InforMNs Home
Minnesota Learning Loop Teacher Resource Center
Videoconference Resources
Dome Technology and MN Regional Network
Digital Citizenship
Internet2 for MN Schools
Key Instructional Contact (KIC) Meetings
Minnesota Learning Commons HippoCampus page
National Resources for Teaching & Learning
MN State Resources for Teaching & Learning
TIES Technology Salary Surveys


2013 Colloquium on P-12 STEM Education

2013 Colloquium on P-12 STEM Education

August 5th-6th

University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center


Immersive learning

Session Presentation File

Workshop #1

Monday, August 5th


Presentors:   Joel Halvorson - Science Communications Consultant

Sarah Komperud - Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota

DeLaura McLellan - Jackson Middle School Observatory, Anoka Hennepin ISD

Emily Dare - University of Minnesota STEM Education Center


Session Description

A tour of the universe? A trip through the human heart?  How can teachers use data in a virtual environment to help students infer knowledge? How do we build learning experiences and curricula that capitalize on the potential?   A growing variety of “big data” and interactive tools are finding the way into the classroom.  Learn first-hand from educators who are using a process of guided inquiry in domed environments to help students intuit scientific understanding.


Session Abstract

You may be familiar with the portable, interactive, visualization lab known as the ExploraDome. What you may not know is that the interactive software tools used in this dome, are also in use by a K-16 community of educators working in fixed and portable systems. This session will feature the work of this dome network and the process of guided inquiry, which is used to infer knowledge. Unlike a movie, students are interactively guided though the virtual environment of choice, created dynamically from a wide array of scientific data. While it is entertaining to demonstrate this maturing technology, the purpose of this session is to stimulate a conversation with educators about the role of immersive visualization and learning.

A supposition: A critical literacy of the future is data literacy - the ability to use real data in meaningful ways to infer knowledge.  What does this literacy look like? How do we measure it? Perhaps most important for the educators, how do we build learning environments and curriculum that capitalizes on this potential? We live in a world awash in “big data”, and a question remains: How do we harness computer technology so that we can put this data to work helping educate students? One way is to create visualization spaces that mirror the hemisphere of the human brain (i.e. a dome) in conjunction with software designed to scale and manipulate data. Essentially facilitating student fluency through an intuitive manipulation of data in virtual environments.  These are big questions that participants will better understand and appreciate after this session.


To help illustrate this approach, workshop attendees will be guided through use of selected inquiry based material developed for the Immersive Earth Curriculum for Planetariums, a partnership between NASA and the Bell Museum targeting middle school students. This curriculum is designed to expose students to terms and key concepts prior to data immersion in a virtual environment. This step is critical so that students use evidence that is presented for establishing their own scientifically oriented questions before being immersed in data.  While there is a lack of research about interactive immersive learning, the UMN STEM Center has begun evaluating the strategies used by members of this dome network. This includes surveying students for feedback on their dome experiences and retention of learning. The early results from this work will be shared, and will help stimulate the conversation with participants.


Immersive learning in K-12 schools is in its early stages but is starting to take hold with origins in Minnesota schools. Today there are four Minnesota school districts that run an interactive domed visualization space similar to the ExploraDome. Three of these sites also happen to be renovations of traditional planetariums and are also the first K-12 sites in the world to incorporate the interactive tool known as Uniview.  These sites are unique learning laboratories designed to visually reinforce classroom lessons.  Students are provided an opportunity for observation, measurement, logical analysis and an infinite testing ground under a controlled classroom setting. This laboratory approach, very different from traditional planetarium instruction, means that students are not passive receptors of scientific facts but are immersed in the information. Teachers can elicit prior knowledge and interactively investigate regions of both earth and space. What makes the experience unique, and tailored to cover a wide range of STEM topics, is that it is built around spatially referenced data. This means it is not so much an astronomy tool as it is a tool for navigating through a vast array of data. Teachers are able to break through artificial scientific barriers, and put all topics in a proper contextual place and scale. Quite literally, they can seamlessly travel from the edge of the universe to a molecular scale, and their audience can be PHD physicists or pre-school children. Everyone is able to view the same data, and learn at an age and knowledge appropriate level. They are able to target the skills critical to science literacy: the ability for students to use scientific data to infer deeper meaning through investigation and inquiry. There is nothing about seemingly difficult topics like cosmology that should keep it out of the reach of a 5th grade student, except for our ability to provide a proper visual reference. Once barriers are removed, there is no end to what people can learn, appreciate, and comprehend.