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Blending Virtual and Augmented Realities for Learning Ecosystems

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BOSTON, MA - MAY 08, 2012 - The Immersive Education Initiative today announced that Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, will deliver the closing keynote address at Immersive Education 2012 (iED 2012) in Boston this June.  

iED 2012 BOSTON SUMMIT KEYNOTE : CHRIS DEDE, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATIONIn his keynote address, Blending Virtual and Augmented Realities for Learning Ecosystems, Chris will share with iED 2012 attendees the early findings of new research into combining immersive virtual environments and real ecosystems with digital resources. His keynote, based on the EcoMUVE and EcoMOBILE research projects at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, will present a variety of ways in which immersive virtual environments and augmented realities complement each other in student motivation and learning.

Immediately following Dede’s keynote address attendees will have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on workshop conducted by Shari Metcalf, Project Director of EcoMUVE and EcoMOBILE at Harvard. The workshop, EcoMUVE: Learning About Ecosystems through Immersion in Virtual Worlds, is open to all iED 2012 attendees.

Chris Dede is the Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.  His fields of scholarship include emerging technologies, policy, and leadership.  His funded research includes seven current grants from National Science Foundation (NSF), Qualcomm, the Gates Foundation, and the US Department of Education to explore immersive simulations and transformed social interactions as means of student engagement, learning, and assessment.  In 2007, he was honored by Harvard University as an outstanding teacher, and in 2011 he was named a Fellow of the American Educational Research Association. In 2012 he was appointed Senior Advisor of the Journal of Immersive Education (JiED), the publication of record for the international Immersive Education Initiative.

Chris was the Principal Investigator (PI) for River City, a seminal immersive education environment introduced in 2000. Funded by the National Science Foundation, River City is an interactive computer simulation for middle grade science students to learn scientific inquiry and 21st century skills. River City is the predecessor to EcoMUVE, an exciting new curriculum research project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that uses immersive virtual environments to teach middle school students about ecosystems and causal patterns. The EcoMUVE project, for which Chris is the lead PI, is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and U.S. Department of Education.

Chris has served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Foundations of Educational and Psychological Assessment and a member of the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan Technical Working Group.

KEYNOTE: Blending Virtual and Augmented Realities for Learning Ecosystems

QuoteWe are studying whether ecosystems instruction can be more engaging and effective by combining immersive virtual environments and real ecosystems infused with digital resources. In prior research, we developed EcoMUVE, an inquiry-based, four-week curriculum that incorporates student experiences in immersive, simulated virtual ecosystems to enhance student understanding of ecosystems science, the inquiry process, and the complex causality inherent in ecosystems dynamics.

Our findings show promising results on its perceived value, usability, and implementation feasibility, along with gains in student learning and motivation. Now, we are developing a series of augmented realities using mobile devices that enable students to collect and share data using probeware, cameras, and microphones; access on-site information about ecosystem components; and visit geo-referenced locations to observe critical components of the ecosystem and to experience virtual simulations related to causality. Our early findings show a variety of ways in which immersive virtual environments and augmented realities complement each other in student motivation and learning.

Chris Dede
Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies
Harvard Graduate School of Education

WORKSHOP: Learning About Ecosystems through Immersion in Virtual Worlds

iED 2012 BOSTON SUMMIT WORKSHOP : EcoMUVE, HARVARD GRADUATE SCHOOL OF EDUCATIONEcoMUVE is a multi-user virtual environment (MUVE)-based curriculum that is designed to support middle-school learners developing an understanding of complex causality in ecosystems.

The EcoMUVE curriculum is a collaborative, inquiry-based, simulated ecosystem experience to support learners developing an understanding of complex causality in ecosystems. It consists of two two-week MUVE-based modules, Pond and Forest; each module centers around an immersive, simulated ecosystem that represents a complex ecological scenario. Pilot data from EcoMUVE has shown promising results on gains in student learning and motivation.

In this hands-on workshop, participants will be given the opportunity to experience the EcoMUVE Pond module from the student’s perspective, using virtual avatars to explore a 3D virtual pond and the surrounding area, and seeing realistic organisms in their natural habitats. Participants will visit the pond over a number of virtual “days” and discover on one day that many fish in the pond have died. Participants will make observations; collect measurements of water (e.g., temperature, dissolved oxygen, phosphates), weather, and population data; talk with virtual residents; and even track specific atoms over time. They will share data with their teammates and work together to solve the mystery.

iED 2012 Overview

The world's leading experts in virtual worlds, learning games, educational simulations, and mixed/augmented reality convene June 14-16 in Boston for iED 2012. The three-day Summit is open to the global academic community and experts in immersion, simulation, learning games, virtual reality and full, augmented and mixed reality (FAM). Building on the success of the previous seven years of Immersive Education conferences, iED 2012 has a special focus on learning games, serious games, game-based teaching and learning and full, augmented and mixed reality.

Immersive Education : iED 2012 BostoniED Summits are official Immersive Education Initiative conferences organized specifically for educators, researchers, and administrators.

iED Summits consist of presentations, panel discussions, break-out sessions and workshops that provide attendees with an in-depth overview of immersive learning platforms, technologies and cutting-edge research from around the world.

These unique events feature new and emerging virtual worlds, learning games, educational simulations, mixed/augmented reality, and related teaching tools, techniques, technologies, standards and best practices.


Thousands of Members Worldwide

The Immersive Education Initiative is a non-profit international collaboration of universities, colleges, research institutes, consortia and companies that are working together to define and develop open standards, best practices, platforms, and communities of support for virtual reality and game-based learning and training systems. Thousands of faculty, teachers, researchers, staff, administrators and students are members of the Immersive Education Initiative.


About Immersive Education
Immersive Education ( combines interactive 3D graphics, commercial game and simulation technology, virtual reality, voice chat (Voice over IP/VoIP), Web cameras (webcams) and rich digital media with collaborative online course environments and classrooms. Immersive Education gives participants a sense of "being there" even when attending a class or training session in person isn't possible, practical, or desirable, which in turn provides educators and students with the ability to connect and communicate in a way that greatly enhances the learning experience. Unlike traditional computer-based learning systems, Immersive Education is designed to immerse and engage students in the same way that today's best video games grab and keep the attention of players. Immersive Education supports self-directed learning as well as collaborative group-based learning environments that can be delivered over the Internet or using fixed-media such as CD-ROM and DVD. Shorter mini-games and interactive lessons can be injected into larger bodies of course material to further heighten and enrich the Immersive Education experience.

Immersive learning and immersive teaching ("Immersive Education") are enabled by the Media Grid.

About the Media Grid
The Media Grid is a public utility for digital media. Based on new and emerging distributed computational grid technologies, the Media Grid builds upon existing Internet and Web standards to create a unique network optimized for digital media delivery, storage, and processing. As an on-demand public computing utility, a range of software programs and Web sites can use the Media Grid for delivery and storage of rich media content, media processing, and computing power. The Media Grid is an open and extensible platform that enables a wide range of applications not possible with the traditional Internet alone, including: Massive Media on Demand (MMoD); Interactive digital cinema on demand; Immersive Education (immersive teaching and immersive learning); Truly immersive multiplayer games and Virtual Reality (VR); Hollywood movie and film rendering, special effects, and composition; Real-time rendering of high resolution graphics; Real-time visualization of complex weather patterns; Real-time protein modeling and drug design; Telepresence, telemedicine, and telesurgery; Vehicle and aircraft design and simulation; Visualization of scientific and medical data.

The Grid Institute leads the design and development of the global Media Grid through the open standards organization in collaboration with industry, academia, and governments from around the world.

To learn more about the Media Grid, Immersive Education or the Education Grid visit:, and