Coming Soon to Schools: Dissecting Frogs in 3-D

Thursday, September 8, 2011

When Maurio Medley, an eighth-grade math teacher at Ocoee Middle School in central Florida, wants to teach his students how to find the volume of a cylinder, he doesn't turn to a textbook or chalkboard. Instead, he turns on a 3-D-enabled projector to rotate a virtual Euclidian solid.

Schools are trying to keep up with the multiplex, keen to find ways to engage students in an age of 3-D movies and gadgets that make traditional classroom materials look dated. And the technology and equipment makers are eager to create a new market for their 3-D products.

Mr. Medley, 30 years old, compares the experience to going on a "3-D field trip" without students leaving the classroom. "By putting on 3-D glasses, we can show them how math works in real life," he says.

Ocoee Middle School student Madeleine Magrino, age 13, says the 3-D lessons in her sixth-grade science class last year helped her understand what cartilage in skeletal systems looked like. "You don't want to turn away because you don't want to miss anything," she says.

As students head back to school this fall, more of them will find lesson plans that use 3-D, or stereoscopic, materials. Dozens of schools have invested in, or been selected to participate in, 3-D pilot programs in subjects from anatomy to astronomy.

Roughly 185,000 3-D-ready projectors will be sold to U.S. schools for grades kindergarten through 12 this year, estimates Pacific Media Associates, a market-research company. The figure is more than double the number sold last year.

Three-D entertainment, along with the growth of the iPad and mobile devices, may have primed younger generations to respond to more social and interactive teaching techniques in the classroom.

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