Grant for augmented reality boosts STEM teacher education at IU Southeast

22nd July 2019

By Steven Krolak

(NEW ALBANY, Ind.)–STEM teacher education at IU Southeast has received a significant grant from the Women’s Philanthropy Leadership Council at IU.

The award in the amount of $18,000 will enable teacher candidates in the sciences to become familiar with augmented reality (AR) technology and to transform their STEM classrooms into spaces for innovation.

“I am always looking for an opportunity to increase motivation for our elementary teacher candidates to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Dr. Sumreen Asim, assistant professor of education for elementary science and technology, and the initiator of the grant proposal.

The project is a first in Kentuckiana.

“AR technology is not currently being used by any other teacher education programs in our region,” Asim said.

Asim believes that AR in particular can empower educators to innovate, allowing for a richer experience for both teachers and students.

Augmented Reality (AR) tools expand the classroom.
Next-gen pedagogy: augmented reality takes students beyond the classroom.

AR brings together pieces of the real-world environment with virtual computer-generated imagery. Pokemon-Go is probably the most famous example of AR, but the technology has seen expanding applications in museums, travel and education. For example, in a recent demonstration at the Growing Tomorrow’s STEM Teachers Summer Institute, students were able to move around inside a human body using a tablet and a specially printed t-shirt. In fact, they were watching a chest cavity simulation–the body of the person wearing the t-shirt was the responsive screen.

It’s also more cost-effective than field trips.

“AR technology allows teachers to incorporate a realm of 3-D experiences into their STEM lessons without leaving the classroom,” Asim said.

The project comes at a time when data shows that teacher candidates both across the country and in our own service region are not keeping up with advances in technology, and so are often unwilling to use them in the classroom.

At the same time, areas like Southern Indiana are falling behind in STEM areas at the elementary level. So there is an urgent need for projects that help teacher candidates overcome the barriers that may be keeping them from leading a charge in STEM fields.

As part of the project, new technologies such as merge cubes, curiscope t-shirts, AR books and iPads will be purchased. But Asim’s approach goes far beyond buying gizmos.

“Simply placing technology in the classroom does not promote 21st century skills,” Asim said. “Instead, educators must effectively design curriculum that integrates technology for 21st century skill development, which includes supporting creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking skills.”

Beginning in fall 2019, the tools will be used in required science methods and technology courses for some 50 Block 3 students, most of whom are majoring in elementary and/or special education. Students will be assessed both quantitatively and qualitatively. The assessments will form part of the related research project on the impact of AR on candidate attitudes, perceptions and teaching practices of STEM content. That research will benefit K-12 classrooms in Kentuckiana and beyond.

“Future K-12 educators must consider how they will create experiences and teach STEM content that will garner 21st century skills and develop interest in STEM fields,” Asim said. “Teachers need to step up their educational technology game.”

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