Volume 93, Issue 53

Friday, December 3, 1999


CASA wish-list announced

City toys with budget surplus

Napster goes off-line for students

Hands-on learning in cyberspace

Preventative bacteria probed

Donation fuels AIDS education

Keep fit, have fun and warm down


Caught on campus

Buzz Mecca

Hands-on learning in cyberspace

By Heather Buchan
Gazette Staff

An ongoing study conducted by Western psychologists suggests to do is better than to watch – even in cyberspace.

Psychology professors Mel Goodale, Keith Humphrey and psychology graduate student Karin Harman monitored the memory retention rates of participants who either manipulated 3-D objects in cyberspace, or simply watched the objects move about. Humphrey said the findings indicated subjects who manipulated objects were better at remembering their characteristics.

"The subjects controlled the 3-D objects on the screen by using a track ball," Humphrey explained.

Goodale said the study illustrates a hands-on approach makes for better learning. "People have never done a study like this before," he said, explaining this approach can even work in cyberspace, where the subjects are not actually touching the object which moves.

Harman said the findings can be applied to teaching environments such as the study of molecules in chemistry or any setting where the movement of objects can be controlled.

"The reaction time measures the efficiency of recognition," Humphrey said, explaining the study, published in the Nov. 18 issue of the science journal Current Biology, assessed the differences in brain recognition between objects which were controlled by some people and seen by others.

"The scientific implications of the findings suggests perception is an active process and active manipulation leads to a faster speed of understanding of the objects later on," Goodale added.

Charles Ling, an associate professor in computer science, described physical stimulation as more beneficial than simply seeing the object on screen. "Of course active participation increases memory and the ability to learn on screen," he said.

Arnet Sheppard, spokesperson for the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the federal agency who provided grants for the study, said the researchers were awarded a five year grant of $138,800 per year. "The decision to support the research is based on the degree to which the committee feels the research would be successful," he said.

Harman added the study has been going on for well over a year.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999