With the support of the National Science Foundation, this project explores the utility of physical immersion and multisensory perception to enhance science education. One objective of Project ScienceSpace is to investigate whether sensorially immersive, constructivist learning can remediate typical misconceptions in the mental models of reality held by many students. Another is to study whether mastery of traditionally difficult subjects (relativity and quantum mechanics, for example) is enhanced through learning-by-doing.
These subjects are difficult to teach because learners cannot draw analogies to personal experiences that provide metaphors for many science phenomena. ScienceSpace enables learners to experience these phenomena and inculcates an instinctive, qualitative understanding as a motivation and basis for future study. ScienceSpace now consists of three virtual worlds that address Newtonian mechanics, electrostatics, and molecular structure. So far, research has shown significant learning gains (compared with traditional approaches) on the part of both high school and college science students.
R. Bowen Loftin
Virtual Environment Technology Laboratory
University of Houston
4800 Calhoun, MS CSC-3475
Houston, Texas 77204-3475 USA
Chris Dede and the National Science Foundation