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3D Images, QR Codes Go to School

Classroom technology of the future ranges from simple to complex and expensive to accessible.

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When it comes to education technology, the future's so bright, you gotta wear shades—3D ones.

Three-dimensional images took over movie theaters, wormed their way onto television sets, and are heading to the classroom. High schools in Colorado and Illinois are already using 3D projectors to make science lessons pop.

[Learn what ACT scores reveal about college readiness in math and science.]

Using special glasses to view images displayed from a 3D projector, students can tour the ventricles of the heart, or explore every surface of a molecule. Students say the unique perspective helps them grasp the lesson.

"I've always had a really hard time understanding what a molecule looks like and how it can be rotated," Lisa Siewert, a student at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colo., says in an interview with FOX 31 in Denver. "With the 3D movie, it shows it rotating."

[See photos of U.S. News's Most Connected Classrooms.]

While the cost of implementing 3D technology could prevent budget-crunched high schools from working it into their curriculum—a fully outfitted classroom can cost close to $10,000—colleges and vocational schools are investing in it teach job skills.

"The trend we are seeing is moving from flat static content to more multimedia," says William Rieders, executive vice president of global strategy and business development for Cengage Learning, a textbook and educational technology company.

"A good example would be nursing, where you can actually learn how to give someone an intravenous injection using a three dimensional simulation that's fully online," Rieders says.

Learning in 3D is gaining popularity in science and medical fields, but has yet to branch out into other disciplines, Rieders says.

Quick response codes, or QR codes, are another type of technology working its way into the education space. Those black and white squares popping up on storefront windows, movie posters, and newspapers are finding new life in the classroom.

[See what high schools made U.S. News's list of Most Connected Classrooms.]

Teachers can create a custom QR code online that embeds data such as math problems, websites, or lesson plans. Students scan the code by using an app on their smartphones, which instantly displays the content hidden in the code.

Unlike 3D, QR codes are accessible and can be used in myriad ways.

"You can actually get the kids to read a book, do a book review, attach it to a QR code, and put it in the binding of the book," says Charity Preston, a teacher in Sandusky, Ohio. When students scan the QR codes attached to the books, they can see their classmates' reviews.

Quick response codes work best at the high school level because most students have either a smartphone or a camera phone, and are responsible for their own phones, Preston says.

[Read about technologies that may curb online cheating.]

Teachers can use QR codes to give students material, and to hold students accountable for daily lessons.

"After school, teachers can basically put together everything that was done in class that day, create a QR code, put it on a sticky label, and slap it on a calendar for the students to scan," Preston says. "That way they can't say, 'Oh, I don't know what page I had to do, or I don't know where that website link is,' it's all there; it's in their phone."

Like many new technologies, some schools and educators are wary about bringing QR codes, and subsequently students' cell phones, into the classroom, says Preston, whose daughter's high school prohibits students from bringing them to school.

Whether it is 3D projections, QR codes, or some other technology, the material is still the most important part, Preston says.

"It's always about novelty," she says. "It's just the hook to get them interested in the learning."

See U.S. News's coverage of Technology in the Classroom.