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RiverWebSM Water Quality Simulator

About RiverWebSM

Initiated by National Center for Supercomputing Applications or NCSA, the lead organization for the National Computational Science Alliance, the RiverWebSM Program leverages emerging modeling, simulation, visualization and web technologies to facilitate engaged learning about river basin processes among diverse audiences.

Our broad goals are to promote science-based, citizen and stakeholder participation in watershed management and policy, and to bridge environmental research with education, formal with informal learning, and government with citizenry.

Central to RiverWeb is the concept of the Digital River Basin (DRB) , a digital exploratorium in which vivid, dynamic, digital representations of river systems and processes can be investigated over varying spatial and time scales through novel display and interaction environments, accessible from museums, classrooms and the web.

In prototyping the RiverWebSM Water Quality Simulator, we aim to design a sound pedagogic and technical framework for structured, individual or group explorations of water quality issues, within the context of the secondary science curriculum. As such, the Water Quality Simulator represents an initial step in developing a number of "online science labs" we term "WebSims." (Verona, 2000). The vision behind "WebSims" is to develop web-mediated learning environments that enable students to "collect" data and visualize and critically evaluate graphical representations of dynamic changes in variables. A digital notebook linked to a database of questions tied to simulation variables offers a mechanism by which the student can make visible his/her thinking by recording observations, articulating hypotheses to explain and/or predict the behavior of selected variables, and citing appropriate evidence (Linn and Hsi, 2000). The notebook and allied question database enable teachers to structure student investigations, assess the learning process as it unfolds, and provide scaffolding to connect students\x92 existing ideas and notions with new data they encounter during their explorations.

Equally important to the WebSim vision is community-building among both students and teachers. WebSims will foster team-based learning by groups of students at multiple locations, drawing on the experience of initiatives such as Kids as Global Scientists (Songer, 1996). WebSims will also entail establishing an online collaborative materials development environment (CMDE) in which communities of teachers use, assess and/or co-develop learning materials focused on a growing database of simulations built for and with fellow-educators (Verona, 2000).


Brown, A. L. (1992). Design experiments: Theoretical and methodological challenges in creating complex interventions in classroom settings. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 2(2), 141-178.

Linn, M., His, S. (2000). Computers, Teachers, Peers. Science Learning Partners. Mawah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Songer, N. B. (1996). Exploring Learning Opportunities in Coordinated Network-Enhanced Classrooms: A case of Kids as Global Scientists. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 5(4). 297-327.

Verona, M.E. (2000). WebSims: Creating an Online Science Lab. In Vandervert L. and Shavinina, L. (eds). Provocative and Do-Able Futures for CyberEducation: Leadership for the Cutting Edge. New York: Liebert, Inc.

Last Modified: October 2000
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