Students from Allesandro Elementary School tested a new mobile app on Wednesday that lets them explore the city of Los Angeles.
"I'm excited about this app because you're learning about new stuff and then when you're learning you're also playing a game," said Jonathan Montez, a 5th grader from Allesandro Elementary, at City Hall for the app launch event.
LA city leaders have a mission to focus on innovatively using technology to help residents engage with city landmarks and landscapes, believing that green time and screen time can go together.
With 11 partners, including the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, Southern California Edison and Western National Parks Association, the city of Los Angeles is tapping into the augmented reality wave with the launch of their new mobile app called Agents of Discovery. The app will be part of the SoCal Explorer Campaign, which aims to get more children active, outdoors and learning about the Southland's history and ecosystems.
Through augmented reality (AR) in the Agents of Discovery app, users will be able to participate in site-specific "missions" across 29 Southland parks, allowing them to earn digital and embroidered badges, as well as grand prizes.
Mary Clark, CEO of the Agents of Discovery app, studied educational technology for her master's degree at the University of British Columbia. "My research was focused on the use of augmented reality gaming to enhance STEM learning," which she says is where the idea for this app all began. "I realized we need to be engaging and using these tools to get kids more active, healthier and learning about what's around them."
In AR users navigate the real world while engaging with a virtual landscape or virtual elements overlaid on their phone screen.
AR took the gaming world by storm in 2016. Pokémon GO, an AR mobile game app, became a huge cultural phenomenon that captivated all kinds of people and became one of the top grossing apps on both Apple/iOS and Android that year, according to Forbes. At one point, daily traffic for the game exceeded Twitter and Facebook use combined.
Pokémon GO answered the age-old question of how to get kids to play outside again, since young people have notoriously been stuck inside since the start of digital gaming.
A Mid Sweden University study shows that augmented reality games do, in fact, have a positive effect on learning potential for children 11-15 years old, and AR-based outdoor learning sessions resonate strongly with this group.
"I think 21st century learners want to be more active and engaged, so this is a model that educators can use," Clark said. She adds that the Agents of Discovery app even has challenges that align California science standards and math curriculum.
Augmented reality may be the future for standardized learning systems. But until then, AR gaming will be a fun and interesting way to engage users, especially young kids.