Augmented reality opens doors for educators

Posted on Wednesday, 1/22/2014 3:27 PM

Students born into this technological age have the ability to utilize software their ancestors could never have dreamt of, such as devices that would allow a user to learn about a place or topic merely by directing a mobile device in its location. But that's exactly what augmented reality allows.  

This new program, which gained steam in 2013, works to interactively educate individuals by providing pop-up information specifically catered toward whatever the device's camera is pointed. For example, a tourist or knowledge-thirsty person with an interest in knowing more about the statue of David would merely turn on his or her mobile device, place the statue in the viewing frame and wait for the wealth of information to appear.

Augmented reality has the opportunity to blend real-world experiences with digital, interactive information, such as videos, fun facts and website links.

Augmented reality in the classroom
This new student software has the potential to revolutionize classroom education, especially during off-campus field trips. After companies realized how many benefits could stem from this new interactive way of learning, apps sprouted up by the dozens. 

Teachers have already found a way to utilize these apps in their instruction. One educator, Theresa McGee, K-5 art teacher from Illinois, told eSchool News that both she and her students enjoy using this technology.

"The beauty of augmented reality is that it's different than just linking to a website," McGee said. "The cool factor for augmented reality is still there. The kids think it's amazing that they can just hold something in their hand and see that something is going on in front of their screen."

One Pennsylvania school district, Elizabeth Forward, has also begun to use augmented reality in its instruction. This district was the recent recipient of the "One-to-One Learning Initiative" grant, which provided Apple iPads and iPad minis for all K-12 students.

Third-grade teacher Lisa George told Trib Live that her students highly enjoy the interactive capabilities augmented reality provides, especially when learning reference materials such as encyclopedias, dictionaries and atlases.

Apps released 
With augmented reality only expected to gain more popularity as the new year progresses, companies are creating apps to cater to this technology as quickly as they can.

PBS Kids recently released a new app, Cyberchase Shape Quest, that connects digital gaming to the real world. With challenges that include geometry, spatial reasoning and problem solving, the app uses both digital content and the tablet's camera to create an interactive educational experience for all users. This particular app was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Ready to Learn grant, and is available for free download. 

ZooBurst, a digital storytelling app, allows users to create their own 3-D pop-up books. With augmented reality, however, users can watch these books unfold through the camera lens right into their own bedroom. The app lets students write their own books using well-known characters, and even provides the opportunity for students to interact with just the swipe of a finger. Students can use ZooBurst to write and tell stories, create presentations and write reports. It is also available for free download.

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