Schools have long fallen short in helping students to develop the skills necessary to engage in scientific inquiry. Emerging technology-based programs can potentially address this shortfall, but the field lacks clear models of instructional materials capable of doing so. The VELscience project seeks to provide a model for one type of software (virtual environments for learning, or VELs) designed to engage students in student-directed inquiry. In student-directed inquiry, students are given a topic or task, then pose questions, design the investigation, collect and analyze data, draw conclusions and publish their findings. This study examined the effectiveness of this model through observations of middle school students who completed Hurricane Hal, a VEL in which students determine the ecological impact of a natural disaster on a wetlands ecosystem. The results suggest that this program successfully engaged students in student-directed inquiry. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Computers & Education