Three Ways Zoos are Incorporating Technology
The world of education is changing rapidly. The proliferation of digital learning tools has fundamentally changed the way that many children learn and interact with the world around them. A 2013 survey by Technological Horizons in Education found that 31% of students use tablets in their studies and that 90% believe tablets make learning more fun. Studies show a link between tablet usage and increased test scores and many educators are pushing for further incorporation of new technologies in the classroom.
What does this mean for zoos? It means that as traditional classrooms evolve, supplementary sources of education need to keep up.
Here are three ways that zoos are using new technology to keep visitors engaged and learning.
Bringing the Past to Life with Augmented Reality – The Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia is using augmented reality to complement their Dinosaurs in the Wild exhibit. Visitors can download an app to their smartphones to scan special markers across the zoo. Each marker generates information about a particular dinosaur, quizzes and a special animation depicting the way the dinosaur moved, ate, and lived. The scanned dinosaurs are then stored in the user’s collection, adding a level of gamification to the experience. Jeremy Kenisky, of Geomedia, which created the app, said that the value of the technology goes beyond its ability to educate and engage visitors. “The primary goal of augmented reality at the zoo is to create a richer educational environment,” Kenisky said. “However, it’s also capable of providing a wealth of information to the zoo itself. From data about what parts of the park people spent the most time in, to statistics on how well visitors did on the quizzes. The application allows zoos to create this amazing new experience while simultaneously discovering new ways to improve upon its existing operations.”
Live Video from Inside Habitats – The Bristol Zoo recently participated in a trial run of the Wild:i application. Visitors to the zoo were able to use tablets at specific wi-fi hotspots located around the complex to watch short pre-recorded videos of the animals at the zoo, stream live videos, take quizzes, and navigate around the park. The sophisticated multicast technology allowed visitors to see crisp live footage of animals behaving in ways that might otherwise be missed due to inclement weather, lighting or shy animals.
Educational Video Games – The San Diego Zoo has a variety of fun, educational games on their website, starring some of their most popular animals. Players can take control of a mammoth, polar bear, or tiger and learn valuable lessons about conservation and the different types of wildlife they can encounter at the zoo. The games also present opportunities to adopt favorite creatures and contribute to the zoo. The games are a great way to excite and educate children before going to the zoo and reinforce learning after the trip.
As field trip budgets tighten and opportunities for learning outside of the classroom diminish, it’s vital that zoos do everything they can to promote a fun, effective learning environment. What do you think? How would you like to see new technology used to improve the zoo experience?