LSL/OER Talk: Beyond Serious Games: Computational scientific inquiry with agent-based virtual environments for understanding complex biological and climate systems

LSL/OER Talk: Beyond Serious Games: Computational scientific inquiry with agent-based virtual environments for understanding complex biological and climate systems

Date & Time

04 April 2013, 00:00




Learning Sciences Lab (LSL)
Office of Education Research (OER)



Events Details

Michael J. Jacobson
Faculty of Education and Social Work
The University of Sydney


The use of games to serve educational purposes, sometimes referred to as “serious games,” has been receiving considerable recent attention. Implicit in much of the research in this area is that learning mainly occurs in the virtual experiences of the serious game and that learners will in turn be able to apply or use their new understandings and knowledge skills to new problems and contexts. In contrast, the research discussed in this talk explores the thesis that virtual experiences may be able to reflect salient aspects of the cultural practices of science as part of the learning activities; that is, learning does not occur “in” the virtual experiences of a serious game, rather, learning is mediated by virtual experiences that reflect culturally authentic practices in modern science. Specifically, the practice of science in the 21st century is increasingly embracing computational modeling techniques to compliment traditional quantitative and observational approaches for conducting research. Yet, despite calls that students learn science by doing science as inquiry, students in Australia and internationally have relatively few opportunities to do computational scientific inquiry in ways that mirror computational modeling being done in scientific research. In this talk, I discuss work over the past two years in which my team has developed an agent-based virtual environment consisting of an immersive virtual world for experiencing and exploring a complex ecosystem. The system incorporates predator-prey interactions based on computational biology modeling techniques that are linked to an agent-based modeling tool. I discuss findings from 2 classroom studies involving the use of the Omosa Virtual World for students to engage in computational scientific inquiry as they learned about experimental design and a predator-prey ecosystem. Implications of this approach are discussed.

Biography about Prof. Michael Jacobson:

Michael J. Jacobson, PhD is a Professor and Chair of Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney. He also is the Co-director of the Centre for Research on Computer-supported Learning and Cognition (CoCo), and Deputy Director, Institute for Innovation in Science and Mathematics Education in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, and an Affiliate of the New England Complex Systems Institute. Previously, he was an Associate Professor in the Learning Sciences Laboratory at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and the Senior Associate Director and an Associate Professor at the Korea University Center for Teaching and Learning in Seoul, Korea. Dr. Jacobson has also held faculty and research positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Vanderbilt University, and The University of Georgia, and he has been involved with organizational and international consulting activities. His research has focused on the design of learning technologies to foster deep conceptual understanding, conceptual change, and knowledge transfer in challenging conceptual domains. Most recently, his work has explored learning in agent-augmented multi-user virtual environments and with agent-based modeling and visualization tools, as well as cognitive and learning issues related to understanding new scientific perspectives emerging from the study of complex systems. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1991.