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Third-space Architecture for Learning in 3D

Andrew G. Stricker, Ph.D. John A. Cook, Ed.D.

Air University Auburn University
andrew.stricker@maxwell.af.mil cookja1@auburn.edu

Kimberly-Combs Hardy, Ph.D. Cynthia A. Calongne, D.CS.

Air University Colorado Technical University
Kimberly.combs-Hardy@maxwell.af.mil calongne@pcisys.net

Elizabeth S. Stricker Kathryn L. Flitter

Youth Leader 4-H, Alabama Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division
bstricker@elmore.rr.com kathryn.flitter@navy.mil

Toni A. Scribner Fil J. Arenas, Ed.D.

Air University Air University
toni.scribner@maxwell.af.mil Filomeno.arenas@maxwell.af.mil

Keywords: Visual simulation, model-based lack of interactive tools but because of a lack of
reasoning, learning in 3D, virtual environments a sense of immersion in the activity itself (Kapp
& O’Driscoll, 2010). Coordinated group action
Abstract and problem solving in the use of 3D virtual
Learning can be increasingly untethered simulations and models can extend across
to home, work or school spaces by means of boundaries of physical and virtual worlds.
integrative cloud services coupled with 3D Participants in virtual world spaces can be
worlds, and mobile, collaboratively driven use of supported in the extension to physical world
digital “third space.” A 3rd-space, portable and meetings and activities. Likewise, the flow of
modular design is described and demonstrated social groups in collaborative activities can be
for use in administering and supporting learning supported in both directions across virtual and
in 3D. 3rd-space environments can be designed physical spaces to better situate learning with the
for enabling multi-purpose, multifunctional depth of experience that results from connections
devices and tools for learner-centered design and to everyday life. In this way, learning can be
collaborative social learning. The framework increasingly untethered to home, work, or school
offered in this paper supports multiple delivery spaces by using a combination of mobile, virtual,
options involving offline and online access to an and social networking technologies. Learning in
OpenSim platform for learning in 3D and the use hybrid, blended-environments of this kind have
of Drupal modules for administering and been labeled 3rd-space for how primary and
supporting collaborative peer-based social secondary content and learning settings can be
learning. The architecture is demonstrated in bridged across culture, schools, peer groups,
two learning in 3D prototypes: a 4-H regional homes, and communities (Gutierrez, et al., 1999;
youth leadership robotics project involving a Godwin-Jones, 2005).
collaborative model-based reasoning simulation
game on geothermal energy and a lesson on the Learning in 3D offers the means for
early history of the U.S. Constitution involving observing and manipulating normally
the Thomas Jefferson Dinner Bargain of 1790. inaccessible objects and variables in the form of
visual simulations and models operating in
1.0 INTRODUCTION immersive space. Learners can make use of
Visual simulation capabilities offered immersive interactive 3D simulations and
by 3D virtual worlds provides opportunities for models to make what is abstract and intangible
interaction with models in coordinated conjoined concrete and manipulable to better grasp abstract
action above text toward shareable visual concepts. Learning inquiries can take the form
mediums providing a sense of place, space, and of “what-ifs” for studying how variable changes
physiological embodiment (Thomas and Brown, result in differing process dynamics and
2009). While 2D and 3D learning environments outcomes depicted by a visual simulation or
can provide for high levels of interactivity, 2D model.
synchronous learning suffers not because of a
2.0 THIRD-SPACE ARCHITECTURE communications across Drupal and 3D
The learning in 3D prototypes described in this world,
paper are enabled by the following 3rd-space f) Open source Apache web server
architecture components (Figure 1): supporting Internet access to the 3D
world via client web browser,
a) Open source Drupal content g) Open source Android and Apple XCode
management system offering social for developing mobile apps (note:
networking tools for supporting Unity3D can also be used to help bridge
instructors and learners across blended- between 3D worlds and mobile apps),
learning environments involving the use h) Open source Blender for developing
of web-based learning management imported models,
systems and 3D worlds, i) Skype for supporting in-world group
b) Open source OpenSim 3D immersive communication,
world supporting avatar-based j) In-world simulation engine developed
interactivity with learning challenges, for on-demand access to learning
objects and tasks; access is provided resources and interactive features
through open-source browsers that can presented by the challenge (supporting
connect via the Internet or offline to the 3rd-space accessibility in a social
OpenSim world supporting the learning environment),
challenge, k) In-world assessment, data collection,
c) Open source MySQL database for modeling, and reporting tools,
storing and supporting challenge data l) In-world instructional design studio for
exchange and persistence across Drupal supporting adaptations of the challenge
and OpenSim, by instructors; the design studio also
d) Open source PhP and LSL scripting provides background information on
engines for interfacing between objects learning research employed in the
and avatars and supporting client-server challenge,
data exchange, m) In-world robotics simulation kit used by
e) Postcast email server supporting email learners to repair geothermal stations;
kit components support modular and providing for greater portability and
incremental constructions of robotic behind-the-firewall use options, and
devices and controls for use in-world, • Support for distributive and
n) Interactive challenge learning collaborative design and prototyping in-
technologies include virtual computers, world where the applications are
media (audio, video, and voice), developed, assessed, and used.
simulation engines, on-demand rezzing
of models, 3D concept mapping, 3.0 LEARNING DESIGN
knowledge acquisition and skill The learning design used in the 3rd-
performance monitors. space prototypes is based on situated learning by
Altogether, the architectural components provide using scenarios and information visualization
the means to support mobile and immersive involving model-based reasoning (MBR)
learning in 3rd space. Benefits of the architecture activities (Figure 2). Scenarios are designed to
include: engage learners in challenges by applying
• Tapping into and leveraging the knowledge and problem-solving skills. Effective
innovations occurring in the open- learning challenges are those that can
source communities involving rapidly successfully engage learners to formulate
changing and dynamic development intuitions about the challenge based on prior
environments surrounding mobile and knowledge and experiences for successful
3D worlds, application in solving problems.i Challenges
• Developed applications and learning can leverage affective learning benefits derived
resources are coupled with interactive from game structures such as the use of quest-
and immersive 3D learning tools and oriented tasks. Model-based reasoning activities
environments to fully leverage the help learners uncover important relationships
benefits of situated and social learning about applying knowledge and how concepts are
and advances in the learning and used and relate to each other for developing
assessment sciences, deeper and enduring understanding. Overall,
• Applications are supported in both challenges can be used to help the learner
online and offline operation modes develop:
• Awareness of own thinking on the challenge, revise earlier positions as
• Effective plans needed, commit to a position or solution, and
• Increased awareness of and use of communicate the underlying rationale for the
resources position or solution. Throughout the flow,
• Improved skills to evaluate the challenge data and performance indicators are
effectiveness of actions collected and accessible by learners and
• Skills to take a position when the instructors for assessing and evaluating learning
situation warrants it progress and outcomes. Attention is now turned
• Ability to engage intensely in tasks towards describing how the architecture and
even when answers or solutions are not challenge designs are represented in each of the
immediately apparent two prototypes highlighted in this paper: the
• Increased desire to push the limits of Geothermal Energy on Mars and the Dinner
knowledge and abilities Bargain of 1790 challenges.
• New ways of viewing a situation
outside the boundaries of standard 4.0 CHALLENGE PROTOTYPES
conventions The two challenge prototypes described
in this paper were crafted using a collaborative
3.1 Challenge Learning Flow design studio process. Basically, the design
The learning flow of the challenge studio process involves the use of processes,
begins with the introduction of a grand challenge tools, and virtual spaces to support the
or problem sufficient to capture the attention and exploration, imagineering, and creation of
imagination of the learner. Each of the five innovations involving new media (Stricker, et.
phases of the challenge flow helps the learner in al., 2010).
the acquisition and application of knowledge For learning innovations, involving new
necessary for critically understanding concepts at media, there is a need to acquire a fundamental
a deeper level (Figure 3). At each flow point (A understanding of how best to design learning
thru E) the learner is provided with Vygostky- environments for supporting the variety of ways
like scaffold assistance, including people interact with new media and with each
encouragement to consider multiple perspectives other in new socio-technical relationships
independent of geographical distance and arrival at the geothermal energy station, the
proximity (Stricker, 2009; Bailenson, et al., learner is asked to apply what they’ve learned on
2008; Allen, et al., 2004; Kakihara & Sorensen, the challenge to diagnose and repair a Mars
2002; Bransford, et al., 1999; Cognition and geothermal system. Challenge activities can be
Technology Group at Vanderbilt, 1997). Broad adjusted to better fit desired learning objectives
concepts or ideas can be taken from discovery and difficulty appropriate for age and subject
inception to prototype exemplars by leveraging knowledge levels. Problem solutions involve
multiple areas of expertise of participants the application of STEM skills in the use of
involved with the design studio. robotic kits to make station repairs. Hinting and
assistance are provided within the immersive 3D
4.1 Geothermal Energy on Mars world challenge.
This challenge was crafted to support 4- The learner is presented with the
H regional youth leaders in the development of following grand challenge:
science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics (STEM) skills and application in “What criteria are best to successfully assess
collaborative problem solving using robotics power supply options for sustaining human life
concepts. 4-H leaders and volunteers from on Mars?”
Auburn University collaborated in the design and
prototyping of the challenge. This challenge The learner is also requested to describe
uses a combination of MBR activities along with and justify the application of their criteria in their
quest-oriented tasks in the design. solution for repairing a Mars geothermal system.
Learners are guided through challenge phases
4.1.1 Challenge Background with instructional scaffolding delivered on the
Mars offers the best prospects for basis of a framework supporting 3rd-space social
human exploration of another planet due to its learning using an anchored instruction model.
abundance of indigenous resources for The challenge can be completed individually or
supporting a permanent and self-sufficient by collaboration in teams.
ecosystem necessary for sustaining life on the
planet. Three energy sources offer prospects for 4.1.2 Challenge Enduring Understandings
sustaining a human ecosystem on Mars: sun, The overall focus of the challenge
wind, and geothermal (Fogg, 1997). A viable design is on effective learning. Design features
Mars ecosystem rests on whether energy emphasize developing and deepening enduring
resources can be harnessed profitably. In other understanding of important ideas (Wiggins &
words, net energy would need to be obtained McTighe, 2005). For the Geothermal Energy on
above the energy required to harness it. This Mars challenge, the enduring understandings are:
challenge explores proposed methods of a) Importance and value of data and
generating net energy power on Mars necessary models for supporting scientific
to sustain human life and civilization. In inference and decisions,
particular, geothermal energy prospects are b) Application of STEM skills involved
examined in depth by the learning challenge. with scientific model-based reasoning
At the beginning of the challenge supporting critical thinking and
learners receive an orientation on space travel to methods to collaboratively solve
Mars at a virtual rocket launch facility that problems, and
includes MBR activities using a system model of c) Necessary and sufficient net energy
geothermal energy. Following orientation and criteria and features required for
MBR activities, the learner then virtually travels Martian settlements
to a Mars geothermal station located on the
Cerberus Plains. 4.1.3 Challenge Prototype Assessment
On the journey, the learner continues to Each prototype undergoes a series of
acquire knowledge and understanding about each Alpha and Beta testing to assess the design,
energy source prospect for sustaining a human usability, and expected learning outcomes.
ecosystem on Mars and why a geothermal energy Participants in the testing include samples of
station was established on the Cerberus Plains. subject matter experts, instructors, IT specialists,
Learners are presented with the STEM behind instructional designers, and learners. Alpha and
the decision to build and operate a geothermal beta testing is planned using samples of 4-H
energy station on the Cerberus Plains. Upon leaders and members.
4.2 Dinner Bargain of 1790 questions/issues from the founders of
This challenge was crafted to support a the new nation can be discovered and
set of Reserved Officer Training Corp (ROTC) learned from interacting with
lessons on the U.S. Constitution and early objects/devices within the environment.
American history. ROTC leaders and Also, while at the tavern, learners hear
instructional designers from the Holm Center at about the important dinner being
Air University collaborated in the design and planned by Jefferson. The tavern
prototyping of the challenge. This challenge structure consists of two exploratory
primarily uses quest-oriented tasks in the design. floors containing clues, hints, and
interactive objects.
4.2.1 Challenge Background • Jefferson’s residence: this is the
Thomas Jefferson arranged for a private location of the dinner reenactment and
dinner at his residence on 20 June 1790 to see if discussion leading to the historic
a “bargain” could be agreed upon for resolving compromise. Further research can be
conflict surrounding the revolutionary war debt. conducted by the learner at this location
The immersive 3D world challenge context in support of revising the initial
places the learner back into a virtual-world response to the challenge question.
simulated time of 1790 in New York City just • Other locations, such as George
prior to Jefferson’s famous dinner. Washington’s quarters, are provided for
The learner has opportunity to explore exploration and learning about the
the perspectives and issues behind the Sunday issues/tensions surrounding the context
dinner conversation at Jefferson’s home and of the challenge.
formulate a response to the following grand
challenge: 4.2.2 Challenge Enduring Understandings
The Dinner Bargain challenge helps the
“Was the dinner bargain of 1790 really a learner to explore and develop deeper insights
“bargain” for the new nation? Justify your and value for why the American revolution was
response with facts and interpretation of the extraordinary and how tensions at its founding
events and issues behind the dinner bargain.” are inherent in the American experience and
challenges facing the nation today.
Learners are encouraged to examine the
following questions to effectively address the The big idea and deeper understanding for
challenge: the learner to discern, by engaging in the
• How were the founders of the new challenge, is how the revolutionary generation
nation planning to address the found a way to contain the explosive energies of
revolutionary war debt? What was at the debate in the form of an ongoing argument or
stake with the solution? dialogue on tensions that was eventually
• How was the residency question for the institutionalized and rendered safe by the
new capital related to the debate on how creation of political parties. Further, the tensions
the new nation should pay her war at the creation of the new nation remain and
debts? What was at stake with the underlie much political debate today:
solution? • Conflict between state and federal
A common or shared solution to each • Conflicting attitudes toward
question above was not immediately government itself
forthcoming to the founders of the new nation. • Competing versions of citizenship
Perspectives and solutions offered by the • Differing postures toward the twin goals
founders occurred in the context of a deeper of freedom and equality
debate over federal versus state sovereignty and
alternative national visions. The following 4.2.3 Challenge Prototype Assessment
virtual scenes are emphasized in the challenge: Learner interaction with scene devices
• Fraunces Tavern: this is where the actions and their responses to challenge
challenge is introduced and initial questions are recorded and used in the feedback
explorations occur by learner to loop (Figure 3). Hints, clues, research
formulate an initial response to the information and resources are also provided
challenge question. Perspectives on the
through interactive devices. Alpha and beta Godwin-Jones, R. (2005). Messaging, gaming,
testing data are used to improve the challenge peer-to-peer sharing: Language learning
design and prototype. strategies and tools for the millennial
generation. Language Learning and
5.0 CONCLUSION Technology, 9(1), 17-22.
Understanding how learning functions Gutierrez, K.D., Baquedano-Lopez, P., Tejeda,
in 3rd space can be extended through the use of C., & Rivera, A. (1999). Building a culture
architectures uniquely designed for enabling of collaboration through hybrid language
learning in 3D. The utility of such architectures practices. Theory into Practice, 38, 87-93.
lies in how well learning and assessment Kapp, K.M., & O’Driscoll, T. (2010). Learning
sciences are integrated with new media in 3D: Adding a new dimension to enterprise
capabilities. Early work on the 3rd-space learning and collaboration. San Francisco,
prototypes suggests learning in 3D, using CA: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
mobile, interactive and immersive challenge Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated
scenarios, constitute an entirely new learning learning: Legitimate peripheral
environment full of prospects for actively participation. Cambridge: Cambridge
engaging learners regardless of location. University Press.
Moje, E., Ciechanowski, K., Kramer, K., Ellis,
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Educational Researcher, 18(1), pp. 32-42. and Curriculum Development.
Cognition and Technology Group at Vanderbilt.
(1997). The Jasper project: Lessons in Biographies
curriculum, instruction, assessment, and Andrew Stricker serves as a distributed learning
professional development. Mahwah, NJ: architect for Air University by helping to design,
Erlbaum. develop, and implement advanced and emerging
Fogg, M. J. (1997). The utility of geothermal learning technology innovations into U.S. Air Force
educational and professional military education
energy on Mars. The Smithsonian/NASA programs. Previously, Dr. Stricker served Vanderbilt
Astrophysics Data System (ADS), University as associate provost for innovation through
Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, 1- technology. He has also served 28 years as an Air
20. Force officer and scientist specializing in learning
sciences and human-factors engineering. Dr. Stricker
studied at Texas A&M University and Yale supporting the NSWCCD Director of Innovation in
University. His research is focused on modeling the implementation of virtual world technology for the
adaptive expertise and the design of learning development of immersive sailor training.
Toni Scribner has over 22-years of service with the
John Cook is a professor with the College of Air Force and is currently serving Air University as an
Education, Auburn University and serves as an Educational Technology Innovation Analyst. She
Extension 4-H Specialist in Science & Technology consults and assists AU faculty in designing,
Literacy. He develops and implements programs developing, and implementing emerging learning
relating to the mechanical sciences, new technology, technologies and principles into Air Force educational
and science literacy. His responsibilities also include and professional military education programs.
assisting county extension agents in planning, Research interests include educational and
organizing, conducting and evaluating Science & instructional technology tools, instructional design,
Technology and other programs. Dr. Cook has served learning theory, and faculty development.
as a member of a National 4-H Task Force on Science,
Engineering, and Technology from 2007-2010 and Fil Arenas retired from the military after 28 years of
continues as a member of the National 4-H Science faithful service (14 USAF and 14 USN), as a
Management Team. Lieutenant Commander, he served as a Medical
Service Corps officer until retirement in February
Kimberly Combs-Hardy received her Ph.D. in 2005. He attained his M.S. degree in Management
Educational Psychology from Baylor University with Science from the State University of New York in
an emphasis in Adult Learning and Creativity in 2000. 1987 and his Ed.D. degree in Higher Education
She was a faculty member with Troy University with Administration from The George Washington
teaching responsibilities in Technology, Research, University in 2005. Dr. Arenas is currently an
Statistics, Cognitive Development and Adult assistant professor of Organizational Leadership at the
Learning. In late spring of 2010, she joined Holm Squadron Officer College since August 2007 and an
Center Curriculum Directorate as the Chief of adjunct professor at Troy University, Montgomery
Educational Technology, where she continues her campus in graduate studies.
passion on the effective use of technology in the
classroom. Disclaimer
The opinions and viewpoints expressed in this paper
Cynthia Calongne is a professor with the Institute for are solely those of the authors and do not reflect
Advanced Studies at Colorado Technical University. official policy or position of the US government or the
Her research blends computer science, virtual worlds, Department of Defense (DoD), Auburn University,
emerging media, game design, usability, and robotics Colorado Technical University, the United States
as well as future and innovation methods. She was a Navy, Naval Surface Warfare Center, the United
featured author in the Educause Review (October States Air Force, or Air University. Cleared for public
2008). release (AETC-2011-0021). Original version of this
paper written for the Military Modeling and
Elizabeth Stricker serves as a 4-H volunteer for the Simulation symposium, 2011.
Youth Leadership program for Alabama. Her                                                                                                                
undergraduate degree is in Management Information i  The
underlying design of a learning challenge is
Systems, University of Maryland, with graduate based on situated cognition theory and anchored
studies in creativity from Texas A&M University. instruction (see Brown, et. al., 1989; and Bransford, et.
She worked 15 years as a project manager and al., 1990; Lave & Wenger, 1991). Situated cognition
instructional designer for Booz-Allen Hamilton. theory places importance on engaging learners in
Elizabeth has also been the director of the online authentic contexts to learn and perform involving
learning team at Texas A&M University, and problem solving to resolve complex or ill-defined
educational technology director for VaNTH at the problems. Anchored instruction involves the use of
School of Bioengineering, Vanderbilt University. goal-based scenarios. Goal-based scenarios involve
the use of real-life challenges (anchors) to engage the
Kathryn Flitter has supported the Product Data learner in realistic contexts for constructing and
Acquisition & Implementation Support Team at Naval applying knowledge.  
Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division
(NSWCCD) for over 20 years. Kathryn has provided
technical support to Naval Sea Systems Command
(NAVSEASYSCOM) Program Offices seeking to
convert their legacy technical data products to an
XML standardized format. Most recently, she has
provided support to the Virginia Class Submarine
Acoustics Program for conversion from a proprietary
data format to the ISO S1000D. Kathryn is currently