Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Power of zSpace: Phase I of LASD Pilot

Do you remember learning about human anatomy in school? Most of us remember the textbook diagrams surrounded by instructional text describing the body and all of its parts. Now, picture being able to put on a pair of glasses and have those illustrations come to life in a 3D format, one you can reach in and interact with. That’s the power of zSpace.

In November, LASD embarked on a partnership with zSpace to find out how this new technology can enhance student learning.  The company zSpace provides an interactive and immersive 3D platform where students can explore many areas such as motors, animals and human anatomy.  With a stylus, students can pick objects up and rotate them around in open 3D space in order to see all sides of the object.  Then they have the ability to peel or pull the object apart to see inside functions of the object.  In the area of STEM, zSpace partnered with CyberScience3D to deliver a specific experience which allows students to interact with virtual dissection.

Fifth grade students at Covington were able to experience a new type of learning through our pilot program with zSpace. As part of their study of the circulatory system, students learn the parts and functions of the heart.  Through zSpace technology, they were able to view the heart and the pathways where blood flows inside and around the heart.  They were able to see all the sides of the heart, including the chambers, veins, arteries, and learn the purpose of the valves. Seeing the heart and it’s functionality in 3D offered students a more realistic view versus seeing pictures in a textbook or watching a video online. In a 3D reality, students were able to virtually dissect the heart and carefully examine each part.

The 5th grade teachers experienced students’ excitement. High engagement and student curiosity increased with the use of this new interactive technology.  Our zSpace pilot was brief, but students and teachers are looking forward to having more time to explore and use the system.

Katie Farley, the STEM teacher at Covington, felt that zSpace was a valuable tool to enhance learning of very abstract concepts.  Here are some of her students’ reactions to their experience with zSpace:

“We learned about how z-space works and we got to see inside the human heart. You could feel the heart beating and put a camera through the heart. It was AWESOME!”

“I learned about the inside of the heart. I mostly liked how to look into the heart and lungs. The challenging part was when I had to figure out how to put the heart back together.”

“I liked using the camera and seeing what was inside the heart. I also used the camera to look at the inside of a house. Picking up objects with the stylus was great and when the heart turned transparent, it was really cool.”

“It was an amazing experience for me. In summer school, I learned a little bit about the heart, but when I worked with the interactive 3D model of the heart, it was a whole new way of learning.”

We are excited to see where this technology will lead in the education arena and the way it will integrate into the curriculum.  Stay tuned to more as we continue with this partnership and pilot. 

Contributed by Karen Wilson, LASD STEM Coach

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