January 4, 2011

Why Bother With 3D?

Clara Peller’s infamous invective, “Where’s the beef?” becomes our starting point here: why bother with 3D in the first place? Isn’t this just another eye-glazing entry in the long line of technology-based distractions? That’s initially where my thoughts took me, I must confess. Beyond the obvious populist growth of 3D visualization in film, video gaming, and military training, what does it have to offer teaching and learning?

Notwithstanding heavy National Science Foundation funding of 3D visualization technologies over recent decades, understanding the power of 3D in learning remains a budding effort in the research pipeline. Some recent research in K12 classrooms, however, may point the way toward the effective use of 3D in reducing the achievement gap, especially for target populations.

In a large state-funded study of the use of 3D interactive simulation in math and science learning in Illinois, the pre- and post-test results of over 1,070 students provided the following subgroup data:

Free/Reduced Lunch: 32% increase
Full Paid Lunch: 31% increase
Non-white: 32% increase
White: 32% increase
IEP Students: 31% increase
Non-IEP Students: 32% increase
Female: 35% increase
Male: 29% increase
Math ISAT Students at Below: 31% increase
Math ISAT Students at Meets: 33% increase
Math ISAT Students at Exceeds: 30% increase

 (Study conducted in 2007)

Clearly, we need to continue exploring and researching the potential of 3D in learning.

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