CONNECTED CL ASSROOM
Mixed-reality environments combine physical and virtual worlds. Mixed- reality systems can be useful instructional tools that combine the power of computers
with the complexity of the physical world. These
systems take advantage of the power of computers for prediction, simulation, and measurement
but also ground activities in the “messiness” of
the physical world.
Mixed Reality in STEM Education
Mixed reality can be ideal for classroom activities
that integrate science and engineering. The Concord Consortium’s Mixed Reality Lab (concord.
org/projects/mixed-reality-labs), led by Charles
Xie, outlines the rationale for mixed-reality environments:
• Hands-on labs provide rich context and
multisensory experiences but often fail
to reveal the underlying concepts clearly.
• Virtual labs help focus student attention
on the concepts through visual, interactive
simulations but often lack a sense of reality.
• By combining these two types of learning into
mixed-reality experiences, the advantages of
both should increase learning.
The concept of computers interacting with the
physical world is not new. In 1971, Seymour Pa-
pert and Cynthia Solomon published a landmark
paper, “Twenty Things to Do with a Computer"
( tinyurl.com/ap689wj), recommending that
computers in schools take advantage of the
same affordances computers offer science
and engineering. They noted:
In the real world computers are used in
many different ways. Some are programmed
to fly airplanes; not to tell a human pilot
what to do, but to pull the levers with their
own electronic-mechanical effectuators
and to read the altitudes and airspeeds with
electronic sensing devices.… Some comput-
ers are programmed to control lathes and
milling machines in industrial plants … .
Exploring Waves with Pendulums
In 2009, Vadas Gintautas and Alfred Hübler
devised an inexpensive electronic pendulum
constructed from a computer mouse, facilitating
exploration with a device that teachers can make
for less than $5. You can access construction
plans and software, provided as supplements
to an article they published in Physics Education,