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Interactivity and learning: Examining primary school children's activity within virtual environments

Roussou, M; (2006) Interactivity and learning: Examining primary school children's activity within virtual environments. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The two essential properties of a virtual reality (VR) experience, especially in entertainment and in formal learning applications, are immersion and interactivity---each of which is advertised widely to attract and motivate participants. In particular, it is commonly considered that a learning environment is more effective if it is interactive. However, little systematic research has been available to substantiate this assumption and no clear evidence has existed that interactive virtual environments (VEs) can bring "added value" to learning, especially in children. This research investigates user interaction in virtual reality learning environments, focusing on the role and the effect of interactivity on learning and change in conceptual understanding. The goal has been to examine whether children learn by interacting in an immersive VE, i.e. exploring, reacting to, and acting upon events. In this research, empirical studies were carried out with 60 primary school students (ages 8 -12), in a number of different studies. An exploratory study was carried out to test the methodology and prepare for the main study. The main study, a large scale experiment, was conducted with a VE designed to simu late a 'virtual playground', which focused on a presentation of problems in mathematical fractions (such as ordering fractions). Three conditions---an interactive VR, a passive (or guided) VR, and a non-VR condition using LEGO bricks---each with different levels of activity and interactivity, were designed to evaluate how children accomplish the various conceptual tasks. Pre-tests, post-tests, interviews, video, and computer activity logs were collected for each participant, and analysed both quantitatively and qualitatively. Qualitatively, the descriptive framework of Activity Theory was used to analyse user be haviour in the immersive VR environments and to identify conceptual contradictions, i.e. the occurrence of critical incidents, focus shifts or breaks in the elements of the learner's activity that led to indications of the learner's construction of meaning. The results indicate that activity based on the cues or feedback provided by the VE led participants to complete the tasks successfully in the interactive VR condition compared to the non-VR condition. Interactivity aided in promoting skill and problem solving and provided opportunities for contradictions to emerge. However, interactivity did not necessarily lead to resolution of these contradictions nor did it ensure that, if resolution was made, this was at the conceptual level. On the other hand, the passive VR form of experience, where the tasks were performed by a virtual robot observed throughout by the participant, showed the potential to support resolution of contradictions in a way that encouraged reflection of the underlying conceptual learning problems. This guided form of interaction, rather than the fully interactive condition, provided evidence of sustained conceptual change.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Interactivity and learning: Examining primary school children's activity within virtual environments
Identifier: PQ ETD:593397
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1446068
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