17% academic improvement with 3D learning, research shows

Students and teacher 3D

Recent research has established 3D classroom interaction as a viable learning tool. Between October 2010 and May 2011, Professor Anne Bamford led a team of researchers across seven countries to compare the impact of 2D and 3D learning on pupils. The project, “Learning in Future Education (LiFE)” compared 2D and 3D classroom presentations and gathered results on students’ understanding, interaction, engagement, retention and reinterpretation of information. Observational data was also gathered on communication, attention and classroom behaviour.

Academic improvement
According to the LiFE project report: “The results of the study showed consistent reporting of improved test scores. On average, 86% of pupils improved from the pre-test to the post-test in the 3D classes, compared to 52% who improved in the 2D classes.” The project also reported improved individual test scores, with an average of 17% improvement in the 3D classes, compared with 8% improvement in the 2D classes.

Improving classroom attentiveness
Professor Bamford reported: “Students found (3D Learning) more engaging and fun than usual classrooms. They made a lot of comments such as, ‘it doesn’t feel like school’. We also found that for children who often didn’t pay attention – children, for example, with Attention Deficit Disorder – the result was even better than for all children.”

3D Learning “isn’t a gimmick”
Supporting Bamford’s research in practice, Bernard Dickinson, Principal of Shelfield Community Academy, said: “3D isn’t a gimmick. 3D Learning has changed the way we teach: the whole process is more effective and efficient, and we can improve students’ abilities to understand and learn.”

Shelfield Academy was the first school in the UK to use 3D interactive software in the classroom. Working with Gaia Technologies, Shelfield reported that 3D technology enabled students to learn at a faster pace. Lisa Barton, Shelfield’s Head of 3D Learning said: “Our students have really engaged in 3D so we are working very closely with the Gaia team to create new resources to enhance our overall curriculum.”

How 3D technology works in our brains
The human brain is naturally equipped to understand depth perception, which enables us to perceive the spatial relationship between objects simply by looking at them. Technology recreates this effect for viewers through several types of 3D viewing, including Active 3D and Passive 3D. In both cases, a “flicker” effect – called the shutter – gives the brain the illusion of depth perception by opening and closing a shutter 120 times per second. Passive 3D is typically used in cinemas and is the most frequently experienced type of 3D viewing, with the shutter effect taking place in the projector. Active 3D, which is used in classroom learning, uses “active shutter glasses” that take the place of expensive cinema projectors. The Active 3D approach has the benefit of being compatible with 3D imagery on classroom displays, as well as being portable and affordable.

3D changes the classroom experience
The LiFE research indicates that the pupils have a strong preference for visual learning: 85% pupils preferred seeing and doing, compared with 15% of pupils who preferred hearing. As one pupil commented, “Teachers talk a lot and you just sort of tune out, but when you see things it is there and suddenly it all makes sense.”

Additionally, 90% of students in the study had seen 3D films, and being “native digital learners”, have high expectations in 3D animation visuals. Schools using 3D reported a high impact on student retention. “In this school we find that theoretical retention is a problem. As I see it, the 3D increases visual retention and this boosts learning,” one school principal stated.

Improved behaviour and “nicer” teachers
Teachers and pupils were surveyed following the LiFE project. A startling 100% of teachers reported that pupils paid more attention in 3D lessons, and 70% of teachers noted an improvement in pupil behaviour when using 3D. One teacher noted: “The pupils are too interested to be disruptive. They get involved and forget to be naughty!”

The project also discovered that teachers were more likely to implement different classroom pedagogy with the use of 3D, with greater conversation and collaboration with pupils. One pupil commented: “When there is 3D the teacher is sort of happier. I think because we like it, then he likes it. We understand things and there are better examples.”

Coming soon: Part II –  Strategies for using 3D in the classroom.

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