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Empirical Evidence of Priming, Transfer, Reinforcement, and Learning in the Real and Virtual Trillium Trails

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1 Author(s)
Harrington, M.C.R. ; Dept. of Comput. Sci., Slippery Rock Univ., Slippery Rock, PA, USA

Over the past 20 years, there has been a debate on the effectiveness of virtual reality used for learning with young children, producing many ideas but little empirical proof. This empirical study compared learning activity in situ of a real environment (Real) and a desktop virtual reality (Virtual) environment, built with video game technology, for discovery-based learning. The experiences were in the form of two field trips featuring statistically identical wildflower reserves. While the results support that the Real is superior for learning activity, they also show that the Virtual is useful for priming and reinforcing in-curriculum material, or for situations when the real environment is inaccessible. Offering the Virtual first primes for learning activity in the Real; if used second, it reinforces the Real experience, as supporting evidence shows significant transfer effects. Thus, the Virtual may serve educational goals, if used appropriately, and can come close to the Real. As informal learning environments, such as field trips and video games, are accepted as motivational, an attitudinal survey was conducted postexperiences to capture motivational factors at play, to aid in comparison and contrast, and to provide context to the empirical results on learning activity in situ; however, more work is needed.

Published in:

Learning Technologies, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:4 ,  Issue: 2 )

Date of Publication:

April-June 2011

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