By Chris Beattie, firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 9:26 AM CST
Lions, tigers and…letters, oh my
That’s what students at Lawson Early Childhood Center are screaming these days. Letters Alive, a 3-D educational technology program, makes learning the alphabet fun — growling bears, flipping seals and all.
“It’s just not the typical way that students learn,” said Holly Hammonds, Lawson library media specialist. “It used to be just the flash cards; now, it’s an engaging technology that they’re all excited about.”
The new tool, implemented at the school last spring, matches each letter with a 3-D animal. When teachers prompt the “G” card on the screen, a moving — even eating — giraffe pops up.
Similar animal characters come alive for each letter, creating a unique association with its look and sound. Through augmented reality, a camera connected to the screen takes a picture of the letter card and projects its corresponding 3-D image.
Lawson purchased the curriculum from Logical Choice Technologies, a worldwide educational technology company with a mission to build “a better future by engaging the students of today.” Educators around the world have been using the company’s Promethean ActivClassroom technology for nearly a decade.
Lawson staff discovered Letters Alive last February at a Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) convention in Austin, and soon after brought it to the school. There are four sets, including the cameras, cards and lesson plans, set up at Lawson. All students, many as young as 3 years old, experience the new program on a weekly basis.
“It’s an innovative way to teach students about letters,” said Asst. Principal Patricia Gerig. “Every student loves it. It teaches from letters to words to sentences, so once they’ve mastered one, they can go to the next.”
Teachers ask students questions that accompany each animal, such as what they eat or what color they are, and form four-word sentences as answers. If they prompt, “The seal eats fish,” some fish will pop up next to the already moving seal image.
Of course, trial and error goes with the territory, particularly for the youngest kids. During a demonstration Tuesday, one student confessed that he had seen a red alligator at the zoo.
But they’re learning, and doing so with record-long attention spans.
“It’s demanding to keep these kids interested,” Hammonds said. “If they’re 5 years old, you’re probably going to get about five minutes of attention. When we use this program, kids only start wiggling at about 20 minutes, and they’re into it the whole time. It’s amazing.”
Lawson and Caldwell Elementary School are so far the only McKinney ISD schools using Letters Alive, but the animals are popping up all over the world, said Jeff Roberts, Logical Choice’s territory manager for the North Texas region. Educators from the United Kingdom, Germany, India and Vietnam have all showed interest in the technology, he said.
“Everything we do is centered on how we can make students’ lives more engaging,” Roberts said. “It still uses flash cards, which have been used for reading for a long time, it just incorporates technology and brings all the digital-age kids into it.”
Hammonds agreed that aside from the in-your-face animals it projects, the program’s engaging style stems simply from using technology.
“No matter what socioeconomic background these students have, they probably still have technology in their home — phones or video games,” she said, “so that’s the frame of reference that a lot of them come from.”
Students and teachers brace themselves for the letter “B” in anticipation of the bear that towers outward as soon as the card hits the camera. Some see vultures and toucans for the first time, while learning the appearance and pronunciation for “V” and “T” words.
Logical Choice is now developing interactive storybooks based on each of the 26 animals. The books, which can be accessed on iPhones, iPads and Android devices, allow students to continue the 3-D curriculum in grade school, adding more sentences and paragraphs to the letter associations.
It’s not often that young kids are shouting with joy for their daily lesson, but never before has reading been so alive.
3-D isn’t just for the movies.
“We know if we can engage them, and if they do the thinking — go up to the card, do it themselves and make that association — it’s deposited in their brain,” Hammonds said. “It’s something they’ll always remember.”Click here to see the original article