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Title: Digitally-empowered learning: Teaching archaeology through virtual reality and game-based learning
Like many natural sciences, a critical component of archaeology is field work. Despite its importance, field opportunities are available to few students for financial and logistical reasons. With little exposure to archaeological research, fewer students are entering archaeology, particularly minority students (Smith 2004; Wilson 2015). To counter these trends, we have leveraged the ongoing revolution in consumer electronics for the current, digitally-empowered generation by creating a game-based, virtual archaeology curriculum to 1) teach foundational principles of a discipline that is challenging to present in a traditional classroom by using sensory and cognitive immersion; and, 2) allow wider access to a field science that has previously been limited to only select students. Virtual reality (VR) is computer technology that creates a simulated three-dimensional world for a user to experience in a bodily way, thereby transforming data analysis into a sensory and cognitive experience. Using a widely-available, room-scale, VR platform, we have created a virtual archaeological excavation experience that conveys two overarching classroom objectives: 1) teach the physical methods of archaeological excavation by providing the setting and tools for a student to actively engage in field work; and, 2) teach archaeological concepts using a scientific approach to problem solving by couching them within a role-playing game. The more » current prototype was developed with the HTC Vive VR platform, which includes a headset, hand controllers, and two base stations to track the position and orientation of the user’s head and hands within a 4x4 meter area. Environments were developed using Unreal Engine 4, an open source gaming engine, to maximize usability for different audiences, learning objectives, and skill levels. Given the inherent fun of games and widespread interest in archaeology and cultural heritage, the results of this research are adaptable and applicable to learners of all ages in formal and informal educational settings. « less
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National Science Foundation
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