Multimedia, Spatial Visualization, and the Earth Science and Space Classroom

Glavich, Carrie, M. (2006) Multimedia, Spatial Visualization, and the Earth Science and Space Classroom. Masters thesis, The University of Texas, Dallas.


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It is important that Earth and Space science educators understand how their students develop the ability to visualize three-dimensional (3D) concepts. Without spatial visualization skills, student learning may be limited by incomplete mental models or misconceptions. The purpose of this study is to provide Earth and Space Science instructors with information on what spatial skills that are needed in the classroom can be integrated from outside sources. Two specific questions guided the research: (1) Do spatial skills developed in one academic subject transfer to another academic subject? (2) Do spatial skills developed outside of the classroom via 3D multimedia have a significant impact on performance on academic tasks? Fifty-three students at the University of Texas at Dallas were tested on three types of spatial tasks: spatial rotation ability, geo-spatial penetrative ability, and geometry of the EarthMoon-Sun system. Demographic data collected included academic major, previous coursework in geology and astronomy, and computer usage habits. The computer usage data was divided into three-dimensional multimedia use, and other types of computer use such as word processing and Internet browsing. Results indicate that spatial rotation ability developed through in-class activities of spatially demanding majors can be transferred to new topics regardless of content knowledge. Geosciences and Arts and Technology (ATECH) majors scored significantly better than students from less spatially demanding majors on geo-spatial and spatial rotation tasks. The number of geology courses completed also increased spatial rotation ability. However, spatial rotation and spatially demanding coursework were not related to performance on astronomy questions. This suggests that the type of spatial visualization used to solve this type of astronomy question is not spatial rotation. Additionally, use of 3D multimedia outside of the classroom significantly increased performance on spatial rotation and geospatial tasks, but had no effect on astronomy spatial tasks. Thus, spatial rotation can transfer between academic subjects and from non-academic subjects, and be used to solve some academic tasks. However, spatial rotation is not the only factor that determines success in spatially demanding courses.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: Astronomy Education Research
Depositing User: Mr Saeed Salimpour
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2017 18:30
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2018 09:11

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