One school in the Long Beach Unified School District had an opportunity recently to demonstrate augmented reality (AR) in the classroom.
Washington Middle School (1450 Cedar Ave.) students were joined by Google AR experts last November to test the tech leader's beta Expeditions Augmented Reality application.
"One of the things that Google wanted the kids to do was to let them know how to improve the app," Melinda Clare, technology coordinator at Washington Middle School, said. "It was a great opportunity to involve the kids with new-age technology and for us to see how they would react to it."
James Laub, the technology teacher at the middle school, saw that Google was searching for classes throughout the country to test out their educational application. Laub said that he applied to participate, and within a couple of weeks, Google was in Long Beach.
On testing day, the Google team brought iPhones attached to selfie sticks for students to use. Students were separated in groups of two to four with the iPhones and were immediately asked to follow the lesson demonstrated by the app. Since the children were already accustomed to handling smartphones and applications, utilizing the AR was easy, Clare added.
And the beta test didn't distract the students from their lessons, according to Laub.
Google provided a list of lessons that teachers could choose from, allowing the beta test to coincide with current classroom lesson plans, he said.
The lessons at Washington Middle School included astronomy, and the students were amazing, Clare added.
"Our eighth grade did the solar system," she said. "They were able to see the planets, investigate and open up the planets and move around them through the screen."
Clare said that the AR lesson was beneficial for students with known learning disabilities as well.
"There were two kids in particular that stood out to me," she said. "One of them is autistic and has a sever stutter and doesn't communicate well with other people."
During the activity, she added, that student was engaged and laughing. For that period of time, she didn't hear him stutter.
The other student is a self described loner and doesn't care to socialize with other students, she said. Much like his peer, this student was engaged with the lesson — and with the other students.
"He was so into it," she said. "All of the kids were into it. It was a neat thing to see."
According to Clare, the Google team will be back at Washington Middle School in eight to 10 months for students to test an updated version of the app.
To learn more about Google's Expeditions Augmented Reality Pioneer Program, go to edu.google.com/expeditions.
Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.