which might otherwise be impossible to visit in person, while still providing experiences analogous to those undertaken by a scientist in real experimental work.
We believe that the act of collecting and transcribing data will promote conceptual understanding by making the connection between the environment being studied and the “scientific” representations of data drawn from that environment explicit. The clear need is to optimize the balance between scaffolding on the one hand, and engaging in low-level activities associated with scientific investigation on the other.