zSpace STEM Lab
zSpace uses 3D, haptic enabled technology to allow students the opportunity to explore science concepts. This technology is transforming and accelerating STEM education, creating a ‘real world virtual reality created for education.’ Focusing on learning by doing, the zSpace STEM Lab comes with a suite of science software and curriculum resources that offer learning experiences across grade levels through the sciences and STEM topics. The stylus is designed with 6 degrees of freedom and uses all of your senses in a way that feels natural.
We are investigating perceptions of virtual presence and the affordances of the zSpace system for learning science.
Virtual presence describes a users’ perception of a virtual reality (VR) environment (VRE), specifically, of their involvement (sense of control within a virtual environment with minimal distractions) and immersion (multi-input sensory engagement providing apparent realism of objects and interactions). In education, virtual presence is a significant construct as highly immersive VREs have been linked to users reporting memorable and exciting teaching experiences. Prior research has described that adults and children report different levels of presence when subjected to identical VREs, suggesting cognition may play some role in users’ perceptions of presence. According to Piaget, concrete operational development is a watershed moment when adolescents develop the ability to understand abstract concepts and make assessments what is and is not reality. This period in cognitive development may influence children’s and adolescents’ perceptions of presence. This is an exploratory study of seventy-five 6th-grade and seventy-six 9th-grade students who participated in an instructional module about cardiac anatomy and physiology using a 3-D, haptic-enabled, VR technology. When surveyed on their perceptions of virtual presence, there were no reported differences between grade levels. When assessed using a Piagetian inventory of cognitive development, the analyses indicated that the sixth-grade students’ understanding of spatial rotation and angular geometry was positively correlated with the reported perceived control and negatively correlated with distraction. This study suggests that the spatial acuity of younger learners plays an important role when using VR technologies for science learning. This research raises questions about the relevance of users’ cognitive development when using emergent VR technologies in the K–12 science classroom.
Combined three-dimensional, haptic-enabled, virtual reality (3D HE VR) systems allow students to actively engage and explore various science concepts by leveraging user-friendly and immersive interfaces. Successful implementation of these learning tools in science classrooms hinges upon teachers’ perceptions of the technology’s potential as a viable pedagogical tool. Prior studies using the Technology Acceptance (TA) Model (TAM) suggest pre-service teachers have greater TA compared to in-service teachers. This study sought to explore how 3D HE VR designed to diminish Ease of Use (EOU) issues, influenced TA (through reported preferences) between pre-service and in-service science teachers. Five pre-service and five in-service teachers reported Perceived Utility (PU) and EOU upon using a 3D HE VR system (zSpace®) to learn science concepts. Quantitative data were collected from pre- and post-test content assessments. Qualitative data were collected and transcribed from field notes and interviews. Both teacher groups evidenced learning gains and reported EOU using zSpace®. However, preference for the technology compared to traditional methods varied between teacher groups. Sampled pre-service teachers held a significant preference for hands-on activities for instruction whereas in-service teachers reported greater TA, citing its potential to increase student interest in science and opportunity for personalized learning. This research suggests that when perceived EOU is mitigated, PU may more readily mediate TA among in-service teachers as they can envision the use of 3D HE VR technology use in teaching practices. Further exploration is needed to leverage in-service teachers’ classroom experience to implement novel forms of technology into their science instruction.
Dr Emily Martha Cayton
Dr Megan Elizabeth Ennes
Pamela Marler Huff
Emma Jane Refvem