Elementary Student Knowledge Gains In The Digital Portable Planetarium

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Laura D. Carsten-Conner
Angela M. Larson
Jennifer Arseneau
Robert R. Herrick


celestial motion, immersive environments, planetarium, conceptual knowledge


Immersive environments provide unique and heightened sensory experiences that focus a learner’s attention, and thus may be useful learning platforms.  In particular, portable planetariums may be useful in advancing conceptual knowledge about the night sky, because they afford learners with Earth-based views of celestial motions, and give learners a sense of “being there.”  We demonstrate here that students make gains in knowledge about both apparent celestial motion and general astronomy concepts after viewing a 25-minute planetarium presentation.  However, the planetarium presentation did not appear to increase interest in astronomy and space science.  Our results suggest that the portable planetarium may be a useful strategy in supporting learners as they struggle with reconciling observed patterns with underlying, non-observable motions of the Earth, and with visualizing concepts such as the speed of planetary orbits relative to their position with respect to the sun.


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