ASU researcher studies how virtual and augmented reality technologies improve STEM education


September 4, 2018

Imagine walking into your high school physics classroom only to be handed a surprise quiz on angular momentum. What if there was a more effective and engaging way to teach angular momentum so that the response to that pop quiz was not a groan?

What if instead of listening to a lecture describing how angular momentum is essentially how much a rotating object is moving, you could spin your arm during a motion-capture game to show you understand concepts related to angular momentum, like velocity and mechanical advantage? Ricardo, student in the Embodied Games Lab Virtual and augmented reality technologies make it possible for students to learn about complex phenomena, like angular momentum or even electromagnetic waves, through partially or fully immersive experiences. Arizona State University’s Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg, a research professor in the Department of Psychology, is working to bring virtual reality into K-12 classrooms to promote STEM education. Download Full Image

Virtual and augmented reality technologies make it possible for students to learn about complex phenomena, like angular momentum or even electromagnetic waves, through partially or fully immersive experiences. Arizona State University’s Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg, a research professor in the Department of Psychology, is working to bring virtual reality (VR) into K-12 classrooms to promote STEM education. Johnson-Glenberg recently published a paper in Frontiers in Robotics and AI about design guidelines for including embodied movement, or movement that mirrors the content being taught, in 3D learning environments. She is also co-principal investigator on a recently funded National Science Foundation grant to study augmented reality (AR) on smartphones to learn about the electromagnetic waves that are emitted by everyday objects.

Entertaining and educational

VR and AR are primarily used for entertainment now, but these technologies can be useful for learning about complex or invisible phenomena.

“VR and AR are good for making the unseen be seen,” said Johnson-Glenberg.

The power of VR and AR for education is enhancing the learning environment with the goal of engaging students. With VR and AR, what a student sees and hears can be made more visceral and potentially more informative than listening to a lecture or even watching a video.

VR and AR also allow for movement and motion capture while learning, and Johnson-Glenberg’s research shows that when movement is congruent, or in synchrony, with the topic, it improves learning and retention. In other words, if a physics lesson on angular momentum uses an example of a virtual spinning front wheel of a bicycle, a student who moves his or her hand with the same velocity and is able to match certain targets by controlling the wheel will have a greater understanding of angular momentum and acceleration than a student who slides a knob back and forth to move a virtual wheel.

“Using virtual reality as a teaching tool is not about just using more of your body during learning,” Johnson-Glenberg said. “The gestures have to be appropriate for the topic and have to map onto what is being taught. Moving a slider to the right to show an increase in speed is less effective than spinning your arm faster.”

In most conventional classrooms, the information coming into the brain is visual and/or auditory. When movement is added to a lesson, the brain receives extra information, which can boost learning. This extra information is useful for learning only when the body’s motion is congruent, or similar to, the visual and auditory information. If a student is pushing a knob to move a bicycle wheel, that is a poor match to the rotational information associated with the visual and auditory information about angular momentum. VR/AR technology with congruent movement allows the information coming into the brain to include signals about the body’s motion that complement the visual and auditory information about angular momentum.

“The necessity of congruent gestures for using virtual reality in education falls out of the theory of embodied cognition,” Johnson-Glenberg said. “There are signals in the brain as a student learns new content, and when you add information from a congruent gesture in addition to the visual and auditory information, it strengthens the signals generated during learning and that can lead to faster learning or better retention.”

VR/AR at ASU and in the community

Johnson-Glenberg leads the Future of Education with VR and AR (FEVAR), a meetup group open to anyone at ASU interested in VR or AR. She is also affiliated with ASU’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology (CGEST) and recently wrote a blog post for the center describing a STEM curriculum based on the movie “Black Panther.” With CGEST, Johnson-Glenberg is also working on bringing VR/AR technology to the classrooms of a local high school that serves underprivileged students.

Beyond ASU, Johnson-Glenberg just started working with Girl Scouts in Arizona on developing a VR patch. She is also working with Mayo Clinic Hospital Arizona and the College of Nursing Health and Innovation to create gamified rehabilitation therapies using VR headsets.

Johnson-Glenberg’s ASU-spinoff company Embodied Games just released a free game that teaches Batesian mimicry, or when harmless animals end up resembling poisonous or dangerous animals for protection from predators. The game was designed to supplement the IMAX movie “Amazon Adventure” and has students using either AR or VR  nets to catch butterflies while learning about natural selection.

Because there are now several inexpensive VR/AR options available, Johnson-Glenberg believes schools should start implementing virtual and augmented reality technologies in the classroom.

 

“We need to keep engaging youth in science and technology,” Johnson-Glenberg said. “I am working hard to create educational content with VR and AR that draws kids to science and shows them how exciting and beautiful science is.”

Written by Kim D'Ardenne

Japanese troubadour to perform in Arizona as part of music and art series


September 4, 2018

Japanese performer Tsutomu Arao will present a musical program of "The Tale of the Heike" at Arizona State University’s Katzin Concert Hall on Sept. 24. His performance of musical storytelling with the accompaniment of the biwa (lute) is part of a larger program of events that includes a display of Japanese prints relating to "The Tale of the Heike" from the Frank Lloyd Wright Collection at Taliesin West together with prints from the ASU Art Museum collection. These will be available for viewing by appointment in the Jules Heller Print Study Room of the ASU Art Museum. These prints, all from the 19th century, illustrate characters and episodes from "The Tale of the Heike" and related literature and theater, and many feature verses by famous poets alluding to related stories.

"The Tale of the Heike" is the greatest of all Japanese warrior tales and one of the seminal works that have shaped Japanese literature, theater, art and film down to the present day. The Heike were the most powerful clan in the late 12th century and had close ties to the Imperial Court. The story is about the battle between the Heike and another powerful clan, the Genji, and it ends with the total defeat of the Heike in the tragic sea battle at Dan-no-ura. Wandering troubadours, blind musicians, chanted the tale, and later poets and playwrights took inspiration from it. Tsutomu Arao Tsutomu Arao performs Gion Shōja from "The Tale of the Heike" on Feb. 24, 2013, at Rokkakudō, Izura, Kita-Ibaraki City. Download Full Image

Tsutomu Arao plays the biwa (a lute that originated in Persia or Central Asia, much like the Chinese pipa) while singing"The Tale of the Heike." He is one of the very few people who can recite the whole story in the original style from the 13th century, and he has established a school to preserve this style for the future.

He is also a special lecturer at Keio University, one of the oldest and most prestigious private universities in Tokyo. By the end of 2016, he had performed Heikyoku more than 900 times. His most recent performance outside of Japan was at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in 2016, when he was one of the invitees from many countries around the world. This will be the first performance in the United States of this style of Heikyoku. In modern Japan, many biwa performers rely on rapid, dramatic strumming of chords. Arao, however, preserves the original heikyoku emphasis on vocal performance, which relies on a variety of traditional modes of narration and song, often punctuated by short, single-string phrases from the biwa, to express the changing drama of the tale. While in Arizona, Arao will also perform at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright became interested in Japanese art in the 1890s, and in 1905 he traveled to Japan. From that time to his late years spent at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, he maintained his collecting and studying of Japanese prints. Prints that he once owned are in major art museums around the United States. Taliesin West holds his collection of surimono, the privately printed Japanese prints commissioned by poetry societies in the early 19th century. A selection of surimono relating to "The Tale of the Heike" will be lent to ASU Art Museum for several weeks so that ASU students and faculty and members of the community can view them. ASU Art Museum will make its collection of ukiyo-e prints relating to "The Tale of the Heike" vailable for viewing as well. One of Arao’s Arizona performances will be held at Taliesin West.

Colin Pearson, curator for Asia, Oceania and the Middle East at the Musical Instrument Museum, will speak on the origin and development of the biwa in the Recital Hall of the ASU School of Music on Sept. 21. Pearson holds a master of arts degree in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Riverside, specializing in the music of Thailand, Cambodia and immigrant communities. One of his current projects involves the musical instruments of Japan.

 Toyohara Chikanobu, Chronicle of the Dan-no-ura Helmet: Torturing a captive courtesan, Akoya, by making her play the koto (a Japanese musical instrument), dated 1898, woodblock print, ASU Art Museum, gift of Drs. Thomas and Martha Carter.
Toyohara Chikanobu, "Chronicle of the Dan-no-ura Helmet: Torturing a captive courtesan, Akoya, by making her play the koto" (a Japanese musical instrument), dated 1898, woodblock print, ASU Art Museum, gift of Thomas and Martha Carter.

The series is organized by ASU’s Center for Asian Research and supported by several other units at ASU, including the Emeritus College; the Office of Vice President Christine Wilkinson; ASU Art Museum; ASU Library; the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; the School of Music, Barrett, The Honors College; and the art history faculty of the School of Art. Additional sponsorship is provided by the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Arizona, and the Asian Studies program, Northern Arizona University. Funding has also come from the Japanese Culture Club of Arizona and more than 10 individual donors.

All events are free and open to the public.

'Eight Hundred Years of Tradition: "The Tale of the Heike" in Music and Woodblock Prints'
Fall 2018, Japanese surimono prints from the Frank Lloyd Wright Collection at Taliesin West, viewing available by appointment in the Jules Heller Print Study Room of the ASU Art Museum. Japanese ukiyo-e prints from the ASU Art Museum collection will also be shown. Contact Claudia Brown (claudia.brown@asu.edu) for more information.

'Popular Heroes: An Album of Japanese Print Triptychs'
Sept. 14, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; ASU Design and the Arts Library 
Collector Darlene Goto, connoisseur Laurie Petrie-Rogers and scholar Sarah Gossett

'Silk Strings and Crescent Moons: The Story of the Japanese Biwa'
Sept. 21, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; Recital Hall, School of Music
Colin Pearson, curator for Asia, Oceania and the Middle East, Musical Instrument Museum

Tsutomu Arao, performing 'The Tale of the Heike'
Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Katzin Concert Hall, ASU School of Music
Sept. 25, 7 p.m.; Cabaret, Taliesin West, Scottsdale
Sept. 26; time and specific location at the University of Arizona in Tucson to be announced
Sept. 27, 4:30 p.m.; Liberal Arts Building, Room 120, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff 

Other fall programs on Japanese art:

  • "Contemporary Japanese Prints," collector Mary Way. Oct. 5, 2-3 p.m.; ASU Design and the Arts Library.
  • "Japan’s Living National Treasure Ceramic Artists," scholar Sarah Gossett. Oct. 19, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; ASU Art Museum Ceramic Research Center.
  • "Contemporary Japanese Ceramics," Collectors Elaine and Sidney CohenNov. 16, time to be announced; ASU Art Museum Ceramic Research Center.