Right Here in River City

Seventh grade students in Elizabeth McGann’s science class have been participating in a project called River City.

The project is a product of Harvard University researchers (led by Beaver parent Chris Dede) which looks at the effect online Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVE) have on educational outcomes.

As visitors to River City, students travel back in time, bringing their 21st century skills and technology to address 19th century problems. Based on authentic historical, sociological, and geographical conditions, River City is a town besieged with health problems. Students work together in small research teams to help the town understand why residents are becoming ill. Students use technology to keep track of clues that hint at causes of illnesses, form and test hypotheses, develop controlled experiments to test their hypotheses, and make recommendations based on the data they collect, all in an online environment. )

Using the scientific method, Beaver students took on the task of solving a problem that affected the citizens of River City. Once their research was complete they presented their findings in a VoiceThread — a tool to create narrated slideshows that allows for audio comments from viewers.

A look at one group’s final VoiceThread is embedded below.

One Response to Right Here in River City

  1. Jan Devereux May 2, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

    The MUVE project that River City came from was featured in the Boston Globe magazine’s education issue (“Grade A Ideas, 5/2/10):

    “Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education are developing a way for middle school students to take Frizzle-like virtual field trips while studying complex science concepts. The team, led by Christopher Dede and Tina Grotzer, is working on EcoMUVE, a multi-user computer program that enables students to immerse themselves in an ecosystem and gather data to solve problems. In one application, students create avatars to study the virtual Scheele Pond. All the fish there have died overnight, and students work in teams to figure out why. They can travel in a virtual submarine to get microscopic views of pond life and can go back and forth in time to chart changes in the environment.”

    “The project, which will be piloted in some Cambridge and Boston schools this fall, is on the cutting edge of classroom technology. “We know that active learning is more powerful than passive learning,” Dede explains. “In virtual worlds, you are not only active, you are in the middle of it. You are wearing the shoes of a scientist.”

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