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Augmented reality makes learning come alive

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Heritage Elementary School in Highland Village recently implemented an educational device that principal Toby Maxson said proved to be very useful to students since its introduction last spring.

It is called Aurasma Lite, and is essentially an application that allows the user to place an iPad or other device over a picture of an object, event, famous person etc., and receive an interactive explanation of what the content of the photo is all about.

Maxson said he has been impressed with the technology from the very beginning.

“The students love it,” Maxson said. “It’s really about meeting the kids where they are these days, so they love using the technology in conjunction with what they are learning in the classroom.

“How it works is, there are embedded videos behind any still object, so it is like a virtual world tour. For instance, if there is a picture of a White Tailed Deer, you can create and edit a video and link it to that image so that when you use this app, and it recognizes that image, it immediately starts playing the video.”

Maxson said the students at Heritage Elementary School use the device as part of their curriculum in social studies and science.

“We have what is called a TOH, or Texas Our Heritage outdoor garden,” Maxson said. “We have an area that is divided into the 10 Eco-regions of Texas. It’s basically an outdoor classroom.

“We’ve taken all the plants and animals and images, and the students can use this app to learn about the different Eco-regions of Texas. It goes along with our social-studies and science curriculum. They can go out and look at it, but as an extension of that, they can use the app to learn more about those objects.”

Matt Mills, Global Head of Partnerships and Innovation with Aurasma, the company that created the app, said that it can be used on a phone, tablet or even an iPod, and when the device sees something it recognizes, it pulls in digital content.

“For an educator, it means that you are able to share information on objects, products and books, and then when kids use it, they can get that additional knowledge,” Mills said.

Mills said that augmented reality is not just for elementary school students, either, but has been used up through university level education.

Maxson said that he believes the app is extremely beneficial to students, especially given the importance of technology in modern society.

“It incorporates the way kids learn going into the 21st century,” Maxson said. “It incorporates technology into real world experiences. There is nothing that beats quality teaching, but if you can add to that real life experience like going to the outdoor garden and utilize the technology of the app with it, I think it just grabs the students’ attention a little bit better.

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