October 17, 2011

Research in Europe

A large-scale European research project, under the leadership of Dr. Anne Bamford (University of the Arts, London, Wimbledon) just been released. The LiFE I (Learning in Future Education) study examined the use of stereo 3D in classrooms in seven countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, The Netherlands, and Sweden. The project involved fifteen schools, fifteen classes, forty-seven teachers, and well over 740 students. This report is free, and available by registering at this link.

It is clear that we are observing continued evidence that the educational advantages of using 3D in the classroom reverberate across oceans and distinct cultures. It appears we are improving our understanding of the way stereoscopic 3D affects the learner’s brain, how it impacts learning in the classroom, and how teachers can leverage this new medium to an advantage.


  1. This is disappointing. I read the white paper. The data can all be easily explained by novelty. Using a between groups design in this case leads to one group of interested and excited students and teachers ("Look, we are getting new cool technology"), who then attend more (students) and teach more emphatically (teachers). The quotes even admit to this!

    This is called the Hawthorne Effect, psychological scientists have known about it for years, and it is why we use double-blind studies or at least within groups designs. Whoever funded this wasted their money, unless it was someone who wishes to sell schools more technology.

    When the novelty wears off, and it will, it is back to square one, with a ton of money spent on equipment. Show us it works using a more rigorous design.

  2. Thanks for the comment. I have long agreed that research on 3D in the classroom is. at best, sparse. You are referring here to the "gold standard" of rigorous research, which is certainly needed to paint a clearer picture of effectiveness. But I also value the full spectrum of available research: classroom "action research" conducted by teachers, informal research (such as the project undertaken at UC-Davis-Tahoe found in an earlier research post in this blog), and other meaningful, although less rigorous study attempts also cited in this blog. More rigorous research projects are now under way at Augustana College (NSF funded), the University of Kansas (NSF funded), and even the BVS3D study, which is due for release very soon. Each new study adds to our knowledge and understanding of the 3D classroom experience. This European study may not have met expectations in terms of the gold standard of research, but it still informs us. Much of the design of this study appears to have been controlled by the legislative limitations and research constraints of the seven countries involved. I believe one country would not permit the release of their data, as well.
    All studies have some form of constraints, and, of course, most studies lead to a call for more research.

    I would disagree with the notion of the Hawthorne effect having any significant influence at all, however, for two reasons:

    1. Subsequent research has failed to duplicate the supposed Hawthorne effect in various experimental settings (Parsons).
    2. In our year-and-a-half study in BVSD, this tool continued to motivate and compel the attention of students, and does so now, two years later. We believe this continued benefit is largely based on how 3D (or any visualization strategies) affects the brain.

    Still, there will certainly arise entirely different research errors that may indeed play unwanted roles in this and future studies, and will require our close scrutiny (hence the need for double-blind studies and increased rigor). These include volunteer bias, selection bias, confirmatory and experimenter bias, to name but a few.