Spatial Thinking and Stem Education: Drawing and Mapping with New Technologies

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  • Spatial Thinking and STEM Education: Drawing and Mapping with New Technologies

    David H. Uttal, Ken Forbus, and Robert Kolvoord

    SILC Northwestern University

  • Spatial Thinking and STEM Education

    Emerging science education standards stress Problem-solving Modeling Understanding and representing data

    Spatial thinking is critical to this transformation in how science and mathematics is taught and learned.

  • Two efforts within SILC to Understand Promote Assess

    Spatial approaches to STEM education

    1) CogSketch 2) The Geospatial Semester

  • CogSketch

    Ken Forbus

  • Computer tutors and learning environments need spatial capabilities

    Intelligent tutoring systems have provided valuable benefits for education (e.g., Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center)

    But not in spatially rich subjects (e.g., geology, engineering)

    Sketch understanding software could change this Ultimate goal: Software that

    understands sketches as you would

  • Research Goals

    1) A cognitive science research instrument. A computational model of spatial reasoning and learning A tool for gathering data in laboratory and classroom


    2) A platform for sketch-based intelligent educational software Depends critically on research in artificial intelligence and

    cognitive science (e.g., analogy and spatial representation)

  • Sketching and Communication

    People talk when they sketch with each other Sketching is a social activity

    CogSketch provides a way around the recognition problem

    Focus instead on human-like visual, spatial & conceptual representations & reasoning Relationships between objects Relationships within objects (e.g. shape)

  • Interacting with CogSketch

    Draw ink, clicking finish when an object is done

    Label objects via menus Zero recognition errors

    Knowledge base provides concepts for labeling 58,000 concepts provide breadth Technical details hidden from users via UI

  • Sketch Worksheets

    Provides task for students

    Fault worksheet from Sagemans


  • Sketch Worksheets

    Student sketches

    their answers

  • Sketch Worksheets

    Student gets feedback on


  • Original Novice Expert

    Jee et al., under review

  • Worksheets as Assessment Tool

    Partnership with Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center (PSLC)

    Toward spatially-based formative assessment

  • Design Buddy: Setting and Problem Engineering Design and Communication Course

    at Northwestern University

    Problem: Students have trouble using sketches to communicate

    Does this make sense?

    Sketch + language-like

    explanation of design


  • CogSketch Summary Sketch understanding is a central problem in spatial

    learning CogSketch is useful for cognitive science research CogSketch is promising for education

  • Maps Influence Spatial Thinking (Uttal, 2000, 2005)

  • Promoting Spatial Problem Solving in Science Education

    The Geospatial Semester Robert Kolvoord, James

    Madison University

    GIS = Geographic Information System

  • Geospatial Curriculum

    High school senior year elective Well specified scope and sequence

  • Course Design

    The Spatial Semesters:

    First semester students work through a training manual to become familiar with the software.

    Second semester students complete a personally designed project using the skills they have learned.

  • Is it working? How do we tell? Many converging measures

    Rubric Quality of final projects SILC measures of spatial language Transfer problems (e.g., The sheriff problem)

  • Spatial Language Increases across the Semester









    Spa?al Mo?on Causality



    n of Dis%n


    Words Spo


    Ra%o of dis%nct words for each category

    Int One Int Three Int Four

  • Conclusions Spatial thinking is critically important to science

    practice and education Drawing and mapping promote the kind of

    science reasoning that NSF, National Academies, and most teachers advocate

    And shed light on the nature of spatial reasoning Informs basic research Draw on basic science, map out implications for