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Sugar House Journal

Google Expeditions Augmented Reality thrills and educates J.E. Cosgriff students

May 15, 2018 10h53 ● By Jana Klopsch

Bridget Hankins, a seventh grader, pretending to pet a virtual dinosaur in the Cosgriff gym (Note: the paper with the QR code). (Lawrence Linford/City Journals)

By Lawrence Linford | [email protected]

“Let’s do dinosaurs!” said Jim Larson, a seventh-grade teacher at J.E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School, leading a new Google Expedition AR (or Augmented Reality).

“Yeah!” his class shouted back, assembled in their gym.

“We’ll start with everyone’s favorite dinosaur, T. Rex,” said Larson.

Suddenly, looking through a smart phone in camera mode, a Tyrannosaurus Rex appeared inside the Cosgriff gym.

Bringing all the necessary equipment, a Google associate arrived at Cosgriff on April 30 to test a new and free educational experience called Google Expeditions AR Pioneer Program. The program has over 60 Expeditions in a variety of subjects including science, nature, art, war and more.

 Each Expedition has a theme, ranging from “Understanding Simple Machines” for kindergartners to “The World of Ancient Rome” for older students. The Expeditions have five or more images along with information about each image (which only the teachers can see). The information included isn’t considered a lesson plan, but a guide for teachers to build around.

The Augmented Reality works like this: a piece of paper with a symbol called a Quick Response code is put on a table or the floor. Then a smart phone or tablet, in camera mode, is pointed at the QR code. When the Expedition begins, as you look at the device’s screen, an image will appear on top of the QR code.

As you look at your smart phone in camera mode, when the image appears—for example a T-Rex—the T-Rex appears on the screen in front of the real world background of whatever room you’re in.

So, it partially tricks your brain into thinking there’s a T. Rex right in front of you.

 “Now let’s take a look at lobsters,” said Larson. Suddenly the gym filled with spectacular energy as the students shouted “Whoa!” and shrieked with wonder and delight, and scrambled away from the giant lobsters appearing before them.

Depending on the Expedition you will see the human circulatory system or the Gutenberg Bible. Teachers have control over the Expedition and can pause it to go into further detail at any time.

“Some earthquakes are so powerful they can affect the earth’s axis,” said Larson, pausing on an image of the earth slowly rotating, during “A closer look at volcanoes” Expedition.

The images are lifelike and three-dimensional. Looking through your smart phone you can walk entirely around the image seeing it from different angles. As you move toward the image it gets bigger, as you retreat it gets smaller. With some images you can even look inside them.

“That’s gross!” a boy in Natalie Jenkins’ kindergarten class said watching an enormous virtual bee dance in front of him. “You’ll be able to look inside the bee in a few minutes,” said Jenkins, skillfully leading her class through a “Bees” Expedition and then gently quizzing them after.

Beyond the wonder and excitement of the new technology, both students and teachers at Cosgriff felt Google Expeditions AR was a powerful new learning tool.

“It really brought my imagination to life because I’m a visual learner,” said Anthony Walz, a seventh-grader. “To look around an object and see it from different angles made me think more about what it is. I saw models of Da Vinci’s inventions and I never thought much of them when they were just on paper, but seeing them as a 3-D model made me understand how they worked and how much work went into them.”

Google Expeditions AR is a follow-up of Google Expeditions VR (or Virtual Reality) that was launched in 2015. Millions of students have participated in Google Expeditions VR worldwide experiencing hundreds of different Expeditions. Through the efforts of Sam Weyher, a second- grade teacher at Cosgriff, students experienced Google Expeditions VR two years ago and the Augmented Reality version on April 30.

Google Expeditions VR works by slipping a smart phone into goggles made of cardboard (to keep expenses down). While a more immersive experience than Augmented Reality, there is the additional expense of a smart phone for each student. Also, only students 7 or older are advised to use the Virtual Reality Expeditions.

However, with Google Expeditions AR students of any age can participate and share a smart phone or tablet while watching the images.

Weyher suggested future AR innovations may include students creating and viewing their own 3D models. Another potential innovation: pointing your camera at someone and seeing a simulation of their internal organs.

Weyher praised both kinds of Expeditions and said he was eager to download the free AR app when it’s officially released in July. “I am always looking for opportunities to both engage my students and get them out of their seats and moving. With Augmented Reality they are fully engaged and active,” said Weyher. “Most of the teachers here at Cosgriff, myself included, plan on utilizing the app in our classrooms.”

J.E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School is at 2335 Redondo Ave. in Salt Lake City and has 400 students ranging from toddler to eighth grade, according to its website.