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Augmented reality brings a new dimension to learning

Re-invigorating the educational process for students

Eric Kleefeld • Published 10/26/05

Madison, Wis. - Kurt Squire, an assistant professor at the UW-Madison School of Education, hopes to bring a new dimension to education and learning with "augmented reality" games, which combine aspects of physical activity, traditional reading and math problems, and video-game simulations.

Squire, working through the UW System and the Academic ADL Co-Lab Games And Professional Practice Simulations Group, is the principal coordinator of the Star School project, seeking to deliver augmented reality educational games to urban middle-school students in Milwaukee and Madison. The project recently received a $1.49 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to aid in game development and testing.

"This is a continuation of work that we've been doing for some time, but it's the first substantial chunk of funding that we've gotten to really try to do some careful design and research on this project," Dede said.

The project will involve games that combine physical action with virtual interactivity. Players will start out with GPS-equipped PDA devices and walk around an outdoor site, such as a schoolyard or a public park. They then interact with imaginary goal points on the map and virtual experts at set locations, identifying a problem—one example Squire gave was of a chemical spill—and tracking its progress over time.

"What we've found is that the kids that we've worked with so far in some of our pilot projects, many of them tend to be largely unmotivated by school," Squire said, "and one of their biggest problems with school is they're expected to sit around and listen to what the teacher says for five to six hours a day."

Instead, Squire and his collaborators hope to re-invigorate the educational process for students by giving them that physical context and encouraging them to read complex texts and understand new subjects with an immediate purpose in mind.


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