Home » 4 ways to use interactive media in science education

4 ways to use interactive media in science education

Photo by Stella Jacob on Unsplash

When I was a child, interactive media was quite a novelty compared to today. Maybe we would be allowed to go on the one computer at school to play one of those 90’s PC games that taught kids how to type. At home, we had Game Boys and computers, but interactive media on these way normally limited to purchased games or free online browser games (yes I know, I sound like a millennial version of Grandpa Simpson). Fast forward to 2021, and interactive media has blown up. People are using Snapchat and Instagram augmented reality effects left, right and centre. The availability of computing power and screens has enabled new experiences that can communicate information like never before. Let’s run through some of the most compelling!

The Exploratorium, San Francisco

Exploratorium, Matthew Poon, https://www.flickr.com/photos/_matthew_poon_/11397642024, licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

A museum that is all about discovery and interactivity, what better place to start than the Exploratorium? From a room where everything is the same colour to digital plankton microscopes to an enormous Black Box room that showcases mind-bending artworks that sit at the intersection of art and science, the diversity of experiences in this museum is huge. They also have a bunch of online exhibits, including experiments you can try at home, including growing plants from scraps of food and a salt water battery experiment!

Ecomare, Texel (The Netherlands)

Aquariumzaal, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Otterhttps://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecomare#/media/Bestand:Texel_-_Ecomare_-_aquariumzaal_20200617.jpg, licensed under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

The Ecomare is a hybrid museum and seal sanctuary on the Dutch wadden island of Texel. They have recently had a bit of an interactivity overhaul, and their new “Wonderlijk Wad” exhibition features an interactive floor where you can control the amount of land and water to add to the environment, and see which wild animals will populate it! There are also interactive games where you can discover the migration patterns of birds, and the geologic processes of the area.

Perot Museum, Dallas, Texas

If you can’t come to the dinosaurs, let the dinosaurs come to you through the power of mobile AR!

Most people will never get the chance to visit any given museum, what with the world being so big and international travel being so expensive and all. Not to mention the pandemic going on at the moment making a lot of museum visits difficult or even impossible. Fortunately, museums are increasingly finding new ways to connect with people across the globe with AR. Take the Pachyrhinosaurus effect from the Perot Museum in Dallas, Texas. This Snapchat lens lets you place an animated dinosaur anywhere you want using your phone. Not only does this help educate people by providing a more memorable experience than a simple video or photo, it also helps promote the museum itself. What a great way for the underrated pachyrhinosaurus perotorum to gain some recognition!

European Bison (Snapchat lens)

An interactive museum display, from the comfort of your own home.

This one is a Snapchat lens I made myself that demonstrates how information can be displayed in AR. I have always been interested in nature and rewilding initiatives, so the work done to reintroduce animals to areas where they were previously extinct by organisations such as Rewilding Europe and WWF is something I wanted to help promote. In this effect, the user views a cave painting come to life in front of their eyes, and tell the story of the reintroduction of Bison to Europe through an animated bison and a holographic map!

Conclusion: new frontiers

Photo by Pat Whelen on Unsplash

The field of interactive media is evolving extremely quickly, partly because the technologies used in it (AR, VR, smartphones, AI etc) are also changing rapidly. Interactivity is a crucial factor in educational experiences: it helps people understand concepts and remember what they’ve learned more easily. The uses covered in this article are only the tip of the iceberg: there are heaps more innovative displays and apps out there, and many more still being created! Have you noticed any special experiences that seemed particularly inventive? Let me know in the comments!

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