Digital Learning Group

NCIL has been exploring the potential of digital media for over a decade, ranging from interactive experiences for museums and libraries to online games. Digital media doesn't simply create more engaging experiences, it can allow learners to interact with data, explore simulations, and connect to each other through social media. Their potential only increases as portable, connected devices become more commonplace, allowing us to reach people in a variety of different environments and contexts. Our approach is consistent with the Cyberlearning Task Force's recommendation for NSF to "emphasize the transformative power of information and communications technology for learning, from K to grey", and explore technologies that allow interaction with scientific data and visualizations while bridging multiple learning environments.

NCIL is a leader in developing educational games for use in museum and library exhibit displays (e.g. the development of Google-Earth powered interactives). In Finding NEO, we have used the open source Box2D physics engine to create a browser based Flash game that directly targets well documented educational issues concerning gravity and the laws of motion. The Digital Learning Group has recently focused on exploring the educational use of multi-touch tables (e.g. Planet Families) and the recently launched Microsoft Surface (e.g. Space Weather Outreach). The Surface table-based display allows multiple users to interact with digital information, grabbing and moving virtual objects with gestures and touches. Acting as a cross between a coffee table and an Apple iPhone, the Surface's multi-touch interface invites people to explore and interact with multimedia content in a natural, social way. The Surface provides a tremendous opportunity for engaging the public in software-based simulations, particularly in informal environments such as museums and libraries. Digital Learning projects rely on contributions from the Exhibition Development Group and Learning Research and Evaluation Group.

If you are interested in collaborating with NCIL on producing a digital interactive, please contact James Harold at

Current Projects

  • Space Weather Center (Funding: NSF)
  • MarsQuest Online (Funding: NSF)
  • Alien Earths Online (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • Giant Worlds Online (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • Finding NEO (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • Great Balls of Fire: Comets, Asteroids, and Meteors (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • MyStar (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • Planet Families (Funding: NASA)
  • BrainPoP Partnership
  • Making Space Social (Funding: NSF and NASA)
  • Discover Earth (Funding: NSF)
  • STAR Library Education Network: a hands-on learning program for libraries and their communities (Funding: NSF)