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Learning and engagement in a 3D environment—
Teaching through the Art of Memory

Educators have recently shown an increased interest in computer gaming technologies, e.g., (Prensky, 2001). Games are known to be engaging, and an increasing number of today's youth have experience with and an interest in computer game playing. Because of the importance of motivation and engagement for learning, it is felt that the introduction of gaming elements into an educational context can be beneficial. Our work extends these efforts by using design ideas from the technique of Art of Memory to further increase the level of engagement with the educational content.

The Art of Memory is a memorization-aiding technique with ancient roots (Yates 1966, 1969a, 1969b). Using the technique involves using imaginary or physical places to act as scaffolding for remembering information. Two central principles of the Art of Memory are visualization and association, i.e., information is associated with visualized locations and artefacts within those locations. Historically, the locations and artefacts were chosen to maximize the practitioner's engagement in the subject. As a result, mental images of extreme or even surrealistic content were often used and we try to reflect this in the design of our 3D environments.

A test case, teaching filosophy in a virtual environment
In the first setting we present four philosophers (Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant) using selected texts along with pictures, paintings and other artefacts (figure 1).

The rooms are located in a spatial structure that is intended as an aid to memory. The objects have, according to the art of memory, striking appearances and gives depth and atmosphere to the setting. (figure 2). Special care has been taken to make it inviting and pleasing to the eye.

According to writings on the Art of Memory, many people up until the late renaissance used this technique for memorising impressive amounts of information. We find it an interesting approach towards using digital environments in education and it can be an enabling factor in creating engaging experiences and positive attitudes. By exploring these kinds of 3D learning environments with educational content we build on the time honored and proven tradition of using incorporeal places for harboring information.

Dede, C., Salzman, M. C., Loftin, R. B. (1996) ScienceSpace: Virtual Realities for Learning Complex and Abstract Scientific Concepts. In Proceedings of IEEE VRAIS '96, Santa Clara, California, USA March 30-April 3. p. 246-252.

Hedman, A. (2001) Visitor Orientation: Human computer interaction in digital places. Licentiate dissertation, The Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, 2001.

Jackson, R. L. (1999) Peer Collaboration and Virtual Environments: A Preliminary Investigation of Multi-Participant Virtual Reality Applied in Science Education. In Proceedings of ACM 1999 Symposium on Applied Computing, San Antonio, Texas, USA February 28-March 2. p. 121-125.

Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Game-Based Learning, McGraw-Hill, 2001.
Stone, P. A., Meier, B. J., Miller, T. S., Simpson, R. M. (2000) Interaction in an IVR Museum of Color. In Proceedings of ACM SIGGRAPH '00 Educators Program, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA July 23-28. p. 42-44.

Taxén, G., Naeve, A. (2002) A system for exploring open issues in VR education. To appear in Computers and Graphics.

Yates, F. (1966) The Art of Memory. University of Chicago Press.

Yates, F. (1969a) Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Trad. Univ. of Chicago Press.

Yates, F. (1969b) Theatre of the World. University of Chicago Press.


Uppdaterade 2003-03-05

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Marcus Tullius Cicero (102 - 43 B.C.).

Figure 1. A philosopher room with images, objects and text.

Figure 2. Striking objects.

A French cabinet of curiosities from the 16th century.