Jersey City Public Schools, the second largest school district in New Jersey, partnered with Merge for a case study that illustrates how innovative leaders can unlock the power of Augmented Reality (AR) in their districts.
“We are excited to take part in this Merge Case Study to highlight all of the exciting things our teachers and students are doing in regards to augmented and virtual reality,” said Dr. Fernandez, Superintendent of Jersey City Public Schools.
Because leadership at JCPS already understood the positive impact curriculum-aligned AR experiences can have on student learning, it was launched as a district program, not just a one-classroom experiment. “We wanted something with a track record that has some proof points,” said Nancy Masoud, District Mathematics Supervisor. “And utilizing the Merge Cube with the Merge EDU program was our best choice.”
JCPS agrees that Merge EDU is cost-effective for the district, easy to implement for teachers, and is incredibly engaging for the students, leading to positive learning outcomes.
Large AR Rollouts in K-12 Need to be Cost Effective
JCPS first started using Merge EDU in October 2021, beginning with nineteen 5th grade teachers that service close to 450 students. Being one of the largest rollouts of augmented reality programs anywhere, the school had to be mindful of the cost-effectiveness of the tools they chose.
“When we were looking to purchase resources and devices for an AR/VR STEM initiative, we had to obviously be mindful of the cost effectiveness of any learning tool. One thing that helped us select Merge EDU is that it didn’t require us to buy expensive new devices that would only be used for AR/VR. With Merge EDU, we can use the devices that we already had selected for the broader program — in this case, iPads,” said Nancy Masoud.
Easy to Rollout and Use for Districts
The district provided professional development to the teachers to show them how to use Merge EDU, and educators caught on quickly.
“Once we did a demonstration of the Merge EDU platform and the Merge Cube, administrators and teachers were eager to get started. In working with Merge, we were able to provide professional development for all teachers involved. During this PD, teachers learned about everything Merge EDU had to offer and experienced the excitement of using the Merge Cube and apps themselves,” said Instructional Specialist, Kristin Mattaliano.
“The roll out of the initiative was fairly simple because Merge EDU provides teachers with plans for each lesson, as well as step by step instructions for the Future Builders [STEM] Project that the students completed as the culminating activity. In addition, the teachers participating in the initiative communicated through a Google Classroom where they supported one another and shared ideas,” added Mattaliano.
Engaging and Effective for Students
The students in Jersey City public schools are immediately engaged in learning, collaborating with each other, and truly learning when they’re using Merge EDU for science and STEM.
Ms. Kayon Wallace, teacher at PS #25, shared that her students “are engaged, there is a lot of collaboration, and the students are very happy,” when they used Merge EDU. “As you can see, my students love working with the Merge Cubes,” said Wallace.
Dr. Bower, Principal of PS #17 exclaimed, “As principal I have seen excitement and love seeing students eager to learn. The Merge Cube, by far, is the highlight of this initiative.”
Ms. Salina Scairretta, teacher at PS #20 said that with Merge EDU “Students who are normally quiet and shy are engaging in higher order thinking discussions with their peers. They’re opening up and they’re taking on leadership roles within their groups.”
To determine the effectiveness of the lessons, students involved in the initiative completed a pre-assessment and post-assessment. The questions for the assessment were taken directly from the Merge EDU quizzes. After completing the required lessons, students were given the same assessment as a post test. “The results were analyzed, and showed that 81% of the students showed growth from the pre to the post test,” said Kristin Mattaliano.
Over 300 Students Participated in the eMerge Showcase at the end of the School Year
As a culminating project after using Merge EDU with their students during the school year, JCPS held its first ever eMerge Showcase in June 2022. Using the “Future Builders” STEM Project from Merge EDU, about three hundred thirty 5th graders from 10 schools created eco-friendly hotels in Minecraft, which they exported as 3D objects to physically hold in their hand using the Merge Cube.
They presented their work to a panel of six judges, including school board president Gerald Lyons, who decided winners in 10 categories. The Immersive Reality Award, the Eco-Friendly Resources Award and the Innovative Award were just a few.
“The eMerge initiative has allowed students the opportunity to extend learning. Students are now demonstrating environmental awareness, and now realize the impact our actions have on the planet. Through my talks with students they have shared the pros and cons of the project, and have displayed an appreciation of the world around them!” said Dr. Brower, Principal of PS #17.
In addition to the competition portion of the showcase, there were also students who explained the lessons they learned during the school year using the AR capability of the Merge EDU platform.
Final Thoughts and Learning Outcomes with Merge EDU
Jersey City is proud of the initiative that they’ve built. “I guess it’s nice that people tell us that it’s innovative, such as being one of the larger rollouts of AR anywhere. But we aren’t trying to be innovative for its own sake. We’re trying to continuously build cost-effective programs that actually get great learning outcomes. That’s our job here. And we’re already seeing Merge EDU be a major factor in helping us achieve that,” said Nancy Masoud.
How to bring Merge EDU into Your School or District
Schools and districts that have interest in Merge EDU have several resources to learn more and try out the platform. The mergeedu.com website includes general overviews, testimonials, funding ideas, pricing, and links to the Help Center. Anybody can register for a free trial at trymerge.com, and the demo video at mergeedu.com/demo provides more information about the full Merge EDU platform. If you have any questions, you can reach out to Merge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More About Merge EDU
Merge EDU is a hands-on digital learning platform that helps students learn science and STEM with 3D objects and simulations they can touch, hold and interact with. Bringing AR into your school with Merge EDU will deepen student engagement in science and STEM, help students understand complex concepts more effectively, give them first-hand experience with technology that will shape their future, and teachers will be experts in no time with easy-to-follow guides and curriculum-aligned activities. Your teachers and students will know they are getting access to the best tools available, helping bring your school performance and culture to new heights.
To learn more about Merge EDU, visit www.MergeEDU.com.