Kelly Beckett is a graduate student in learning sciences at UW-Madison, a former horticulturalist and dot com fallout survivor. She holds a B.S. in Ornamental Horticulture and an M.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During breaks between her schooling, she spent a year traveling around the country completing different service projects as a member of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps. Before enrolling in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Kelly worked for a San Francisco based internet company and dreamed of one day becoming a mega-millionare. Unfortunately, the company is no longer a Nasdaq-in-waiting, and neither are those dreams. It was, however, fun while it lasted. Kelly is interested in the development of adolescents' ecological and environmental thinking. Her project, Ecology 2020 looks at how utilizing Geographic Information Systems as a technology-based learning environment affects and influences the development of this thinking.
Games for Thought: The Future of Education & How We can Get There.
"Before the city, there was the land." So begins William Cronon's book Nature's Metropolis, which argues that human beings are the architects and planners of cities, so good stewardship and good citizenship require an understanding of the relationship between the built and natural world.
One way students can gain an awareness of a city's ecological relationships is through urban simulation: for example, in computer games such as SimCity, where players solve urban problems by managing a fictitious urban environment.
Here we argue that before there was SimCity, there were real cities, and the real urban planners who organize their growth and development. And we show how an epistemic game -- a game based on the authentic practices of urban planning -- helps players think like urban planners about the complex relationships of urban ecology.
In Ecology 2020, high school students learn about urban ecology by working as urban planners, using an interactive planning model to redesign a popular downtown pedestrian mall.
The world of Ecology 2020 recruits players to new practices, identities, interests, and understandings, as part of a new way of seeing the world. Urban planners have a particular way of identifying, evaluating, and addressing urban issues. Our studies of the Ecology 2020 game show that students begin to think like urban planners by inhabiting a virtual world in which they are urban planners.