The Round Earth Project

October 1st, 1997 - September 1st, 2000

Categories: Applications, Education, Human Factors, Tele-Immersion

Viewpoints of Earth World, during teaching session
Viewpoints of Earth World, during teaching session


The Round Earth Project is investigating how virtual reality technology can be used to help teach concepts that are counter-intuitive to a learner’s currently held mental model.

Virtual reality can be used to provide an alternative cognitive starting point that does not carry the baggage of past experiences. In particular, we are comparing two strategies for using virtual reality to teach children that the Earth is round when their everyday experience tells them that it is flat.

One strategy starts the children off on the Earth and attempts to transform their current mental model of the Earth into the spherical model.

The second strategy starts the children off on a small asteroid where they can learn about the sphericality of the asteroid independent of their Earth-bound experiences. Bridging activities then relate their asteroid experiences back to the Earth.

In each of the strategies, two children participate at the same time. One child participates from a CAVE while the other participates from an Immersadesk.

The child in the CAVE travels around the Earth or the asteroid to retrieve items to complete a task, but can not find these items without assistance.

The child at the Immersadesk with a view of the world as a sphere provides this assistance. The children must reconcile their different views to accomplish their task.