Dubai school brings learning to life with cutting-edge augmented reality

Gems Metropole School is harnessing new technology to give pupils a greater understanding of the world they live in

Pupils once had to wait for their next field trip to a museum to investigate fossils and artefacts, or plan a trip to a planetarium to gaze at distant galaxies.

But now education has moved into a new reality, an augmented reality, and one Dubai school is embracing the technology to boost its pupils' learning experience.

Gems Metropole School in Dubai has brought augmented reality into the classroom, using cutting-edge digital tools to allow for a greater understanding of the world.

Augmented reality uses a hand-held device such as an ipad to project an image — anything from a beating heart, a wild animal or a planet — into the real-world environment.

This differs from virtual reality, in which a user wearing a headset is immersed into a created virtual world.

In the next academic year, pupils will also be able to use virtual reality headsets in their classrooms.

Sophie Hunter, digital innovation leader at Gems Metropole School, said the technology could be beneficial to all age groups.

“Augmented reality brings something virtual into the real world for the pupil so that they can visualise it properly,” said Ms Hunter.

“The pupils have something to see in front of them that they can pull apart and look at the inner workings of.

“These skills will get them future-ready for the technology they will be using in the workplace.”

The school started using augmented reality for ages three to 18 in term three in the last academic year, and is set to introduce virtual reality in lessons next year. The school will also have a dedicated virtual reality space.

When pupils in younger years are learning about an animal they can interact with it as if it were placed next to them.

“In middle school when children are learning about planets, space or history, pupils can use applications where they can physically hold and turn the object that has been projected,” said Ms Hunter.

The technology will be used across the school from the foundation stage to year 13 and may be used several times of the week in different subjects.

Pupils will use Merge Cubes, a solid cube device, which links with applications and virtual reality headsets to project images in augmented and virtual reality.

Hazel Laheja, a year five pupil at the school, was excited about using the technology.

“I got to see how some parts of the human body work and that was interesting,” said Hazel.

“With augmented reality, I could play around with it and see what was happening in the body.

“Using this technology helped me get more interested in learning and showed me how things really work.

“During the pandemic I could not really go to many places and I missed field trips.

“It felt nice to be able to experience learning through this.”

Atacan Ansari, a year two pupil at the school, was excited after using an application to scan a photo of a bird which came to life on screen.

“It is a good virtual escape. I liked looking at the life cycle of a butterfly,” said Atacan.

“I think this would help me to learn more.”

The school has a bank of 50 applications it can use.

With the Mission to Mars application pupils can feel what it is like to walk on Mars, while BBC Civilisations helps children explore historical sites.

Merge Explorer and Viewer apps provide a library of images and projections, from Egyptian artefacts to human body systems.

Naveed Iqbal, principal at Gems Metropole School, said the school was aiming to use technology to invigorate lesson time for pupils.

“Why augmented and virtual reality? These will help our pupils to problem solve, challenge them, and prepare them for the future,” said Mr Iqbal.

“Augmented reality brings the outside universe and beyond into a classroom, at the fingertips of a pupil and a teacher.”

The principal said the technology would aid learning, improve pupils' experiences, and enhance the well-being of staff members by reducing time spent on administrative tasks.

The school has used augmented applications for science lessons to learn about the anatomy of a heart.

Pupils were able to engage with a depiction of the human body, placed in a real-life environment or projected on to a person's physical body as a diagram.

Updated: August 11th 2021, 5:20 AM