Universiteit Leiden

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The future of experiencing the past

The Faculty of Archaeology experiments with innovating their teaching methods, using 3D scans and visualisation technology to enable active learning. 'It makes archaeological material more accessible. Especially when it comes to fragile materials, it allows nearly anybody to analyse them.'

Piloting digital artefacts in the classroom

On 10 December, the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University held a pilot class to test the use of new technologies to enable active learning. The workshop, “The Future of Experiencing the Past”, was taught by Dr. Schats and M. Revello Lami, and gave students a first experience with 3D visualisations of archaeological artefacts. 

The pilot was attended by students from different education levels. After a short introduction, the lecturers highlighted relevant details on a selection of archaeological objects by projecting their 3D models on a touchscreen. Afterwards, students were able to interact with the 3D scans and analyse them in greater detail. Real pottery fragments and skulls also accompanied the 3D scans.

Displaying artefacts in this way opens new teaching opportunities. The object can be examined in different ways, and the display options can make difficult to visualise information clear and accessible.

Digitising Leiden University's collections

Leiden University is home to an exceptional archaeological collection. But it is not easy to use this collection in active teaching, as the objects are often small, unique, fragile, or carry ethical responsibilities. Currently, this is solved by purchasing expensive replicas of similar objects, but these objects are often didactically inferior examples to those housed by Leiden University.  

Through the SALTSWAT project, driven by the Centre for Innovation, a group of trailblazers  – Rachel Schats, Martina Revello Lami, Marie Soressi, Wouter Kool, and Alicia Walsh – are piloting a new solution. By using photogrammetry and 3D scanning to make our collection accessible for use in the classroom, the team not only supports active learning, but also pushes Leiden University Archaeology forward in the world of research.

The use of 3D visualizations allowed students to work with more objects than traditional teaching methods using physical objects.

The opportunities of new technologies

For the pilot class, example objects were made accessible through an embedded 3D model publishing platform link (Sketchfab) and hosted on learning management software, Brightspace. Students could easily explore multiple 3D scans on their laptops at their own pace. 

Displaying artefacts in this way opens new teaching opportunities. The object can be examined in different ways, and the display options can make difficult to visualise information clear and accessible. The scans being made by the team are of very high quality. This means the artefacts can be examined in extreme detail. They can be manipulated in a digital space, including by magnification, while annotations added by teachers can draw attention to key features.

The use of 3D visualizations allowed students to work with more objects than traditional teaching methods using physical objects. In addition, objects that are too fragile to be handed out in class could be made available for analysis through 3D scans. 

Read the full story on the website of the Centre for Innovation.

 

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