Used effectively, stereoscopic three-dimensional (3D) technologies can engage students with complex disciplinary content as they are presented with informative representations of abstract concepts. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that stereoscopy may enhance learning and retention in some educational settings. Biological concepts particularly benefit from this type of presentation since complex spatially oriented structures frequently define function within these systems. Viewing biological phenomena in 3D as they are in real life allows the user to relate these spatial relationships and easily grasp concepts making the key connection between structure and function. In addition, viewing these concepts interactively in 3D and in a manner that leads to increased engagement for young prospective scientists can further increase the impact. We conducted two studies evaluating the use of this technology as an instructional tool to teach high school students complex biological concepts. The first study tested the use of stereoscopic materials for teaching brain function and human anatomy to four classes. The second study evaluated stereoscopic images to support the learning of cell structure and DNA in four different high school classes. Most important, students who used stereoscopic 3D had significantly higher test scores than those who did not. In addition, students reported enjoying 3D presentations, and it was among their top choices for learning about these complex concepts. In summary, our evidence adds further support for the benefits of 3D images to students' learning of science concepts.
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