Virtual Reality as a Teaching Tool for Moon Phases and Beyond

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PubDate: Nov 2018

Teams: Cornell University

Writers: J. H. Madden, A. S. Won, J. P. Schuldt, B. Kim, S. Pandita, Y. Sun, T. J. Stone, N. G. Holmes

PDF: Virtual Reality as a Teaching Tool for Moon Phases and Beyond


A ball on a stick is a common and simple activity for teaching the phases of the Moon. This activity, like many others in physics and astronomy, gives students a perspective they otherwise could only imagine. For Moon phases, a third person view and control over time allows students to rapidly build a mental model that connects all the moving parts. Computer simulations of many traditional physics and astronomy activities provide new features, controls, or vantage points to enhance learning beyond a hands-on activity. Virtual reality provides the capabilities of computer simulations and embodied cognition experiences through a hands-on activity making it a natural step to improve learning. We recreated the traditional ball-and-stick moon phases activity in virtual reality and compared participant learning using this simulation with using traditional methods. We found a strong participant preference for VR relative to the traditional methods. However, we observed no difference across conditions in average levels of performance on a pre/post knowledge test.

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