(TNS) — ELLWOOD CITY — Students at Lincoln High School on Thursday saw a coral reef, the eye of a tornado, ancient Rome and a ship approaching the sun — all without ever leaving their classrooms.
Google's Expedition AR stopped by the Ellwood City school's seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms, bringing with it objects from the solar system, the ocean and ancient Rome for a technologically enhanced show and tell.
Expeditions AR, or augmented reality, uses Google's technology to map a classroom and place 3D objects inside. Using a Google-provided Asus cell phone attached to a "selfie" stick, students got up-close and personal with the objects, zooming in or out by stepping forward or back.
Augmented reality isn't virtual reality, clarified a Google associate. Virtual reality replaces the viewer's reality, transferring the person to an entirely different environment. Augmented reality brings a piece of a different environment to the viewer's current space. In this case, the current space was Lincoln's seventh- and eighth-grade science classrooms and seventh-grade history room.
Google essentially has a list of lessons available through Expedition AR, and teachers pick whichever topic they want, Ellen Ruckert, Lincoln's technology coordinator, said.
In Sean McConahy's eighth-grade science class, students looked at different aspects of coral reefs, which matched well with the class's current curriculum.
Teachers lead the class with another phone and "selfie" stick, touching the phone's touch screen to display the next object and pausing to ask questions.
McConahy often left room for the students to play around with the object and explore its details. "It's a great supplement," McConahy said. "I can talk about a topic and (the students) can take a few minutes to look at it."
The students were equally as animated, with shouts of "ooh!" and "look!" flooding the classroom.
"It's neat," eighth-grader Aaron Micue said. "You can look under it (the 3D object), too, and it still had the same details."
Luke Young, another eighth-grader, emphasized how realistic the experience was, joking that after the expedition was over, one of his friends forgot it wasn't reality. He looked down at the ground, expecting to see part of the coral reef staring back at him, but only saw the classroom floor.
In Mike McCullough's seventh-grade science class, students took an expedition through space, getting up close to the sun and seeing the inside of Apollo 13. They also went in the eye of tornadoes and hurricanes during their "forces of nature" unit.
This technology would be a beneficial way to introduce students to a new lesson, McCullough said.
"I think it's a good learning tool," seventh-grader McKayla Sedjwick said. "It's something different. It's not just the same thing out of the (text) book."
Her fellow seventh-grade students agreed. Lilly Bivens liked being able to see the objects right in front of her. "You're there to see it all," she said.
Kylah McQuiston, also in seventh-grade, appreciated how the augmented reality expedition doesn't require you to put on any equipment to get the full experience.
Ruckert, who initiated the visit, said the process to get Google to come to Lincoln was simple: "I filled out a form online, and within a week I heard back."
Expedition AR hasn't been released to the public yet. It's currently a beta version that's in development, making it free for schools to enjoy during this time.
Teachers Brent Thiec, seventh-grade science, and Scot Buffington, seventh-grade history, also utilized the augmented reality expedition.
©2018 the Beaver County Times (Beaver, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.