Simulated Ecological Environments for Education (SEEE), a virtual reality framework for understanding the human-computer-environment interface and informal learning will be presented and discussed. This framework was implemented as a high fidelity, scientific visualization of biological plot study data, as a virtual reality software prototype, The Virtual Trillium Trail, and modeled after a real world field trip to the real Trillium Trail, which is used in elementary school science and ecology education. Empirical data was gathered that makes it possible to compare and contrast the real and virtual informal learning experiences, thus providing the necessary control for future research.In a follow-up study, empirical data was gathered on two scaled values on two factors, Visual Fidelity and Navigational Freedom, showing statistically significant results on learning, and emotions, and suggesting gender effects.We will review the data and discuss the research opportunity to use fMRI to better understand how humans learn in informal learning contexts of the natural world.
Biography of Speaker:
Dr. Harrington received her Ph.D. from the School of Informations Sciences (SIS), University of Pittsburgh, in 2008. She is a member of ACM SIGCHI and ACM SIGGRAPH, and has served on the Education Program Committee of ACM SIGGRAPH 2007. Dr. Harrington has over 10 years of industry experience in human-computer interaction and is currently the CEO of Virtual Field Trips, Inc., a Pittsburgh start-up with the mission to create Educational Simulations for children. Additionally, she has over 10 years of teaching experience in human-computer interaction, user centered design, human factors in system design, and Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh.Starting in 2008 she has taught New Media in Art and Design at ChathamUniversity and Computer Science at SlipperyRockUniversity. She holds a MSIS from SIS, and a BS in Economics with a Minor in Art from CarnegieMellonUniversity. Her research focuses on Simulated Ecological Environments, a type of spatial cognitive ecology, and the development of quantitative models representing the intersection of the child’s mental model, the virtual environment and the user interface. Web Site: http://www.sis.pitt.edu/~mariah/phd/index.html