Yet this is no obscure learning activity.
As Matthew Purcell, Canberra Grammar School’s Director of Digital Innovation reports, classroom learning has in fact been upped to a jaw-dropping new dimension across campus.
In what is considered to be the first school-based trial of its kind, the school has partnered with The University of Canberra and global education company Pearson to gauge the effect the HoloLens might have on learning outcomes.
Purcell says the children are using the holographic technology, quite literally, to explore curriculum material from the inside out. So whether they be mingling with molecules or meandering through ancient ruins, students are gaining a newfound perspective on topics across the curriculum.
“It’s still very much in this developer trial mode,” Purcell says of the HoloLens technology.
“The formal part of the trial involved Pearson developing a suite of applications based on interviews with our own teachers here about what they see would be valuable in terms of holographic apps to help improve students understanding of certain concepts and topics…”
In chemistry, for example, students can pull apart elements and re-assemble molecules, while a health class might be whisked inside a working human heart.
The formal outcomes of the experiment are yet to be concluded, but Purcell says the tech has expanded students’ ability to think beyond 2D textbook dimensions.
“The whole idea of spatial reasoning is incredibly important.
“Traditionally we think of things in 2D space, but when we go into the spatial reasoning aspect, it’s having the capacity to think about objects of learning in three dimensions and drawing conclusions about, that might not have necessarily have been able to have been drawn without having that 3D thinking,” Purcell notes.
Teachers have also been relishing their power to conjure a new “reality” for their classes.
“The apps have been designed such that there’s both a teacher mode and a student mode.
“So, say in chemistry, the teacher puts their HoloLens into ‘teacher’ mode and they’re in charge of sort of constructing whatever they want the students to see, and then all the students connect to that, and everyone sees the same hologram in the same space,” Purcell explains.
“To an observer it’s like the whole class is all standing around in a circle looking at absolutely nothing...” he laughs.
Five ‘Code Cadets’ students have taken things a step further, and developed their own HoloLens app dubbed ‘HoloElements’. It’s now available on the Microsoft Store.
“It’s a holographic periodic table that shows all of the various elements in 3D space as an animation of their molecular structure.
“They’ve really, really enjoyed it,” Purcell concludes.