1 Universitat Politècnica de València (SPAIN)
2 Universidad de La Laguna (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN20 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 7074-7080
ISBN: 978-84-09-17979-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2020.1824
Conference name: 12th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-7 July, 2020
Location: Online Conference
Spatial ability can be described as the capacity to establish spatial relations, either among objects or between the surrounding environment and ourselves. There is a great body of evidence on the influence of spatial ability and academic performance on those degrees related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Although limited spatial ability may mitigate learning, the positive is that spatial ability can be not only developed and trained, and doing so may have positive effects on performance. Accordingly, spatial ability has been reported to be transferable if the training involves cognitive processing, and many different strategies have been proposed to train and improve this cognitive skill. Particularly, manipulation of 3D objects seems to have beneficial effects during spatial thinking formation processes. Consequently, interactive immersive technologies, such as virtual and augmented reality, are specially interesting to train spatial abilities. Previous studies have shown benefits from using augmented reality-based applications to improve spatial abilities in students of STEM degrees. While these tools are promising, they require a computer to run, which can limit their use and integration in the classroom.

We have designed an augmented reality mobile app specifically designed to train spatial skills for STEM education. The app a workbook were designed to guide students through a set of exercises specifically conceived to train different skills related to spatial ability. The educational content of 92 exercises was classified in 5 different and consecutive levels, according to the Bloom’s taxonomy.

The app was designed with a very simple user-friendly interface, free of non-relevant information. Exercises are selected by scanning the QR code impressed on the corresponding page of the textbook. Once an exercise is selected, when the app recognizes the marker, it superimposes a virtual object to the marker with a corrected perspective, so that it gives the impression that the virtual object is “present” in the real environment. This functionality of the app not only allows for visualizing three-dimensional objects from a corrected perspective, but also rotating, zooming, and orientating the virtual object by manipulating the marker. All the exercises require visual inspection and manipulation of objects, which is supposed to enhance spatial ability.

We hypothesize that the app could promote improvement of spatial abilities in those students with impaired performance, which should be investigated in future studies. If the effectiveness of the app is confirmed, the widespread use of smartphones could promote the use and integration of these tools at home and in the classroom, as feasible complement to conventional educational content
Spatial ability, education, STEM, augmented reality, mobile app.