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Title: Freehand Sketching on Smartphones for Teaching Spatial Visualization
Mobile devices are becoming a more common part of the education experience. Students can access their devices at any time to perform assignments or review material. Mobile apps can have the added advantage of being able to automatically grade student work and provide instantaneous feedback. However, numerous challenges remain in implementing effective mobile educational apps. One challenge is the small screen size of smartphones, which was a concern for a spatial visualization training app where students sketch isometric and orthographic drawings. This app was originally developed for iPads, but the wide prevalence of smartphones led to porting the software to iPhone and Android phones. The sketching assignments on a smartphone screen required more frequent zooming and panning, and one of the hypotheses of this study was that the educational effectiveness on smartphones was the same as on the larger screen sizes using iPad tablets. The spatial visualization mobile sketching app was implemented in a college freshman engineering graphics course to teach students how to sketch orthographic and isometric assignments. The app provides automatic grading and hint feedback to help students when they are stuck. Students in this pilot were assigned sketching problems as homework using their personal devices. Students were administered a pre- and post- spatial visualization test (PSVT-R, a reliable, well-validated instrument) to assess learning gains. The trial analysis focuses on students who entered the course with limited spatial visualization experience as identified based on a score of ≤70% on the PSVT:R since students entering college with low PSVT:R scores are at higher risk of dropping out of STEM majors. Among these low-performing students, those who used the app showed significant progress: (71%) raised their test scores above 70% bringing them out of the at-risk range for dropping out of engineering. While the PSVT:R test has been well validated, there are benefits to developing alternative methods of assessing spatial visualization skills. We developed an assembly pre- and post- test based upon a timed Lego™ exercise. At the start of the quarter, students were timed to see how long it would take them to build small lego sets using only visual instructions. Students were timed again on a different lego set after completion of the spatial visualization app. One benefit of the test was that it illustrated to the engineering students a skill that could be perceived as more relevant to their careers, and thus possibly increased their motivation for spatial visualization training. In addition, it may be possible to adapt the assembly test to elementary school grade levels where the PSVT:R test would not be suitable. Preliminary results show that the average lego build times decreased significantly after using the mobile app, indicating an improvement in students’ spatial reasoning skills. A comparison will also be done between normalized completion times on the assembly test and the PSVT:R tests in order to see how the assembly test compares to the “gold standard”. In addition to the PSVT-R instrument, a survey was conducted to evaluate student usage and their impressions of the app. Students found the app engaging, easy to use, and something they would do whenever they had “a free moment”. 95% of the students recommended the app to a friend if they are struggling with spatial visualization skills. This paper will describe the implementation of the mobile spatial visualization sketching app in a large college classroom, and highlight the app’s impact in increasing self-efficacy in spatial visualization and sketching  more » « less
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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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