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Ruth Fruland

Educational Researcher
Currently associated with the Learning in Virtual Environments project.

Ruth's academic and professional interests were originally grounded in the physical sciences. Both her undergraduate and master's degrees are in geology, and she worked as a geologist from 1966 to 1984 for NASA at the Johnson Space Center, and from 1985 to 1997 for Battelle at the Hanford Site in eastern Washington, before returning to graduate school in education.

As a grad student Ruth learned about the HIT Lab through Professor Bill Winn, a cognitive scientist, in the College of Education. One of Bill's long-standing research interests has been how people learn with technology. Ruth became involved with one of the research projects that he was leading at the HIT Lab, called Virtual Puget Sound (VPS) in 1998.

VPS involved an iterative, collaborative process of designing a fully immersive, virtual reality version of a dynamic, 3-dimensional oceanographic model of Puget Sound and testing its usefulness for teaching oceanographic principles. Ruth was a research assistant on the VPS project up until 2005.

Over time, results from the VPS research and development convinced her that games and simulations, including those based on complex, scientific models, provide powerful learning experiences for students, and that game and simulation R&D was an important area for educational research.

Ruth's research interests concern how systems theory can be applied as a paradigm and methodology at the level of teacher education to develop a systems approach to teaching. To ensure consistency and alignment between teacher education programs in academia and the K-12 system, her research interests also include applying systems theory to develop a suite of coherent, systems-based games and simulations to help students learn both disciplinary and interdisciplinary content and problem-solving skills.

Her objective in working at the HIT Lab is to realize application of the R&D related to games and simulations. This would include, ideally, creating a model of education that integrates games and simulations into K-12 classrooms in principled and effective ways, along with a concommitent suite of games and simulations that uses available technologies to bring interactive games and simulations to students and educators in formal and informal learning environments.

Outside of the lab and in the outdoors Ruth enjoys hiking, kayaking/canoing, and gardening. Indoors, she enjoys the social, cultural, political, and intellectual opportunities that the Seattle area provides: street fairs, Solstice festivals, film, theater, and the rich diversity of speakers and ideas. All by herself, she loves to read.