Geowall Consortium Makes Teaching in 3D a Reality
The challenge was to find a better way to teach geology. Paul Morin, an Imaging Technology Consultant, and his team at the University of Minnesota came up with a solution. Using high-powered computing, two InFocus LP530 projectors with polarized filters and 3D glasses, Morin's team created a 3D virtual-reality teaching environment called Geowall.
First used in geology classes at the University of Minnesota during the 2001 spring semester, Geowall has impressed both students and faculty and now the Geowall Consortium shares their experiences with other schools and organizations to encourage the use of this unique application. Geowall allows students to gain a greater understanding of spatial relationships, a fundamental requirement in the study of Earth Sciences.
"For students in an introductory level course these spatial skills are difficult to learn and often form a stumbling block for students," said Morin."With Geowall, students wear a pair of goggles and watch the 3D image on a screen. They can experience it as if they are there." Geowall can simulate environments like volcanoes, sea life zones or even the surface of Mars, as well as objects like a beating heart or a working telescope.
One of the benefits of teaching with the Geowall and LP530 projector technology is that it allows all students to see the lesson at the same time. "In the past, what would often happen is that one student would sit in front of a computer screen while the rest crowded around it. As a result only a handful of students were experiencing enough to retain the information," said Morin. "When students are active in the learning process, and are forced to discuss what they see, that is when they learn."
The Geowall Consortium believes it has the potential to advance the way in which many classes are taught and its popularity is growing. "Many universities and even K-12 schools and museums around the country are beginning to set up the Geowall technology for their campuses, classrooms and exhibits," said Morin. Indeed, already over 200 Geowalls are being used in places such as the University of Illinois at Chicago, Arizona State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States Geological Survey and the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Geowall could be the future of interactive classrooms and it has the potential to stretch to many other areas such as biology, astronomy, and even journalism. "We have kept the technology open sourced so that the other educational facilities can install it," said Morin. "We want educators to understand the technology's value. InFocus has provided us with great technology and fantastic customer service. Their dedication to working with us closely made this project not only a reality but a success."