DSEF brings augmented reality to schools

Students at Pine Hill Elementary use Google Expedition.

A DSEF-funded virtual and augmented reality program is bringing the world into classrooms at Pine Hill, Chickering, and Dover Sherborn Middle School (DSMS).

The program enables educators to provide more dynamic learning experiences for K-8 students using Google Expeditions kits that allow teachers to take students on virtual field trips without leaving the classroom. The technology brings people, places and artifacts from around the world to students via more than 100 augmented reality expeditions and more than 900 virtual reality expeditions in history, science, nature, technology, engineering and the arts. The kits are being integrated into the existing curriculum and shared among the schools.

DSMS Instructional Technology teacher Sandra Sammarco has been implementing the expeditions and tools to sixth and seventh graders in her Technology classes, as well as training other staff to build their proficiency using the tools in their classrooms. DSMS teachers in science, history, technology/engineering, foreign language, and math classrooms are getting their feet wet by exploring the variety of expeditions offered and testing how these tools work.

The technology is active in the elementary schools, as well. “Our second grade class used the augmented reality devices to gain a stronger understanding of the states of matter,” said Rebecca Mealey, a second grade teacher at Pine Hill. “For each state, the children had to access the 3D image and determine what it was showing. The exclamations and engagement as they realized what they were seeing were wonderful, and putting these somewhat abstract ideas into a more tangible format really helped the new learning stay with them. We’re looking forward to exploring the tide pool through virtual reality this winter.”

In a related program, WGBH recently visited Sandra Sammarco’s Technology Literacy classroom at DSMS to field-test their instructional virtual reality platform. Students collaborated directly with the PBS Kids team on this project to help refine the usability and scalability of the instructional technology equipment and software. Students provided feedback on the Water on Other Worlds lesson plan, which will be made available on the PBS LearningMedia platform. On their virtual mission, students explored the availability and accessibility of water in the solar system. They traveled from Mars to distant Pluto, investigating various planets and moons, collecting and comparing data about various other solar system objects they encountered.

The augmented reality program is just one of the more than $150,000 in DSEF grants awarded for the 2018-2019 academic year. DSEF supports all four schools and funds art and music, science, and technology initiatives; health and wellness and cultural enrichment; as well as core academic curricula.

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