Psychological benefits and educational potential of physically immersive artificial environment pedagogy

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Title: Psychological benefits and educational potential of physically immersive artificial environment pedagogy
Author: Ganskop, Dean
Abstract: Over the last decade, physically immersive artificial environments (PIAEs) have proliferated. These environments afford greater interactivity, which has been shown to increase learner understanding, knowledge retention, and interest in the subject (Bonwell & Eison, 1991, p. 3; Prince, 2004). It would follow, then, that PIAEs would have similar educational benefits. However, little research has been done to prove that such benefits exist. Immersive environments include 2-demensional and 2.5-dimensional on-screen displays, semi-immersive screens, and physically immersive setups, such as CAVE and blue-c (Display Systems: 3D & Advanced, 2008; Gross, n.d.). There are many perceived benefits to immersive environments. At present, their novelty seems to hold students' attention better than traditional environments. PIAEs may improve students' attitude toward the domain; provide contextual learning, constructivism, and experiential learning; allow students to visit physically inaccessible environments; and provide concrete representations of abstract concepts. Student interaction and multimodal interaction may be increased and students' spatial abilities may increase in physically immersive environments. A physically immersive artificial environment was developed at RIT, for which the students of two classes used and created immersive content. These students were tested to determine whether they exhibited differences in their science related attitudes, mental rotation abilities, and spatial orientation abilities after using the PIAE for a 10-week period. The study found inconclusive evidence regarding changes in science related attitudes and spatial orientation abilities, but did find evidence in support of the hypothesis that experiences in a physically immersive environment increase students' mental rotation abilities. The study lays the groundwork for further research into the educational benefits of physically immersive artificial environments.
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Date: 2010

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