Biosphera thesis

Finally after two years and half of crazy work my Master thesis has been completed. This is the abstract:

Microworlds for Ecology Explorations:

From DigitalSeed to Biosphera in fostering children’s

understanding of plant biology


Mauro Cherubini

Master of Arts in Education by research
The essence of this study is the idea to use the human ability to notice patterns in the environment, alter these patterns and observe the consequences, as the key manipulatory experiences to grasp some ideas about plant biology. Some of the findings here contained show a positive impact of this framework in children’s interaction with plants. In addition, observations suggest that plant’s fragility and slow reaction to stimuli are factors responsible for children’s misconceptions and lack of interest in them. Two solutions found here will be described in terms of their design and evaluated. They are the DigitalSeed and the Biosphera, for each of which, an interplay between virtual reality and physical elements will constitute the strategy to facilitate development in children’s representations. The former highlights the concept of life cycle enabling the learner to “physically” feed a virtual seed; the latter enables the learner to define a “growth program” for a virtual plant bound to an actual plant. A key aspect of the design is the use of physical and virtual avenues of discovery, freeing the user to interact with the system, following non-linear paths of interaction, and testing multiple possible futures of the “plant story”. The main value of this work will rest in the design domain because no systematic study has been completed on the long–term impact of this technology on children’s understanding of plant biology.