skip to main content

Title: Minecraft as a Generative Platform for Analyzing and Practicing Spatial Reasoning
As excitement for Minecraft continues to grow, we consider its potential to function as an engaging environment for practicing and studying spatial reasoning. To support this exposition, we describe a glimpse of our current analysis of spatial reasoning skills in Minecraft. Twenty university students participated in a laboratory study that asked them to recreate three existing buildings in Minecraft. Screen captures of user actions, together with eye tracking data, helped us identify ways that students utilize perspective taking, constructing mental representations, building and place-marking, and error checking. These findings provide an initial impetus for further studies of the types of spatial skills that students may exhibit while playing Minecraft. It also introduces questions about how the design of Minecraft activities may promote, or inhibit, the use of certain spatial skills.
; ; ; ;
Šķilters, J.; Newcombe, N.; Uttal, D.
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Spatial Cognition XII. Spatial Cognition 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Spatial reasoning is an important skillset that is malleable to training interventions. One possible context for intervention is the popular video game Minecraft. Minecraft encourages users to engage in spatial manipulation of 3D objects. However, few papers have chronicled any in-game practices that might evidence spatial reasoning, or how we might study its development through the game. In this paper, we report on 11 middle school students’ spatial reasoning practices while playing Minecraft. We use audio and video data of student gameplay to delineate five in-game practices that align with spatial reasoning. We expand on a student case study, to explicate these practices. The identified practices may be beneficial for studying spatial reasoning development in game-based environments and contribute to a growing body of research on ways games support development of important and transferable skills.
  2. In this paper, we present work on bringing multimodal interaction to Minecraft. The platform, Multicraft, incorporates speech-based input, eye tracking, and natural language understanding to facilitate more equitable gameplay in Minecraft. We tested the platform with elementary, middle school students and college students through a collection of studies. Students found each of the provided modalities to be a compelling way to play Minecraft. Additionally, we discuss the ways that these different types of multimodal data can be used to identify the meaningful spatial reasoning practices that students demonstrate while playing Minecraft. Collectively, this paper emphasizes the opportunity to bridge a multimodal interface with a means for collecting rich data that can better support diverse learners in non-traditional learning environments.
  3. 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 weremore »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« less
  4. Spatial reasoning skills contribute to performance in many STEM fields. For example, drawing sectional views of three-dimensional objects is an essential skill for engineering students. There is considerable variation in the spatial reasoning skills of prospective engineering students, putting some at risk for compromised performance in their classes. This study takes place in a first-year engineering Spatial Visualization course to integrate recent practices in engineering design education with cognitive psychology research on the nature of spatial learning. We employed three main pedagogical strategies in the course - 1) in class instruction on sketching; 2) spatial visualization training; and 3) manipulation of physical objects (CAD/3D print creations). This course endeavors to use current technology, online accessibility, and implementation of the three pedagogical strategies to bring about student growth in spatial reasoning. This study is designed to determine the effect of adding two different spatial reasoning training apps to this environment. Over 230 students (three sections) participated in our study. In two of the three sections, students received interactive spatial visualization training using either a spatial visualization mobile touchscreen app in one section or an Augmented Reality (AR) app in the other section. Research suggests that there are benefits to using themore »Spatial Vis Classroom mobile app for college students.The app has been shown to increase student persistence resulting in large learning gains as measured by the Purdue assessment of spatial visualization (PSVT-R), especially for students starting with poor spatial visualization skills. The Spatial Vis Classroom app can be used in the classroom or assigned as homework. The AR app is designed to help users develop their mental rotation abilities. It is designed to support a holistic understanding of 3-dimensional objects, and research has shown that, in combination with a traditional curriculum, it increases students’ abilities also measured by the PSVT-R. Of particular interest, the data suggest that the app overcomes the advantage found by males over females in a traditional class alone focused on spatial reasoning. Both of the course sections were required to use the apps for approximately the same time in class and outside of class. Students in the control section were required to do hand sketching activities in class and outside of class, with roughly the same completion time as for the sections with the apps. Students grades were not affected by using the three different approaches as grading was based on completion only. Based on current literature, we hypothesize that overall benefits (PSVT-R gains) will be comparable across the 3 treatments but there will be different effects on attitude and engagement (confidence,enjoyment, and self-efficacy). Lastly, we hypothesize that the treatments will have different effects on male/female and ethnic categories of the study participants. The final paper will include an analysis of results and a report of the findings.« less
  5. Zaphiris, P. ; Ioannou, A. (Ed.)
    In Computer Aided Design, Computer Graphics, Robotics, etc., students suffer from inefficient and non-proficient use of the 3D modeling software due to a lack of mathematical knowledge. Deficient knowledge and skills may lead students to use the modeling software through trial-and-error without understanding the algorithms and mathematics. Spatial/geometric transformation is recognized as one of the key factors in learning 3D modeling software. This paper presents a newly developed educational Augmented Reality (AR) mobile application to help students intuitively learn the geometric reasoning of transformation matrices and the corresponding trigonometric equations through play. The application, developed in primary and advanced levels, intends to facilitate the understanding of fundamentals of spatial transformations and their mathematical representations in a self-learning approach. The results of a pilot user study conducted on 7 undergraduate students for the primary level reveal that students’ math scores improved after playing with the application.