CTLT Dialogues

The Blog of the Center for Teaching & Learning with Technology

3D Modeling: Tied Up in Knots

Posted by ctlt on June 5, 2008

University College’s Ellen Campbell, Assistant Professor of Education, led a hands-on workshop on her constructivist approach to using 3D animation software, with commentary on issues for the assessment of such projects. Following constructivist theory, educators put their students in a quandary, a condition of doubt or uncertainty, and ask them to take a risk. This is what Ellen’s title refers to: you are supposed to be tied up in knots and to struggle with some mental messiness. She’s worked with students who are preparing to be math teachers, and her approach teaches both the importance of persistence, and the importance of creating constructivist environments, where students may struggle with mental messiness without jeopardy. Educators must avoid the environmental factors that cause discomfort, because when people encounter those, they avoid taking risks, and encouraging them to take such risks is the point of the constructivist approach.

Ellen spoke about issues surrounding the use of visual methods, and reminded participants that much of what we take in from our experience and make sense out of, comes to us visually. Another consideration, particularly in an educational context, is the problem of assessment. People are usually comfortable with assessing an essay. Is such assessment of visual products (images, 3D models, animations, and so on) as subjective as some may claim? Ellen noted that we should be able to assess elements of the visual products people create.

After all, there are rules to this game. Does an image have a Center of Interest? One main quality that you find yourself looking at? Are there secondary, supporting features, or supporting details, to give extra, added interest? How does the eye flow around the image? Does it have some kind of tension, some tension points that need resolution? And there are considerations of proportion, scale and directionality. Your attention should flow around and the picture elements should bring you back into the picture.

Ellen uses Carrara 3D modeling software in her classes. The software enables us to show and demonstrate knowledge. To share and examine it.

Her approach uses the concepts of Visual Literacy. Visual literacy studies the use of visual methods as a unique symbol system. That understanding supports an approach to assessing visual products in the same way we would assess an essay. We look to assess two main areas: syntax and semantics. Syntax is the form and structure of words (morphology), with words as symbol systems. Semantics in concerning with meaning. What actually happens? Semantic considerations have very broad application. Ellen also noted for educators that the New Jersey Board has four standards for literacy that deal with nonverbal standards.

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