October 31, 2011

Return of the 3D Jedi (2)

The strength of Epps’ 3D Academy described in last week’s post is based on the notion that relevance, context and authenticity in learning really do matter. Epps explains:

"We see this as a great opportunity for students to use a 3D skill set to give them a better [and more relevant] understanding of math and science concepts. And what better concepts are there to visualize than the very concepts that they’re weakest in? If they can design it, they’re going to have to understand it. It’s a win-win: the student has now mastered a specific weakness in math or science and the teacher now has a tool that she can use with other students."
Students designing  and testing stereoscopic 3D content in North Carolina
Here’s how Epps strategy works: imagine a middle school math student who still struggles with fractions. Working closely with her math teacher, Epps anticipates crafting a design-build project that fortifies the student’s own math skills, while at the same time provides the teacher with a 3D visualization tool that can help instruct other struggling students. In designing this project, according to Epps, our young middle schooler “will soon acquire a better-than-average understanding of fractions that will get her past this unfortunate hurdle in math skills.” (Social studies applications are also possible. During middle school “I made pyramids, burial chambers, and a simulation of the launch and orbit of the Sputnik satellite,” Ben Dibble recalls.)

Asking your students to design stereoscopic 3D learning objects can also leverage improved student performance in critically important science skills. Creating a visual model of the human cell can contribute directly to mastery of learning by students who struggle to understand abstract concepts that they ordinarily cannot see. Asking students to create stereoscopic 3D learning objects that require precise measurement, metric conversion, and tool calibration skills will go a long way toward cementing some of the most critical prerequisite skills in understanding science. 3D design projects also provide a powerful seedbed for improving other building blocks of science achievement, such as tentative explanation, putting raw data into graphical form, and, of course, technical writing.  

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