About the Round Earth Project
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 reconsile their different
views to accomplish their task.
To learn more about the two strategies, click on one of the worlds
Pilot testing was undertaken in the Summer of '98, bringing children
from South Loop Elementary school in Chicago to the Electronic
Visualization Laboratory. The first round of actual studies were undertaken in
December '98 at Abraham Lincoln Elementary school in Oak Park IL, with the
delayed post-test given in April '99.
In September '99 we returned to Abraham Lincoln Elementary school and
installed an ImmersaDesk which will remain for two years to continue
our further studies.
In the spring of 2000 we conducted our second formal study
and in the spring of 2001 we conducted our third formal study.
A quicktime version of the 4 minute Round Earth video is available from
1 minute 30 second version shown at the SIGGRAPH 99 electronic theatre is
also available from there. More formats (mpeg etc) will be added soon.
To learn more about earlier related research in this area,
about the project