Create to Learn /Learn to Create

This research is based on the observation that in the creative process of building virtual nature models, students start to learn about the plants and flowers. Virtual nature models may be thought of as learning artifacts, digital dioramas, and much like the educational impact noted in building a real diorama for a school lesson, similar results are achieved with virtual dioramas. Students are required to research data and information, increasing awareness and attention to facts, concepts, and the visual details of the real. I tell my students they must become like Leonardo da Vinci, or Ernst Haeckel, and become so familiar with the plants, to know it so well, so to become the plant. When they start to dream of the plant, then they will be able to create it to the highest levels of accuracy and realism required.

Virtual Dioramas

This trajectory of research on artificial artifacts used as knowledge stores, started with a simple question posed by my child, “Mamma, where does the tree end and the air begin?”

One of my first papers, submitted to CHI 2006, but eventually published with edits in, Harrington, M.C.R. (2006). Trees of life: Models of children's creative processes. Proceedings of the ACM DIS’06 Doctoral Consortium. June 28, 2006 State College, PA, USA. (PPT).

Interactive Narratives and Games Engines

"The Poetics of Games: Art, Poetry and Storytelling in Modern Game Design," Maria C. R. Harrington, Ph.D., Art Institute of Pittsburgh, 2008.

This was a guest lecture I gave to art students in game design at the Art Institute, (I gave a similar talk to the ETC CMU crowd, at the invitation of Drew Davidson).  I wanted to challenge students to think about game engines as a new artistic and aesthetic medium. One that could be used to create beauty, open to new perceptual dimensions, and analysis of reality. Not only consistent with traditional linear stories in text, games also allow branching and exploration of multiple stories, futures, and paths, thus creating a new artist medium for the artist intellectual. My aim was to inspire new forms of visual expression and to fully embrace the emotional power of these high fidelity, multi-media, electronic paints, fluid temporal canvases, and digital printing presses, and to leave cultural records of meaning for future generations.

Art Insitute of Pittsburgh, Maria C. R. Harrington, 2008

Virtual Human-Environment Models Used for Collaboration and Decision Support

2012-2013: Investigation and Evaluation of Virtual Worlds, 3D Environments, and Simulations for Alternative Learning, Collaboration, Co-creating, and Decision Support Formats: The Virtual SRU Campus Modeled in Google Earth and Second Life for a Course on Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

The purpose of this project is to learn how to best build, deploy and generalize the use of 3D virtual worlds and simulations, specifically Google Earth and Second Life, for teaching and learning across multiple locations. Virtual environments may be used for communication, collaboration, decision support, creativity and educational assessment. Our proposed project is to learn and test such tools. We plan to embed the curriculum of a class on sustainable entrepreneurship. These tools extend traditional teaching methods.  They will be used to express future realistic scenarios in context, for team-based decision support tasks of current-state simulations and multiple future-state scenarios and are expected to add substantially to the educational experience. Just as a spreadsheet may express multiple financial scenarios; our project is envisioned to allow multiple scenario co-creations and investigations of large complex physical and logical systems, thus pushing the boundaries of 21st century skills that go beyond Desire2Learn (D2L) and into the high-fidelity training simulations.