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Spatial Thinking and Stem Education: Drawing and Mapping with New Technologies


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The CERI OECD/National Science Foundation International Conference took place in Paris, at the OECD Headquarters on 23-24 January 2012. Here the presentation of Session 5, Informal Learning, Item 1.

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Spatial Thinking and Stem Education: Drawing and Mapping with New Technologies

  1. 1. Spatial Thinking and STEM Education: Drawing and Mapping with New Technologies David H. Uttal, Ken Forbus, and Robert Kolvoord SILC Northwestern University
  2. 2. Spatial Thinking and STEM Education•  Emerging science education standards stress –  Problem-solving –  Modeling –  Understanding and representing data•  Spatial thinking is critical to this transformation in how science and mathematics is taught and learned.
  3. 3. Two efforts within SILC to …•  Understand•  Promote•  AssessSpatial approaches to STEM education1) CogSketch2) The Geospatial Semester
  4. 4. CogSketch Ken Forbus
  5. 5. Computer tutors and learning environments need spatial capabilities•  Intelligent tutoring systems have provided valuable benefits for education (e.g., Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center)•  But not in spatially rich subjects (e.g., geology, engineering)•  Sketch understanding software could change this Ultimate goal: Software that understands sketches as you would
  6. 6. Research Goals1) A cognitive science research instrument. –  A computational model of spatial reasoning and learning –  A tool for gathering data in laboratory and classroom studies2) A platform for sketch-based intelligent educational software –  Depends critically on research in artificial intelligence and cognitive science (e.g., analogy and spatial representation)
  7. 7. Sketching and Communication•  People talk when they sketch with each other –  Sketching is a social activity•  CogSketch provides a way around the “recognition problem”•  Focus instead on human-like visual, spatial & conceptual representations & reasoning –  Relationships between objects –  Relationships within objects (e.g. shape)
  8. 8. Interacting with CogSketch•  Draw ink, clicking finish when an object is done•  Label objects via menus –  Zero recognition errors•  Knowledge base provides concepts for labeling –  58,000 concepts provide breadth –  Technical details hidden from users via UI
  9. 9. Sketch WorksheetsProvides taskfor students Fault worksheet from Sageman’s class
  10. 10. Sketch Worksheets Student sketchestheir answers
  11. 11. Sketch WorksheetsStudent getsfeedback on demand
  12. 12. Original   Novice   Expert   Jee  et  al.,  under  review  
  13. 13. Worksheets as Assessment Tool•  Partnership with Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (PSLC)•  Toward spatially-based formative assessment
  14. 14. Design Buddy: Setting and Problem Engineering Design and Communication Course at Northwestern University Sketch + language-like Does this explanation of design make sense? Feedback Problem:Students have trouble using sketches to communicate
  15. 15. CogSketch Summary•  Sketch understanding is a central problem in spatial learning•  CogSketch is useful for cognitive science research•  CogSketch is promising for education
  16. 16. Maps Influence Spatial Thinking (Uttal, 2000, 2005)
  17. 17. Promoting Spatial Problem Solving in Science Education•  The Geospatial Semester•  Robert Kolvoord, James Madison University GIS = Geographic Information System
  18. 18. Geospatial Curriculum•  High school senior year elective•  Well specified scope and sequence
  19. 19. Course Design•  The Spatial Semesters: –  First semester students work through a training manual to become familiar with the software. –  Second semester students complete a personally designed project using the skills they have learned.
  20. 20. Is it working?•  How do we tell?•  Many converging measures –  Rubric –  Quality of final projects –  SILC measures of spatial language –  Transfer problems (e.g., “The sheriff problem”)
  21. 21. Spatial Language Increases across the Semester Ra%o  of  dis%nct  words  for  each  category     14   12  Propor%on  of  Dis%nct     10   Int  One   Words  Spoken   Int  Three   8   Int  Four   6   4   2   0   Spa?al   Mo?on   Causality  
  22. 22. Conclusions•  Spatial thinking is critically important to science practice and education•  Drawing and mapping promote the kind of science reasoning that NSF, National Academies, and most teachers advocate•  And shed light on the nature of spatial reasoning•  Informs basic research•  Draw on basic science, map out implications for learning