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Volume 26 / Issue 8

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Influence of Virtual Reality on High School Students' Conceptions of Cells

Meredith Thompson (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Annie Wang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Cigdem Uz Bilgin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Melat Anteneh (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Dan Roy (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Philip Tan (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Rik Eberhart (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Eric Klopfer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA)

Abstract: Cells are central to the study of biology, yet many learners have difficulties understanding the abstract yet fundamental foundation of life. Research suggests that students' conceptions of cells are reinforced by current biology learning materials, which represent cells as two dimensional, highly ordered, and mostly empty. These models also inaccurately represent the number, location, and size of organelles. We examine the effect of an inquiry-based three-dimensional virtual reality (VR) game on high school students' mental models of cells. Students reported that the game was more interactive and engaging than traditional ways of learning about cells and attributed an improved understanding of cells to their game experience. Students' post drawings of cells depicted more types of organelles, increased density of organelles, and additional complexity than their pretest drawings, indicating a movement towards more accurate mental models of cells. However, students' scores did not improve on their factual knowledge about cells between the pretest and the post-game biology assessments. We discuss the implications of incorporating game-based approaches and new technologies such as VR into biology education.

Keywords: STEM education, cellular biology, high school, virtual reality

Categories: L.1.1, L.2.3, L.3.0, L.3.6, L.5.1