Gaga for Google learning

Expeditions Pioneer program gives JLMS students a taste of augmented reality

A 3-D VIEW OF their classroom through a Google app wowed John Long Middle School students (from left) Pyper Flaig, Sneha Manchandani and Caitlin Lewis. The girls were among 420 students introduced to the new technology as part of a Google test project. See gallery for more photos. Photos by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Some 420 students at John Long Middle School were exposed to the future of learning last week, when members of Google’s Expeditions Pioneer program enhanced their education experience by introducing them to augmented reality.

“For the students, it opened up their world view with some of the apps they already play games on, such as Pokemon Go,” said seventh-grade science teacher Nikki Mathews.

“They saw real-life applications for it, like in the medical field. For them to see different parts of the world and learn how to connect with people in a different way was definitely a great learning experience. They didn’t treat it like a game.”

According to Mathews, Google’s technology scans and maps the physical classroom and projects a 3-D model on an iPhone held by a selfie stick, which allows students to walk around the objects and view them from any angle.

On Wednesday, March 7, the students tested the technology in groups of three and got to learn from new points of view about photosynthesis, the solar system, earthquakes and DNA and RNA structures.

“The students were able to explore the various molecules inside plant cells. It wasn’t just looking at the outside, they were able to delve deeper inside,” Mathews said.

“Google was able to take something microscopic and made it easier for the students to understand by making the abstract more concrete. They could also walk around 360-degrees of an object to see all the different sides, underneath and on top.”

Google is running a test phase for its augmented reality before it is released to the public. The company is experimenting at schools to improve its technology after receiving the feedback from teachers and students.

Mathews said the technology would work well as a supplemental resource to her lessons.

“If I was talking about molecules or photosynthesis, this would be a really nice tool to have,” she said.

 “The students can go right into the different parts of the plant cells, like the mitochondria and chloroplasts, that we’re actually looking at instead of talking about it or seeing it on a flat sheet of paper.”

Mathews first learned about Google’s Expeditions program last year, when she was applying for a grant for virtual reality equipment through the Grafton Education Foundation.

“I threw our name in the hat. Google ended up coming to Milwaukee for two weeks, and we were picked because of the number of students who would be exposed to the technology,” she said.

Mathews is a former John Long student who graduated from Grafton High School in 1992. She said she wishes the latest technology was available when she was a student. As a teacher, she believes augmented reality can help students outside of science class because it can be applied to other subjects.

“There are a ton of social-studies lessons where you can go on different field trips,” she said. “The students love seeing the Roman Coliseum.”

 Mathews also said the augmented reality works well for visual learners and for students who have various learning needs.

“The technology is really accessible and easy to adapt to,” she said. “The students were like, ‘I totally understand this more now.’

“And they loved going inside the objects and using the zoom. There was so much to learn from, and they were engaged and on topic the entire time.” 



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