## Rethinking Teaching in the Sciences: April 7-27, 2008

### real, unreal, and remote

by Gina Bennett -
Number of replies: 16
A research paper titled Technology in Schools: What the Research Says (Cisco, 2006) found that "the use of simulations and modeling in the natural sciences resulted in increased learning and retention by students." In fact, when a frog dissection simulation was used, Grade 7 "students learned significantly more when only a dissection simulation was used, or when the simulation was used immediately prior to the actual dissection exercises in comparison to dissection only or dissection immediately followed by the simulation." (emphasis added)

The researchers suggest "The power behind the use of simulations in the life sciences is in the opportunity for students to explore “what-ifs” in ways that
enable the student to build schemas of understanding. The visualization of processes and structures reduces the cognitive load, enabling even novice learners to understand academic complexities."

This is a very bold statement: that using a simulation alone can result in a stronger learning experience than the 'real thing'. However, in an earlier post, Estrella pointed out that "simulations or virtual environments just recreate reality following the laws of physics but we should not forget they are NOT reality. They can take into account as much (variables) as the programmer knowledge allows."

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Barbara Berry -
Hi Gina,
Yes, sorry you are correct - it was late last night when I was getting into this description. The greatest learning was in fact in the analysis of what happened between digital and physical. I think that was not really explicit in our design so it was nice to see this piece of interpretive work emerge in the lab. The resulting conversations between students and faculty was fascinating.

The design team has decided to explore the student artifacts for a paper and in so doing really unpack the assessment strategies and lab activities to see if they actually did design opportunities for students to really practice spatial thinking.

Thanks for the info on haptic devices, I have never heard of this. It looks interesting.
Barb

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Christine Horgan -
Gina: For those of us who do not have a scientific background, what is a haptic device? Just curious. Thanks, Chris

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Christine Horgan -
Gina: For those of us who do not have a scientific background, what is a haptic device? Just curious. Thanks, Chris

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Gina Bennett -
Hi Chris,

I don't think haptic devices are necessarily well-known, even to those in the sciences. A haptic device is an input device (as is a mouse or a keyboard) that provides feedback to the user about the tactile properties of a virtual object. For example, if you are manipulating an object on the internet using a haptic device, you could 'feel' if the object was hard or soft, heavy or light, from the pressure you felt back from the device. The link provided in my post earlier this morning provides more information if you want. If you want to see what such a device actually looks like, this link is good (http://haptic.edutechie.com/novint_falcon/).

Hope this helps!
Gina

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Christine Horgan -
Thanks, Gina: from a very quick skim of the material....a haptic device sounds something like a really, really sophisticated ELMO camera. Chris

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Gina Bennett -
Chris, I did a quick search for information about the ELMO camera but wasn't able to find much. I'm just guessing... is it a camera that responds differently to varying touch-sensitive inputs? Can you recommend a link?

### Re: ELMO camera

by Christine Horgan -

Gina:

Nothing that sophisticated. The ELMO camera is the next generation of overhead projectors. It's advantage is that it shows objects, in 3D and colour; no slide preparation is required. So, if--for example--a teacher thought it would be useful to show students a pencil, she'd just pop it under the camera and the object would be projected onto a screen or even a wall. Low-tech compared to the equipment you are using.

Chris

### Re: ELMO projector

by Christine Horgan -

Gina:

I used the term camera and I should have said projector.

When I "googled" ELMO projector, all I picked up were sales sites. Nevertheless, they do show what the projector looks like and explain the basic principles. No one sales site was any better than the others, so I'm not sure what to send to you that'll be helpful.

This link may be useful, though: http://www.elmousa.com/presentation

Chris

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Emma Duke-Williams -
It's very hard to explain what a haptic device feels like ... we have a virtual reality suite, and have several different haptic devices. The one I've used doesn't look like that picture.
Imagine a pen, held in the middle by a long arm; one with joints at the top, middle & bottom, a bit like an arm, really, or an angle poise lamp. HOwever, the joints can move in all directions, not just limited ones. It's fixed on the desk.

You hold the pen, but look at a computer screen that's got an image on. I've usually used it when it's got a grey block on it. You can move the pen quite easily till you get to the block, then it gets hard. Not impossible; the block isn't solid. The block is like clay, so you can use the pen to gouge lumps out & carve it into whatever shape you want. Move the pen away, and it moves easily. Move back to touching the block, and you get resistance.

Of course, it can be programmed to do things far more complex than creating a bit of art work. For example, the "pen" could be a scalpel & the block of clay a bit of body.
If you go to http://www.ceetee.net/ and click on the Virtual Reality Centre online, (it's a shockwave file), and then click on Facilities (the links move a bit, it was a design student who built it, not one overly worried about accessibility!) There are some videos of the VR facilities, including the haptic devices. It includes the pen thing that I was trying to describe!

In the 3d screens video, you can see someone using a headset that gives a 3d view - with stonehenge in the background. That's really weird; I've used that one. You think you're going to crash into the stones, so, as you're walking across the room, you stop. (Quite handily really, or you might really crash into the expensive screens!). However, it looks rather odd to the on lookers!

When they do the demo (just on the screens with normal 3D glasses, not the special ones for walking about), it includes a massive bee heading straight towards you. Looks (and sounds!) incredibly scary.

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Gina Bennett -
Holy cow, Emma; it's the Star Trek holodeck!!!

The 3-D screens video is really impressive. I don't quite understand how the polarizing filters & various lenses & projections etc. all work together, but the image of the man 'moving' through Stonehenge is very compelling. I think there could be all sorts of educational applications for this. You'd think it could even be effective for air traffic control learning...?

### Re: real, unreal, and remote

by Paul Stacey -
Barbara:

Sounds like a fantastic course you are involved in.

Our air traffic control challenge was enabling students to mentally convert 2D symbols of aircraft depicted on a radar screen into 3D air space mental models. I won't get too techie here but air traffic control involves maintaining vertical and horizontal separation between aircraft. Essentially you need to visualize each airplane as being surrounded by a volume of airspace that maintains separation with other planes a minimum of 1,000 feet above and below the plane as well as a certain amount of space in front of and behind the plane. Imagine a cardboard box (representing protected air space) surrounding each plane with the plane suspended in the middle. This is all fine when there are only a few aircraft but rapidly gets complex when there are many planes. A further complication is that air traffic control requires you to not only see where the plane is now but to also extrapolate forward where it will be in the future so that directives to change a flight path can be given well in advance. This forward extrapolation is complicated by the fact that each plane is traveling at different speeds. OK enough already. So the simulations partly involved creating representations of all the aircraft with their volume of protected air space surrounding them and showing projected paths for each plane based on its speed.

You point out that students often have trouble transferring digital experience to physical but in the case of air traffic control the task really is entirely digital. Most air traffic control is done entirely based on digital data. You also note that decisions were made to reduce lectures and enhance the practical side. We did that too. Essentially a series of simulations were developed that started out with just a few aircraft. Then when you mastered that many more were added until the level of complexity simulated real world scenarios. So students progressed from basic to advanced.

Its been many years since I did all this work so I expect things are even more advanced now.

Paul