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 below ...

Earth World
Asteroid World

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 here. The 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, click here.

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