Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

A New Stereoscopic (3D) Media Database and Teaching Strategy for Use in Large-Lecture Introductory Geoscience Courses

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

A New Stereoscopic (3D) Media Database and Teaching Strategy for Use in Large-Lecture Introductory Geoscience Courses

Article excerpt


Stereopsis is the impression of depth created when the same three-dimensional (3D) object is viewed at two slightly different angles (binocular disparity), such as that caused by the spacing between the right and left human eyes (Howard and Rogers, 1995; p. 2). The same principle of stereopsis can be applied to a two-dimensional (2D) planar object, such as two photographs of a 3D object taken at slightly different angles-as long as each eye only views one of the images, the impression of depth can be created. The ability to view static 2D images in stereo first emerged in the 1830s with the invention of the stereoscope (Wheatstone, 1838).

Stereoscopes have long been used by geoscientists to view Earth's surface, and this has been described by some as the "next best thing to a personal view of the landscape" (Curran et al., 1984). Jensen (1978, p. 123) argued that if "the desired figure-ground relationship is best described as if it were a three-dimensional phenomenon.. .why not produce. . .maps capable of providing truly three-dimensional figure-ground relationships to improve comprehension?" Although geoscientists have long been fascinated with the potential of stereoscopic displays, traditionally, visualization in stereo was hindered by the need to use cumbersome handheld stereoscopes. Today, wide ranges of digital stereoscopic displays are possible, both inside and outside of academia (for a review of approaches, see Holliman et al., 2011). For geoscientists within academia, GeoWall technology is the most prevalent (e.g., Davis 2004; Anthamatten and Ziegler, 2006; Johnson et al., 2006; Slocum et al., 2007), presumably because of its ability to present stereoscopic images to large groups of people relatively inexpensively. At present, however, stereoscopic technology has not been widely adopted in higher education settings (Slocum et al., 2007; Hirmas et al., 2014). One reason for this is that the perceived expense of implementing a stereoscopic display system, including the monetary cost and the instructor-timecommitment cost of modifying current currículums and teaching methodologies, still outweighs the perceived benefit gained in student learning.

An additional consideration for installing and using stereoscopic displays in higher education classrooms is that the benefit of stereoscopic technology in enhancing student learning is not fully understood. Several studies have examined the effectiveness of stereoscopic displays in higher education (e.g., Anthamatten and Ziegler, 2006; Kelly and Riggs, 2006; Slocum et al., 2007; Hirmas et al., 2014). In these studies, students appear to be more engaged in learning when using stereoscopic displays; however, in other studies, despite engagement, student learning does not significantly improve when using the technology (Cid and Lopez, 2010) or is only improved under specific classroom conditions (Hirmas et al., 2014). Clearly, many lingering questions remain regarding the affinity of stereoscopic displays in higher education and student learning.

Notwithstanding these results, stereoscopic presentation has become mainstream outside of academia through 3D movies, video games, and television. For example, of all U.S. and Canadian moviegoers who viewed a movie in a theater in 2011, about half (51%) viewed at least one movie in 3D (MPAA, 2012). In another example, as of 2011, 32% of U.S. theater screens were formatted for 3D viewing, which was nearly double the number of screens in 2010 (MPAA, 2012). Outside of cinema, 3D display is becoming more mainstream in television, primarily through cable and satellite video (e.g., Discovery 3D, and HBO 3D). Mobile devices are also enabling 3D viewing. For example, by 2015 an estimated 30% of all mobile gaming devices (e.g., Play Station Portable, Nintendo 3DS) will have 3D capable screens, and by 2014, an estimated 18% of all tablet devices will display in 3D (3DHC, 2012).

The widespread adoption of stereoscopic technology outside of academia has two important implications for institutions of higher education: (1) incoming students are familiar and comfortable with stereoscopic technology through their own experiences, which makes the transition to the technology for the student potentially seamless; and (2) technology costs, which were once prohibitive, have decreased dramatically to the point that stereoscopic-ready liquid-crystal-display (LCD) projectors, for example, are comparable in cost to traditional LCD projectors. …

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