THE IMPACT OF AN AR SANDBOX ON MAP-READING SKILLS USING A “FREE-PLAY” EXPERIENCE
The goal of this study is to determine whether using the AR Sandbox goes beyond improving affective components of the learning experience to performance on a cognitive task – namely, the ability to interpret a topographic map, as measured by a topographic map assessment adapted from SILC. 200 students in three introductory geoscience courses at different four-year colleges completed a topographic map-based lab. All students were provided with traditional labs utilizing 2D maps, but approximately half were also given the opportunity for “free-play” (open exploration) with the sandbox during the lab. The following week, all students completed the topographic map assessment, consisting of six questions with multiple parts selected to represent shared learning goals.
We found no significant difference in students’ overall performance on the topographic map assessment during free-exploration (p>0.05), though there does appear to be significant improvement on individual questions. Video tapes of students playing with the sandbox reveal that student groups interact with the technology very differently, with some appearing to focus on personal enjoyment (e.g. the feeling of the sand, how the box looks) and others on the content being illustrated (e.g. commenting on the spacing of lines or closed circles on hilltops and in valleys). Based on the initial results of Giorgis and colleagues (2015), we predict that students who experience a more structured approach to the sandbox will learn more than their peers who “only” have unstructured play time. The lack of improvement in interpreting a topographic map after time for free-play has implications for how students are prompted during more open-ended inquiry experiences in labs.