Categorizing the Educational Affordances of 3 Dimensional Immersive Digital Environments

Christian J Ángel Rueda, Juan C Valdés Godínes, Paul D Rudman
Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice  •  Volume 17  •  2018  •  pp. 083-112

This paper provides a general-purpose categorization scheme for assessing the utility of new and emerging three-dimensional interactive digital environments (3D-IDEs), along with specific pedagogic approaches that are known to work. It argues for the use of 3D-IDEs on the basis of their ludic appeal and ability to provide intrinsic motivation to the learner, and their openness that allows the learner to gain a more holistic understanding of a topic.

Researchers have investigated the affordances, benefits, and drawbacks of individual 3D-IDEs, such as virtual worlds, but teachers lack a general-purpose approach to assessing new 3D-IDEs as they appear and applying them to teaching practice.

The categorization scheme is based on the analysis, reflection, and comprehension of the research on limitations, challenges, and opportunities for teaching in virtual environments by Angel Rueda, Valdes Godines and Guzmán Flores; the scheme is discussed in terms of an experiment to trial virtual genetics labs in Second Life.

The paper describes a general-purpose approach to applying existing and new 3D virtual spaces to education, shows a worked example of the use of the categories, and describes six approaches to consider in applying these technologies.

3D-IDEs are categorized in terms of the way in which they interface with the user’s senses and their ability to provide ‘immersion’; two forms of immersion are examined: digital perceptual immersion – the generated sense of reality – and ludic narrative immersion – a less cognitive and more emotional engagement with the learning environment.

Six specific forms of pedagogy appropriate for 3D-IDEs are examined and discussed, in terms of the affordances and technology required, as assessed by the categorization scheme. More broadly, the paper argues for a change in the assessment of new digital technologies from the technology’s features to its affordances and the pedagogies it can support.

The paper offers a practical approach to choosing and using 3D-IDEs for education, based upon previous work. The next step is to trial the scheme with teachers to ascertain its ease of use and effectiveness.

The paper argues strongly for a new approach to teaching, where the learner is encouraged to use 3D-IDEs in a ludic manner in order to generate internal motivation to learn, and to explore the topic according to their individual learning needs in addition to the teacher’s planned route through the learning material.

The categorization scheme is intended to be applied to new technologies as they are introduced. Future research is needed to assess its effectiveness and if necessary update the scheme.

3D-IDE, virtual environment, immersion, ludic, intrinsic motivation
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