Augmented reality could be helpful for ESOL students

Augmented reality
By Tyler Kendall | 

ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- On Thursday, students at Burley Middle School had the opportunity to experience augmented reality as part of a pilot program from Google.

"Instead of just imagining it in your head, you can actually see it," said Shakira Bravo, a Burley Middle School student.

That's one of the benefits of the technology that uses 360-degree digital graphics on a phone screen. It's a type of visual learning that some say is especially beneficial for students where English isn't their first language.

"What I like about the augmented virtual reality is that it's non-linguistic," said Laura Lewis, the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher. "So they can have an experience with a scientific concept, and then tie it back to the vocabulary from class."

Shakira's first language was Spanish and although she's been in English-speaking schools her whole life, she explains what it's like to learn a second dialect.

"Sometimes imagining it in class, something real specific is hard," she said. "Because if you've never seen it before, it's hard because you don't know what you're trying to imagine right now."

"You don't have to be like, 'wait, what part is it again?' because then they can just point it out," she said. "Then you understand it more."

"It gives them a way to transcend language and access the concept through a dynamic visual," Lewis added.

The visual learning is controlled by a teacher's "master device" and then once the "follower device" is connected, the augmented reality begins, letting users see objects on the screens in 360 degrees.

"So this type of virtual reality experience can create these wow moments," said Lewis. "When I was looking at the phone, I lost awareness of my surroundings and I was really with that object."

The school had to apply for a grant to be chosen to participate in Google's Beta testing. As of now, there is no set date on when the technology will be available permanently at the school.

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