Sharp’s Jonathan Mather believes 3D is the perfect learning aid.

As well as enhancing entertainment, it appears 3D might serve a more important role as a tool in education.

A recent study has revealed that 3D technology dramatically improves concentration and learning in the classroom. The study, which introduced 3D projectors and provided 3D glasses to class members, was conducted by researchers at the International Research Agency on behalf of Texas Instruments.

Improving learning rates

Led by Professor Anne Bamford, the study showed that 86% of pupils improved from the pre-test to the post-test in the 3D classes, compared to only 52% who improved in the 2D classes.

In the 3D in Education White Paper, Professor Bamford wrote, “Individuals improved test scores by an average of 17% in the 3D classes, compared to only an 8% improvement in the 2D classes between pre-test and post-test. The teachers commented that the pupils in the 3D groups had deeper understanding, increased attention span, more motivation and higher engagement.”

They are anticipating good material; it focuses them more and makes the subject more interesting to them

The research was conducted in seven countries in Europe including France, Sweden and the UK, focusing on pupils between the ages of 10-13 years learning science-related content. In total 740 students were involved, with 47 teachers in 15 schools.

Sharp have been involved in the development of 3D technology since the beginning so Humans Invent decided to track down two of its brightest minds, 3D expert Dr. Jonathan Mather and computer scientist Dr. Phil Edmonds, to get their thoughts on the study and its implications.

Excitement and understanding

Mather believes there are two main reasons why 3D enhances learning in the classroom. He says, “Firstly, it generates a lot of excitement. They come into the classroom and they’re given 3D glasses, which are associated with IMAX theatres and impressive things like that. They are anticipating good material; it focuses them more and makes the subject more interesting to them.  Secondly, it seems that the images are easier to understand and more memorable”.

In one example, they showed the class a 3D illustration of the human thorax. The students were able to perceive how this section of the body actually looks, and discern the size and shape of its parts, such as the diaphragm, far more clearly than with a 2D image. This result was observed in the way the children described what they had learnt afterwards.

Dr Phil Edmonds has developed a mobile learning app called ELMO, that helps Japanese school children learn English.

Dr. Edmonds says, “ What was interesting was the way the students used gestures and body language when describing content. It implies, perhaps, that this different mode of learning might be using a different part of the brain, which could give an extra way to store and access the knowledge leading to a better understanding.”

Dr. Edmonds also noticed how it changed the pupils’ behaviour more generally. He says, “They were communicating better. It seems they were having deeper conversations and asking better questions. From the description, it sounds like they were more motivated and engaged.”

It seems they were having deeper conversations and asking better questions

Despite the positive results, it is important to assess whether it was the mere novelty of using 3D technology that made the pupils more engaged, something that might wear off over time. Mather doesn’t believe so: “The study was done over 8 weeks so it seems we can say the excitement lasts at least 8 weeks and possibly more.  That is not an insubstantial amount of time. If you can generate excitement for 8 weeks on some biology topic and then a year later you can pull out another 8 weeks of excitement on another topic, then this sounds quite good.”

Future for education

Both Mather and Edmonds are confident that 3D will become an integral part of the learning environment but Edmonds thinks it will be implemented in a slightly different way. He says, “I imagine 3D will be more interactive and designed for smaller groups because in this situation it was done like a movie or presentation in front of the whole classroom. The way we are seeing technology going for classrooms, it is becoming more integrated into all aspects of the lesson with the teachers able to break the classroom up into groups or do individual learning.”

Mather is currently working on glasses-free 3D on tablets and laptops. Once this technology is refined, this could work especially well in the classroom by allowing personal interaction with the 3D images. Once the technology improves, the pupils will be able to touch and manipulate these images.

Mather thinks it will soon be possible to integrate technology that allows you to move objects by simply making hand gestures. He says, “You wouldn’t need to physically touch anything to interact with the 3D object. You could interact with it by making gestures in front of the screen with your hands instead.”

So much of what we learn relies on visual illustration, especially in the sciences, which makes the arrival of 3D technology in the classroom an exciting prospect. It’s certainly a far cry from the days of chalkboards and dog-eared textbooks, which can only be a good thing.

Stay tuned on Humans Invent for more from Sharp Laboratories of Europe.


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