Montgomery County students seek to ‘augment’ reality
CHRISTIANSBURG — Several students in the Montgomery County Public School system have been using iPhones in class and during summer enrichment programs, but that doesn’t bother Eastern Montgomery High School ecology teacher Josef Pociask.
That’s because last semester Pociask’s ecology class at EMHS was piloting a new technology using the phones called augmented reality. This week, more students could be seen experimenting with the technology during the school system’s summer enrichment classes at Christiansburg Middle School.
Matt Dunleavy, assistant professor of instructional technology at Radford University, is spearheading the Radford Augmented Outdoor Reality project, which enables students and teachers to create interactive mobile learning stories and games that teach science.
“Augmented reality is an emergent technology for learning that utilizes mobile, location-aware technologies which enable participants to interact with digital information embedded within the environment,” Dunleavy said.
Generally, an individual will use his or her cellphone camera to look at the world around them. “Hot spots” are placed in certain areas that can be seen on the phone’s screen. The user would walk to that space to learn more information about that site.
“Various types of digital media including text, images, video, Web pages and more, will be delivered to the user’s iPhone or tablet as they navigate through the physical space,” Pociask said.
“My students have created that content and choreographed its delivery.”
Pociask’s EMHS students utilized the MCPS outdoor classroom to create their first “guided tour” using the technology this past semester. Radford Augmented Outdoor Reality loaned the students 10 MacBooks and five iPhones.
Pociask said his students worked individually to develop an interactive experience based on one aspect of the outdoor classroom site. Taken together, the individual projects would provide a user of the outdoor classroom with a complete, guided tour, Pociask added.
The technology has been made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation awarded to ROAR at Radford University.
The software, FreshAiR, is being commercialized by MoGo Mobile Inc., a company co-founded by Dunleavy and Radford alumni Daniel Burgess and David Payne, and is expected to be released this summer.
Dunleavy said mobile learning has the potential to enhance classroom learning in a number of different areas, including individualized learning and socially networked collaborative learning.
Although the technology has come a long way, Dunleavy said it’s important to point out that more research needs to be done to understand exactly how it might enhance learning, if at all.
Pociask’s students are assisting Dunleavy with that part of the process.
“[Pociask] and his students are on the cutting edge in terms of mobile learning technologies, and we are very grateful to be working with such a progressive school and district,” Dunleavy said. “We have plans to build upon this pilot with more classes as the project progresses.”
Pociask strongly believes the technology is already encouraging his students to learn in ways they never have before.
“It certainly brings a ‘cool factor’ to the classroom,” Pociask said. “Many of the students really seemed to be more engaged knowing they were working on a fairly cutting-edge project.”
Students who worked on the project last semester agreed the technology enhanced their personal learning experiences.
“This technology has been created so you can have fun learning,” said Danielle Simpkins, who graduated from Eastern Montgomery this year.
“When you go to the same classroom every day, things get repetitive, but this really changes things up.”
Simpkins’ classmate Nikki Cerva said she found learning was much easier using the hands-on technology and thinks other MCPS students will benefit in much the same way.
“I hope other students get the opportunity to learn like this,” Cerva said.
“I know I’m going to remember it more because I went out there and actually did it, instead of learning from a textbook.”
Tiger Sun, a rising eighth-grader a Blacksburg Middle School and summer enrichment participant, said he plans to continue to use the software.
“I loved using this software, and I’ll definitely keep using it in my free time in the future,” Sun said.
Pociask said he hopes the technology will be able to benefit more students at MCPS in the near future.
“If the only benefit was that other schools and students could use the outdoor classroom site and have a more meaningful experience, then that by itself is a pretty awesome benefit,” Pociask said.
The future of augmented reality in the classroom is uncertain, but both Dunleavy and Pociask certainly see its potential.
Dunleavy believes most students, within the next five years, will be coming to school with a smartphone that is location-aware and will be able to receive information from their teachers about their environment as they walk through it.
With the help of Dunleavy, Pociask and MCPS are on the forefront of that technology, a technology Pociask strongly believes in.
“I think any time you can get kids outside, it adds something,” Pociask said.
The Roanoke Times | 381-8627
No Comments »
No comments yet.