Spatial Learning and Technology in Relationship to Education

The daily use of spatial skills is inherent in everyday life. From arranging furniture in the living room to stacking food in the pantry, spatial ability is a necessary skill we practice on a regular basis. It is also how we navigate within the world. Long before there was MapQuest or Siri on your iPhone, the ability to give and receive directions, or even read a map, was an essential skill for navigation. Now in today’s “technological world” it seems we have little need for the ability to read maps to navigate from one place to another. But as technology has increased at an exponential rate spatial ability has continued to become an even bigger part of this change.

Coding through the application of computer graphics, gaming, and direct human interface has a large, necessary spatial component that is a current focus in educational research. We are posed to see the next revolutionary leap in technology related to Virtual Reality (VR) technology within the next few years. Companies like Google, Apple, and Facebook are “all-in” on VR technology and are spending millions of dollars to position themselves as leaders in the field. How we interface with technology has changed significantly since the introduction of the personal computer. The pace at which we individually receive information (speed, delivery, and rate) from the world is changing exponentially. How we will go about educating our children in the future will be much different than the currently employed methods and, I believe, it will eventually include technology like Virtual Reality (VR).

The quote that has been discussed at several educational conferences I have attended is that sixty percent of the future jobs that current kindergarteners will be applying for in 15 years do not yet exist. Herein lies the real question for educators. How do we go about teaching children to prepare them for jobs that have yet to exist? I believe that spatial learning has a place in this conversation. The future of education is not yet written and I contend cannot yet be imagined.

The one thing that we do know is that education will need to change its models and methods. We cannot continue to use 19th century educational methods in a 21st century world. I contend the difficulty is that education seems to change at a linear “snail’s pace”, while technological change is on an exponential rise. This “rate of change” is leaving teachers at an increasingly larger disadvantage.

This is where I think a strong dedicated program in spatial learning would have an advantage in both science and mathematics. Spatial reasoning skills provides the ability to mentally visualize and manipulate both two- and three- dimensional objects and research has shown spatial ability to be a significant predictor of success in the STEM field. Spatial learning transcends educational disciplines and is found at the overlap with changing technology. As technology inevitably continues to change, what will remain consistent is the application of spatial ability and spatial reasoning across the educational spectrum.

The Advantage of Spatial Thinking in Science Education

Within our education system the steady, unwavering mantra of “reading, writing, and arithmetic” still holds as true as it did over a 100-years ago.  We continue to spend a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort developing a child’s mathematical and verbal ability.  Educational research shows without a doubt the importance of developing these two… Continue Reading

Science Education in the AIMS Center

Children arrive in the classroom not as empty vessels waiting to be filled but they come as “software” installed” individuals with their own ideas about how the world works, this is especially true in science education.  Children, from the youngest of ages, are “little scientists” playing, testing, and exploring the world around them hundreds of… Continue Reading

The Feynman Technique of Learning: Part II

In part I of my blog, “The Feynman Technique,” I began discussing Richard Feynman’s method for learning something new.  Feynman’s personal mode of learning was based on constructivism, building understanding from first principles.  As I mentioned, all of us at the AIMS Center have been tasked with learning new concepts outside of our field of… Continue Reading

The Mind of a Child

Understanding the mind of a child is a difficult if not impossible task and yet an elementary school teacher has the unenviable responsibility of doing just that in a classroom full of children. Historically, as far back as Aristotle, the human mind was thought to be an empty vessel just waiting to be filled with… Continue Reading

The Use of Questions Within the Classroom

I have a confession to make, this past weekend I attended my very first mathematical education conference! Being the “science guy” I have gone to quite a few science, STEM, and education type conferences throughout the years, but never one focused around mathematics. But this weekend I presented with Chris Brownell at CMC-North Mathematics Education… Continue Reading

Attitudes Towards Play in the Classroom

There has been renewed interest among science educational researchers over the past decade in the power of “play” in the classroom. One of the researchers that I have been following is Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist at Temple University. She is one of the founders of the Ultimate Block Party which brings together companies, makers,… Continue Reading

Perception as a Human Endeavor

Over the last few weeks, I have been reading a lot about the intricacies of human perception and how we interact with the world around us. Or maybe I should qualify that statement and say how we “think” we perceive the world around us. A child’s perception of reality and learning in the classroom is… Continue Reading

Thoughts on Sir Ken Robinson, Changing the Metaphor of Education

At the beginning of October, I was fortunate to hear Sir Ken Robinson as one of the keynote speakers at the 2016 California STEM Symposium in Anaheim. This two-day conference consisted of over 3,000 teachers, coaches, and administrators sharing a collection of integrative ideas in the interdisciplinary area of STEM education. The underlying emphasis of… Continue Reading