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INTERACTIVE 3D-GRAPHICS OBJECTS AS CONCEPTUAL METAPHORS FOR TEACHING DIFFICULT AND ABSTRACT CONCEPTS

A important step when teaching abstract and difficult concepts has always been the provision of conceptual metaphors in some simple graphical form or, as we will suggest here, as three dimensional interactive objects. Virtual 3D-worlds offer the opportunity for the students to directly experience and interact with given educational and virtual objects. A minority of the students prefers an abstract teaching of relevant concepts, but for the majority being able to play with a new topic is a motivational experience.

In our paper we discuss cognitive aspects of educational objects in virtual 3D-worlds and then give concrete examples relating to our course in "Computer Systems Technology". As examples we place educational objects into 3D environments such as "Second Life" or "Wissenheim" - our own prototype 3D-world.

Mastering computer graphics and animation skills are important but not decisive. Different styles of modeling and of interaction are compared and recommendations for future implementations are given. However, the major teaching challenge remains: to find entertaining, intuitive and obvious metaphors for the abstract concepts which need to be conveyed to the students.