EvoRoom is an immersive, room-sized simulation of a rainforest ecosystem modelled after Borneo in Southeast Asia. It merges the visuals and sounds of a rainforest with a secondary school classroom enhanced with technology, allowing students to work together as “field researchers” in the mixed reality environment.

The design of EvoRoom encompassed the physical classroom space, custom software applications, and science inquiry curricula:

Implemented within a “smart classroom” research environment, the room is equipped with computers, servers, projection displays, and customized software to coordinate the flow of participants and content materials, as well as to collect data.

Large wall-sized displays served to immerse students in a rainforest capable of transforming through time and environmental scenarios as students explored habitat and species. Aggregated visualizations on Smart Boards provided ambient feedback about class progress and supported teacher-led discourse.

Students would interact not only with their individual devices and their own small groups, but also with the class as a whole using networked applications, which:

  • deliver individual and group tasks
  • place students in small groups and distribute groups in the classroom space
  • scaffold student activities
  • collect observations, and
  • give updates and resources
  • …all in real-time.
Spanning 12-weeks, the integrated curriculum includes in-class activities, homework, a field trip to the zoo, as well as two collective inquiry activities in the EvoRoom environment.

One of the collective inquiry activities focuses on the topic of evolution. Students work individually, in small groups, and as a whole-class to gather evidence of evolution by observing changes in life forms within the simulation as it is advanced (by the teacher) across 200 million years.

The second collective inquiry activity focuses on the topic of biodiversity. Prior to the activity, students make predictions about how certain environmental factors (e.g., tsunami, earthquake, low rainfall) occurred within a single season could change the biodiversity of the rainforest over a five-year time span. In EvoRoom environment, students are presented with four different scenarios of the rainforest ecosystem, challenging them to explore the differences between these four rainforests and to locate the scenario that resulted from their assigned factor.

PhD Dissertation

My PhD dissertation examines students’ embodied interactions and collaborative learning in EvoRoom as a design-based research study enacted iteratively over three years. The mixed reality environment and collective inquiry curriculum was shown to support significant learning gains in evolution and biodiversity concepts, and identified patterns of interactions that supported student inquiry.

Selected Publications

  1. Lui, M. (2018). Designing for student interactions: The role of embodied interactions in mediating collective inquiry in an immersive simulation. Proceedings of ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’18), (pp. 2103-2112). ACM Press. [PDF] [ACM Digital Library]
  2. Lui , M. & Slotta, J. D. (2014). Immersive simulations for smart classrooms: exploring evolutionary concepts in secondary science, Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 23(1):57-80. DOI: 10.1080/1475939X.2013.838452
  3. Lui, M. & Slotta, J. D. (2014). Collective immersive simulations: A new approach to learning and instruction of complex biology topics. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS ’14) – Volume 1, (pp. 304-311). International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS). [PDF]
  4. Lui, M., Kuhn, A., Acosta, A., Quintana, C., & Slotta, J. D. (2014). Supporting learners in collecting and exploring data from immersive simulations in collective inquiry. Proceedings of ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’14), (pp. 2103-2112). ACM Press. [PDF] [ACM Digital Library]


  • The Globe & Mail – December 20, 2011
  • Maclean’s – January 26, 2012

Recent Work