Cells and the central dogma are two critical topics in biology standards and curricular materials National Research Council, Despite the importance of these concepts, visuals of cells are often oversimplified in introductory resources Shi et al. Incorporating 3D visualization such as immersive VR into biology curricula may be a solution to improving student learning.
Although these and other studies have noted a positive correlation between visualization and student learning, there are still challenges to be addressed. VR is an excellent platform for designing interactive and manipulatable environments. VR technologies can engage learnings both cognitively and physically through immersive and interactive experiences.
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The theory of embodied learning posits that connecting learning events and physical actions creates a stronger impact on the individual Kiefer and Trumpp, VR technologies can be responsive to the participants' movements in a way that activates the learners' perception of themselves as a tool for developing understanding Stolz, VR simulations are already widely used to develop physical skills with instruments, as a flight simulator does for a pilot's aviation skills or a surgical simulator for a doctor's surgical technique Slater and Sanchez-Vives, VR can also help learners practice laboratory skills during virtual laboratories Chiu et al.
More recently, VR has been used by scientists for honing their skills in preparing molecular compounds for microscopy Leinen et al. Scientists share computer-based visualizations with the scientific community online, drawing upon 3D models of proteins, molecules, and molecular reactions through online resources such as the Protein Databank and PyMOL Mwalongo et al.
VR has enhanced the process of drug discovery by enabling scientists to investigate molecular structure and function and prompted the development of mixed reality software platforms such as Molecular Rift Yuan et al. These applications of VR for science can be useful in K12 contexts by enabling learners to create embodied analogies for abstract concepts through gesture and movement Weisberg and Newcombe, For example, a VR simulation offered higher levels of understanding and retention among high school students learning cellular biology in comparison to traditional 2D models Tan and Waugh, Spatial understanding is related to understanding relative size and scale, a topic many students find challenging Jones et al.
Size and scale are important to understand in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics STEM domains Weisberg and Newcombe, While individuals have varying degrees of spatial understanding Coxon et al. Activities such as creating 3D representations of geometric shapes Burte et al. Spatial awareness is linked to perception of size and scale, which is also important in STEM topics Jones et al. Similar to spatial awareness, understanding of size and scale can be enhanced through direct experience with objects and with distances between objects Jones et al.
VR has already been useful as a research tool in understanding spatial awareness Wilson, , and shows promise in developing spatial skills. VR can provide learners with virtual experience with objects and prompt learners to gesture during problem solving; both activities have the potential to improve spatial understanding and users' perception of size and scale. Problems that require perspective taking and understanding structure are well-suited to use VR.
The level of embodiment achievable in VR is directly related to the level of interactivity between the user and the virtual space. Interactive simulations and virtual laboratories have helped students understand electrostatics and forces in physics Salzman et al. Laboratories and simulations require more resources to design than virtual field trips, but the additional interaction supports a deeper level of embodied learning Potkonjak et al. As technology and connectivity improves, VR will include collaboration between individuals in HMDs, requiring a new understanding of how technology can enable new forms of communication between individuals Gugenheimer et al.
Designers must balance the users' attention to their own experience and explore how to create a sense of shared presence, or co-presence, in the virtual world Campos-Castillo, Principles of collaborative learning such as interdependence, thoughtful formation of groups, individual accountability, and attention to social skill development are also useful considerations in VR environments Cuseo, ; Lee, Since virtual environments are still relatively novel, both rules and roles can be useful in structuring collaboration. Jensen and Konradsen used games as a way to create rules for social interaction and roles for individuals in virtual problem-based activities.
Roles also helped visitors engage with a VR museum exhibit experience on an aircraft carrier Zhou et al.
Middle school students in the EvoRoom VR environment EvoRoom environment benefited from clear roles in gathering and sharing information with their peers Lui and Slotta, In addition to clear roles, a range of expertise helps foster interdependence in virtual teams Weber and Kim, One way to establish roles is to structure distributed teamwork through roles and access to different forms of technology and information text based, 2D, 3D, VR that must be synthesized to solve a problem.
This redistribution can create power dynamics within the group. In comparing virtual to in person problem solving among teams of people using 2D, 3D, and VR interfaces, Slater et al. Spante et al. Having different viewpoints enhanced collaboration, creating what Spante et al.
Learning and Research in Virtual Worlds
Gugenheimer et al. Teamwork can be reinforced by structuring environments to providing team members with complementary information and different views of information; furthermore, students also gain appreciation of how different forms of media may be more appropriate for understanding certain concepts. We now apply some of these ideas about embodiment and collaborative learning to a game-based learning project currently under development, Cellverse.
In Cellverse students learn about cells and the process of converting DNA to proteins through an interactive problem-based game. Working in small teams of two or three, students examine a living cell from within. The Explorer wears a head mounted display and moves through the cell in VR to observe function and structure, as shown in Figure 1. The Navigator uses a tablet-based toolkit of disease descriptions, stains, tags, and measurement devices to gather data and focus the visualizations using a table, as shown in Figure 2.
The experience is being designed with a distribution of data available for players in a way that students must communicate to solve the puzzle together. A central question is—why use VR? Virtual reality allows students to experience the cellular environment as an active explorer, rather than a passive observer. It also gives students an appreciation for the density of the cell, the size and scale of organelles relative to each other and to other molecules in the cell, spatial relationships between the organelles, and the cellular structure.
Structure and spatial orientation are both important in understanding the central dogma, when DNA is first transcribed to mRNA and translated by tRNA into long amino acid chains that become proteins.
Researching Learning in Virtual Worlds
We draw connections between the effective practices we have found in in the literature using the affordances of VR and our intentions for this project. We situate student learning in the context of biology, both in the game narrative and the game environment. We have built a cellular environment that matches current research on cells, with ongoing input and feedback from cellular biologists and other cell biology experts. Whenever possible, we have incorporated tools and activities that scientists would use as in-game functions.
For example, students can highlight specific organelles and structures within the virtual environment using simultaneous label-free autofluorescence-multiharmonic SLAM microscopy You et al.
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Cells are densely packed, which is challenging to render and can be overwhelming to users. We continually balance how to represent the cell most authentically while maintaining presence within the experience and minimizing cognitive load. The game-based format provides a high degree of interaction between students and the concepts included in the VR environment, which has been linked to deeper learning Lindgren et al.
The game-based format also provides ongoing feedback to the players, which also assists the learning process Merchant et al. Through the game, we aim to transform a topic that is often passive and vocabulary-based into an active, embodied experience.
ebtesam-k.com/includes/cell/phone-finder-samsung-galaxy-note.php We also incorporate aspects of biology within the game narrative and the game environment. We are building a cellular environment that matches current research on cells, with ongoing input and feedback from cellular biologists.
We are building interdependence among team members into the design of the project by creating rules, establishing roles, and distributing resources between players. Rules are established before students take on roles in the game; either as explorers or navigators. The explorer will see the 3D VR view of the world and will complete tasks that involve spatial relationships between organelles, identifying protein structures, and tracking processes within the cell. The navigator has access to information on 2D and 3D flat screen models to help guide the explorer and to work with other team members as they identify organelles, proteins, and even DNA and RNA sequences that could provide helpful clues in the game.
We plan to build different levels in the game to allow students to rotate through team roles. Collaborative activities can be enhanced through different modalities. These functions do not only allow users to communicate with each other through non-verbal manners, but also enhance their collaborative experience and create embodied learning within the virtual environment. There have been a number of challenges that we have confronted while building and implementing Cellverse. As Cellverse is a complex environment with many moving parts, users risk becoming nauseated if there is too much activity, or not enough computer processor power to render the activity in real time.
A high frame rate, thus, is vital for a smooth VR experience; too much detail or too many objects within the virtual world can reduce the frame rate and cause nausea Jerald, We have had to compromise authenticity with playability, and reduced the details of certain structures in order to maintain a comfortable frame rate.
Creating a balanced flow of information between the two players has been challenging. Effective and worthwhile collaboration happens when each player is equally involved and are able to fill in whatever information their partner does not possess.
We have explored different ways to foster collaboration through distribution of information resources to the players. While our goal is to create an authentic environment, scientific understanding is continually advancing. We have also had to make choices about the specificity of our cellular model and the number of processes we can represent in a realistic design timeframe.
We have also noted that in an ever-evolving field like microbiology, application authenticity in educational material remains a challenge. There are new discoveries made regarding cells and cell structure every day, and it is in our best interest to make Cellverse as accurate to these discoveries as possible. However, it sometimes means that we do have to change aspects of the game that may not be immediately noticeable to student players. Although they may not be consciously aware of these changes, it is our belief that making the Cellverse environment authentic will allow students to come away with a more well-rounded understanding of cells.
Our partner teachers have confirmed that the cell and central dogma are important topics in introductory biology. Please contact Dr. Kenneth Lim at kenneth. For detailed instructions see www. Potential co-editors for this special issue are invited to approach the journal editorial team info jvwresearch. The co-editors assist in managing the review process, supervise the final publications, and distribute the news about the release — all using The JVWR internal state of the art publishing process.
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