Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Web-Based Spatial Training Using Handheld Touch Screen Devices

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Web-Based Spatial Training Using Handheld Touch Screen Devices

Article excerpt


Progress made in technology, user interfaces and recent developments in the field of communications (Wi-Fi, GPRS, 3G, etc.), have created a wide range of possibilities for users. Devices such as PDAs, mobile phones, videogames consoles, MP3/MP4 or ultra mobile PCs (UMPC), now increasingly incorporate one or more of this technologies available. Furthermore, improvement in screens and new interfaces, together with multimedia and storage capacities for podcasts, videos, photos, files, etc., eases interaction with a huge range of contents (Guerrero, 2006; Johnson, Levine & Smith, 2008).

Play, in its diverse forms, constitutes an important part of children's cognitive and social development (Piaget, 1951; Provost, 1990). Several authors have analyzed the impact of games on education and there is wide empirical evidence supporting the positive effects of computer games as instructional tools (Amory, Naicker, Vincent & Adams, 1999). Recent studies have brought attention to the educational potential of handheld devices. Some tools have been tested on these devices, indicating they strengthen and support learning in fields such as languages (Thornton & Houser, 2005; Lu, 2008; Chen & Chung, 2008), science and natural history (Facer, Joiner, D., Reid, Hull & Kirk, 2004; Sanchez, Salinas & Saenz, 2007), and also provide an additional tool in common learning (Corlett, Sharples, Bull & Chan, 2005; Clough, Jones, McAndrew & Scanlon, 2007; Hoff, Wehling & Rothkugel, 2008; Chris, 2008).

Spatial skills may be associated with success in scientific areas (Smith, 1964). Non-academic activities, such as playing with construction toys as a young child and playing three dimensional computer games seem to have strong relationship with spatial visualization ability. The potential of video games or computer games for improving spatial skills have been analyzed by numerous research (Deno, 1995; Sorby, 2007). Most recent research in the field of spatial abilities focuses on how these relate to new technologies (Rafi, Samsudin & Ismail, 2006; Rafi, Samsudin & Said, 2008,; Martin-Dorta, Saorin & Contero, 2008; Rafi & Samsudin, 2009).

Our work focuses on mobility and new user interfaces that handheld touch screen devices offer, in a non-formal learning context, targeting development of spatial ability. This research has addressed two main objectives: first, analyzing the effects that training may have on spatial visualisation using the educational content developed for this pilot study; and second, evaluating students experience while using handheld touch screen devices and their degree of satisfaction with this online learning course proposed.

Spatial abilities and improvement tools

Over the last half century, spatial abilities have been given increasing recognition and, despite the fact that not so much attention has been paid to them as to verbal and numeric abilities, research accentuates their importance in the traditional fields of engineering, technology and art, as well as in almost any other aspect of life. As it has repercussions in almost all scientific and technical fields, spatial abilities remain an active field of study, especially in the engineering area. Considered as a component of intelligence throughout history, we can understand it as the ability of manipulating objects and their parts mentally in a two-dimensional and three-dimensional space. From the point of view of measuring it, we can define it as the ability to imagine rotations of 2D and 3D objects as a whole body (Spatial Relations) and the ability to imagine rotations of objects or their parts in 3D spatial by folding and unfolding (Spatial Visualisation) (Saorin, 2006).

Work done in recent years has been undertaken in the areas listed below:

* Measuring the spatial abilities of students who come into university, by studying the prior educational factors that could have an impact on these results: gender, age, previous experiences, etc. …

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