Developing Virtual and Physical Models to Enhance Conceptualization of Soil and Biogenic Structures in Undergraduate Geoscience Classes
The project utilizes recent technological advances to develop, implement, and evaluate the use of virtual and physical 3-D models of soil and organism-formed structures in the undergraduate geoscience curriculum. Multi-stripe laser triangulation scanning is transforming physical specimens into digitized virtual models that students can manipulate and measure using readily available software. The resulting digital collection is being made broadly available via dissemination through web portals utilized by geoscience educators. In addition, rapid prototyping technology (3-D printing) is creating light and durable plastic models for direct manipulation of selected specimens, including rare and/or fragile examples.
Learning impacts of using the virtual and physical models, both separately and together, are being evaluated in multiple laboratory sections of introductory geoscience courses at the University of Kansas. Results are providing insights into effective strategies for enhancing 3D visualization and conceptual understanding of features and processes in soils. These insights and the technological approaches are being shared with the community of undergraduate geoscience educators, stimulating adaptation and broader applications elsewhere.