Stereoscopic visualization as a tool for learning astronomy concepts
Three-dimensional (3D) visualization is becoming an extensively used educational tool. 3D visualization tends to be most useful when demonstrating concepts involving the very large – such as astronomy, or the very small – such as nanotechnology. Stereo visualization allows students to familiarize and immerse themselves in worlds which are difficult or impossible to experience in real life. This study will evaluate the educational benefit of teaching lessons involving a highly spatially-oriented topic (astronomy) using stereoscopic visualization technology. We have used a stereoscopic visualization system, installed in a classroom, to deploy 3D simulation packages for use in classroom instruction. This educational tool is currently being used for two descriptive astronomy courses in the Physics department, which involve visualization of the galaxies and the Solar System. These courses are taken by students from various departments. This study used a 3D simulation software developed to view the local universe containing visualizations of the Local Group of galaxies and our Solar System, which was presented using stereographic projection. This interactive software allows the user to navigate through a simulation of the Local Group of galaxies, looking at various galaxies in the Group, navigating from one galaxy to another and measuring the distance between galaxies. The software also allows the user to navigate in a simulation of our Solar System and view the planets that revolve around the sun. The objects in this simulation are kept in relative scale to one another so that students can understand the large variation in sizes of objects found in the universe. The relative scale also allows students to increase their perception of the velocity required to travel the distance between two objects, two planets or even two galaxies. After conducting the study with 153 students, the data analysis revealed that both the simulation software presented using a two-dimensional perspective and the simulation software presented using the stereoscopic projection system while wearing 3D glasses helped the students learn more compared to the traditionally used PowerPoint presentation. For the current classroom setting, however, the simulation software that was presented using a two-dimensional perspective and the simulation software that was presented using the stereoscopic projection system while wearing 3D glasses were not found to have a significant difference in the amount of information learnt by the students.
Whittinghill, Purdue University.
Astronomy|Educational technology|Science education|Computer science
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