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How augmented reality helps students learn dynamic spatial relationships

, University of Washington, United States

University of Washington . Awarded


Students have difficulty learning dynamic spatial relationships with traditional methods such as text and 2D diagrams. Similarly, instructors have grappled with different ways to present 3D content effectively to their students. My research begins to explain a possible answer to this problem—that using an augmented reality interface can change the way students came to understand one topic involving dynamic spatial relationships, those involving the earth and sun. This research involved students interacting with virtual objects through an interface designed to take advantage of familiar cognitive strategies used to acquire and reorganize information during a designed learning activity.

By exploring the way students used visual and physical means as part of task-related activities, I found that students learned by taking advantage of the affordances of augmented reality. I used a conceptual change model based on the students' reorganization of “coordination classes” as I analyzed videotaped activity. Students learned about rotation/revolution, solstice/equinox, and seasonal variation of light/temperature as a result of their augmented reality experience. They learned by creating and modifying strategies for obtaining small pieces of information about dynamic spatial relationships. They learned by modifying the number of possible inferences made from this “new” information and reorganizing it. Students' understandings of earth-sun relationships more closely matched that of an expert as a result of guidance and physical/visual task-related activities. A number of implications emerged concerning using augmented reality for learning.

This research investigated the issue of improving teaching and learning spatially related phenomena and processes. It combined aspects of cognitive psychology, education, and interface research to establish a theoretical foundation for advanced visualization interfaces used in educational settings. It implemented and researched an emerging technology in an applied educational context, which is the first of its kind for augmented reality. In the final chapter I propose suggestions on how AR technology should be incorporated into educational design and how this study can frame future research.


Shelton, B.E. How augmented reality helps students learn dynamic spatial relationships. Ph.D. thesis, University of Washington. Retrieved November 25, 2020 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 22, 2013. [Original Record]

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