CTE’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) enhances STEM awareness and promotes STEM learning. The VLE is an immersive, multi-sensory, customizable simulation platform requiring contextual application of specific knowledge and critical thinking skills. Developed in collaboration with the JHU Applied Physics Lab, the VLE uses cutting-edge 3D technologies commonly found in the gaming industry, the military and medicine to engage students - particularly those students who are reluctant or at risk – in problem-based learning experiences. Chesapeake High School (CHS), a noncompetitive, comprehensive magnet school and STEM academy in the Baltimore County Public School System (BCPS), houses the VLE prototype. CHS focuses on preparing students, especially from underrepresented groups, to enter STEM careers.
The VLE prototype at CHS uses 3D computer graphics to accurately replicate two distinct physical environments: 1) The region surrounding the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington State, and 2) The Lunar South Pole. These virtual environments form the backdrop for exploring a variety of STEM curricular concepts in geometry, algebra, physics, biology, geology and environmental sciences. A fictional, high-tech vehicle provides the means for students to explore the simulation, communicating with virtual characters and each other while solving a variety of STEM-related challenges. The result is an engaging educational experience that feels like a video game but requires mathematical thinking and scientific inquiry in order to “win.”
“Many school children are gamers and emerging tech-savvy digital natives. They crave engaging experiences with new technologies and want to learn socially and collaboratively, using digital tools that allow them to participate in learning communities and to produce media and knowledge.” – James Paul Gee
CTE has worked closely with the BCPS science and math curriculum supervisors to create eight trans-disciplinary units delivered using a blended cycle of instruction that includes rotations between traditional classroom instruction, collaborative learning, immersion in the VLE and the use of multimedia and web resources. Initial observations and survey results support the hypothesis that the VLE holds great promise for engaging learners, sharpening critical thinking skills and bringing real-world context and purpose to learning, while exposing students to academic and career possibilities they may not have otherwise considered. For more information, contact Dave Peloff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410.516.9845
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Teacher Compass is a customizable online teacher evaluation and coaching tool developed by CTE. In 2009, marketing rights for the tool were licensed to Pearson, one of the world's largest education companies. Read more.
Need technology-infused lesson plans or access to a library of curriculum-correlated lesson plans? Check out Thinkport.