Studies over the past 50 years indicate a significant, positive correlation between spatial thinking and STEM disciplines. Project Talent is one of those studies to support spatial training among our students. Findings indicate that thinking with images plays a central role in scientific creativity and communication.
Participating in a virtual world incorporates spatial thinking on a variety of levels. As consumers, participants in a virtual world deal with location, shapes, object’s relationship to each other and verbal descriptions such as near, far, next to, on, and under. In order to traverse the digital terrain they need to be able to move and to communicate spatial concepts.
On a more complex level participants may rearrange furniture, complete puzzles, move objects, and use maps, all contributing to spatial thinking.
As producers in the virtual environment, participants build and script. Building requires assembly, measurment, visualizing 3D models and reproducing them or creating new ones. Producers can build real or imagined structures, vehicles, objects and clothing.
Virtual worlds could, used effectively, provide formal and informal learning models for STEM learning environments. With the recent announcement of Race To The Top Winners, significant funding is allocated towards the STEM disciplines school districts may have an opportunity to expand and research this promising environment.