ThinkSpace Labs

ThinkSpace Research TeamThinkSpace Advisory Board Meeting with Research Team. September 16, 2016


Critical breakthroughs in science originated with those scientists' ability to think spatially, and research has shown that spatial ability correlates strongly with likelihood of entering a career in STEM. "Thinking Spatially about the Universe" is an NSF-funded project that developed and studied middle school lab units designed to teach spatial abilities using a blend of physical and virtual models. In "ThinkSpace" labs, students explore 3-dimensional astronomical phenomena in ways that support both understanding of these topics and a more general spatial ability. ThinkSpace addresses two main research questions: 1) How can spatial tasks that blend physical and virtual models be embedded into a STEM curriculum in ways that lead to significant improvements in spatial thinking? and 2) How can practitioners optimize design of interactive, dynamic visualizations for teaching spatially complex concepts? (DRL-1503395)

Thinking Spatially about the Universe Publications

Udomprasert P, Goodman A, Ladd E, Offner S, Houghton H, Johnson E, Sunbury S, Plummer JD, Wright E, Sadler P, et al. WorldWide Telescope in Education. In: Impey C, Buxner S Astronomy Education - A Practitioner’s Guide to the Research. Bristol, UK: IOP Publishing ; In Press.
Vaishampayan A, Plummer JD, Udomprasert P, Sunbury S. Use of spatial sensemaking practices in spatial learning, in 13th International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Learning. Vol 2. Lyon, France: A Wide Lens: Combining Embodied, Enactive, Extended, and Embedded Learning in Collaborative Settings ; 2019.Abstract

This paper describes an approach to understanding how 11-12-year-old students (N=185) engage in spatial thinking through use of sensemaking practices. There is limited research on nature of students’ spatial thinking when learning discipline-specific content knowledge during classroom instruction. We use embodied cognition to examine the kinds of sensemaking practices students use when applying perspective-taking skill to learn seasons and lunar phases, and the teacher’s role in shaping those practices.

Houghton H. WorldWide Telescope: The Universe in Your Hands. AstroBeat. 2018;(164).Abstract

When teaching science topics in which objects are too large or too small to observe laboratory settings—as is the case for astrophysics—how do you convey complex and intangible relationships in a meaningful way? Studies have shown that interactive visualization models that address common misconceptions can be powerful learning experiences. This article examines how the WorldWide Telescope (WWT) Ambassadors program has utilized the dynamic environment of the WWT platform to build meaningful representations of complex topics, and effectively address these teaching needs.

Thinking Spatially about the Universe Presentations