Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Pilot Study Using the Augmented Reality Sandbox to Teach Topographic Maps and Surficial Processes in Introductory Geology Labs

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Pilot Study Using the Augmented Reality Sandbox to Teach Topographic Maps and Surficial Processes in Introductory Geology Labs

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Spatial thinking is a fundamental skill for discovery and problem solving in many disciplines, especially the geosciences. Spatial thinking abilities-such as describing the shape, position, and orientation of objects; creating and reading maps; and visualizing processes in three dimensions-are critical to understanding the complex processes that take place on Earth (NRC, 2006). Despite its importance, students often have difficulty with spatial thinking and face challenges such as understanding scale, symbology, and how to connect two-dimensional (2D) representations with their three-dimensional (3D) counterparts (Chang et al., 1985; Ishikawa and Kastens, 2005; Liben and Titus, 2012). Educators have used a variety of models-physical, virtual, and augmented reality (AR) models-in an effort to improve spatial thinking ability.

Physical models such as raised relief maps and sandboxes have been shown to improve understanding of topographic maps, help students understand the link between 2D representations and 3D objects, and improve student engagement (Lord, 1985; Feldman et al., 2010; Kuehn 2012; Atit et al., 2015). In addition, virtual models such as interactive stereoscopic visualizations like the GeoWall (Johnson et al., 2006) can also support spatial learning, for instance, by allowing students to see through an object and view objects from multiple angles, by providing environmental context, and by preparing students for outdoor field research (Johnson et al., 2006; Reynolds et al., 2006; Rapp et al., 2007; Keehner et al., 2008). While animations and interactive models are common in geosciences education, the uses of AR are relatively limited but expanding (e.g., an AR sea-level-rise tool has recently been developed for teaching geoscience; Kintisch, 2013). AR models may make it possible to combine the interactive benefits of physical models with the flexibility and diversity of virtual tools.

Caudell and Mizell (1992) coined the term "augmented reality (AR)" to describe overlaying computer-generated and computer-presented information onto the real world. AR (1) combines real and virtual images, (2) presents an interactive image in real time, and (3) displays a scene in 3D, where real and virtual objects are accurately aligned (Azuma, 1997). The presently pervasive navigational aids used in modern automobiles are examples of AR devices that superimpose digital sightlines onto a camera view of a road, while the plethora of popular video games exploits virtual reality. The former is closer to the real environment, and the latter is closer to the virtual environment. Many augmented or virtual reality devices use mobile computers, head-worn displays, and devices for global positioning system and wireless Web access. These systems often overlay computergenerated information and images onto real buildings, room interiors, and exterior landscapes, among other settings.

In a systematic review of research and applications of AR to education, Bacca et al. (2014) describe the uses, advantages, limitations, effectiveness, challenges, and features of AR in education by evaluating 32 studies published between 2003 and 2013. Their results indicate that only 40% of the uses of AR in education are in science and that 85% of these applications have been to explain a given topic and augment information about it, as opposed to only 12.5% for laboratory (lab) experiments. Cai et al. (2013) describe an AR 3D technique used in a physics course to conduct an interactive and integrated convex-lens, image-forming experiment and an application in chemistry enabling students to more readily envision the composition of substances in a microworld (Cai et al., 2014). Andújar et al. (2011) developed augmented online labs for use in engineering education at the University of Huelva. Their simulated lab experiences are aimed at giving the user the sensation that lab functions can be handled just as they would be in the physical lab classroom. …

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