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published: April, 2002

Archives & Museum Informatics, 2002.
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License


Museum-Related Multimedia and Virtual Environments for Teaching and Learning Science
Chris Dede, Harvard University, USA
Kevin Ruess, George Mason University, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations 2

MUVEES is a research and development project that draws from the talents and resources of museum professionals, science educators, instructional technologists, computer scientists, and curriculum developers. MUVEES is a multi-user, interactive environment that is designed to run on PCs typically found in schools or available to children at home or in other after-school settings.

The purpose of this research project, funded by the National Science Foundation, is to build a multi-user virtual environment experiential simulator (MUVEES) in order to find an engaging way to teach science in a way that draws on curiosity and play. The environment is enriched with digitized historical museum artifacts to enhance middle school students' motivation and learning about science and to study its impact on society.

The combination of seldom-exhibited museum artifacts with science curriculum extends museum outreach to portions of collections that are not exhibited in the museum space as well as extending geographical reach to the range of the Internet. Many middle-school students seldom go to museums, even local museums, and MUVEES offers them access to museum collections through an interface familiar to them from playing computer games, using chat communications tools, and using the Web. Tying the museum-based content to the curriculum encourages teachers to use MUVEES as a core classroom activity for learning science.

MUVEES enables multiple simultaneous participants to:

- access virtual architectures configured for learning,

- interact with digital artifacts,

- represent themselves through graphical "avatars",

- communicate both with other participants and with computer-based agents, and

- enact collaborative activities of various types.

The project's educational environments are extending current multi-user virtual environment capabilities in order to study the science learning potential of interactive virtual museum exhibits and participatory historical situations in science units.

George Mason University's Graduate School of Education and Department of Computer Science, Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, the Division of Information Technology and Society in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH), and pilot teachers in four states are co-designing these MUVEES and implementing them in a variety of middle school settings.

In particular, this project is studying how the design characteristics of these learning experiences affect students' motivation and educational outcomes, as well as the extent to which digitized museums can aid pupils' performance on assessments related to national science standards. This research also is examining both the process needed to successfully implement MUVEES in typical classroom settings and ways to enable strong learning outcomes across a wide range of individual student characteristics.