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authors Sorby, S.A.
year 1999
title Developing 3-D Spatial Visualization Skills
source Engineering Design Graphics Journal, vol. 63, no. 2 (Spring): 21-32
summary This article brings up the point that 3-D spatial visualization skills are vital to graphics education. Instructors of graphics education, even though they have highly advanced spatial skills, rarely have the proper training on what spatial skills are or how the development of spatial skills takes place. As a result one must try to have a better understanding of spatial abilities. There are many interpretations as to what spatial skills really are and there is in therefore no one universal definition. As a way to better understand spatial abilities, Maier places them into five categories. The categories are spatial perception, spatial visualization, mental rotations, spatial rotations, and spatial orientation. These categories are vast. As a result of their vastness many of the categories overlap. Another step towards better understanding spatial skills involves differentiating how spatial skills are used while completing a task. Tartre makes a classification for how spatial skills are used while performing a task. The spatial skills are either used as spatial visualization that involves mentally moving the object, or as spatial orientation, which involves mentally moving the object. If the task involves spatial visualization then mental rotation can take place, which involves the entire object, or mental transformation can occur, which only involves part of an object. Visual thinking is a way to understand spatial skills. McKim offers the viewpoint that visual thinking occurs by three kinds of imagery. They are what one sees, what one can imagine, and what one can draw. All of these images interact with one another. Spatial skills are developed primarily in three different stages. This can be see be Piaget's theory on development. In the first stage, two dimensional, topological, skills are acquired. In the second stage, an understanding of 3-D objects, projective skills, from different viewpoints is achieved. Finally in the third stage, there is an understanding of area, volume, distance, translation, rotation and reflection, which is combined with projective skills. Spatial skills are evaluated in a variety of ways. There are tests that assess a person's projective skill level. Examples of these would be the Mental Cutting Test and the Differential Aptitude Test: Spatial Relation. Other tests assess mental rotation. Examples of mental rotation tests are the Purdue Spatial Visualization Test and the Mental Rotation Test. Results of these evaluations show mixed results as to whether there are gender differences in spatial skills. In order to enhance spatial skills, one must not only work with 3-D images, but they must also use concrete models and sketching. Overall I thought this article was very informative. It presented the information in a clear and concise manner. I summarized the information that I thought was especially useful for this class. The article really made me think how important it is not only to have spatial skills, but also to have an understanding of them.
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