NoRILLA: Mixed Reality That Improves Learning

Research at Carnegie Mellon University with over 200 children in two elementary schools and museums has shown that the NoRILLA (Novel Research-based Intelligent Lifelong Learning Apparatus) system improves children’s learning by 5 times compared to equivalent screen-based tablet or computer-based learning, while also increasing their enjoyment.

“Most technology is so isolating,” Dr. Nesra Yannier, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University and Founder and CEO NoRILLA said. “I didn’t want that.”

NoRILLA is a mixed-reality system that combines physical and virtual worlds to improve children’s STEAM learning in an enjoyable and collaborative way. Intelligent Science Stations provide interactive feedback and guidance to children based on proven learning methods as they experiment and make discoveries about their physical environment, teaching them 21st-century skills like scientific thinking, inquiry, physics, logic, math, geometry, productive dialogue, critical thinking and collaboration.

NoRILLA can be used to teach many STEAM concepts such as early physics, inquiry, balance and stability, geometry, symmetry, volume, ratio, scientific curiosity, and 21st-century critical-thinking skills. NoRILLA has, so far, seen use in environments including in school districts, museums, and indoor play areas. In addition, NoRILLA has now developed a full hands-on digital curriculum. Through teacher input and research, the curriculum provides step-by-step instructions to enhance STEM education across an array of disciplines including math, science, literacy, and more. The system has received a number of recognitions and awards for its innovative approach to STEAM learning.

NoRILLA’s specialized AI algorithm tracks what students are doing in the physical environment and provides personalized interactive feedback to children as they experiment and make discoveries in the real world. It fosters collaboration and productive dialogue, encouraging them to discuss, collaborate and learn together with friends and family. The technology can be adapted to different content areas to teach children different skills and topics that are essential to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

EarthShake, the first educational game for the NoRILLA system, teaches early physics principles through hands-on learning. A table provides earthquakes and students make predictions about which tower will stay up longer. The supporting technology can detect how the towers fared during the quake, and the game’s cartoon gorilla gives the students appropriate feedback to understand the underlying principles.

“The more the video and screen generation comes through, the shorter their attention span is. I feel like I’m competing with the Xbox, the Wii. I have to be super engaging for them to pay attention to me. There is so much technology out there for kids, that’s great but there is so few ways to get them on the same thing at the same time.

I love that NoRILLA uses technology in such an engaging, communicative and non-isolating way. I’m not a scientist, I’m not a scientist by any stretch of imagination and I love science and I love to teach science, but I feel like I’m limited by own limitations in the science world. To have something like this that supports and backs up and lets the kids and myself all learn together is genius!”

– Teacher, Boston

NoRILLA is currently in several school districts and in informal learning spaces, and is a great example of how VR/AR-based learning experiences can bring more joy to the learning and collaboration to every child. Some teachers and administrators share their opinions in a video here.

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Justin Aglio

Dr. Justin Aglio is the founding senior director for the Readiness Institute at Penn State. In addition to his duties at Penn State, he is a visiting LearnLab fellow at Carnegie Mellon University, Getting Smart columnist, and a member of the Remake Learning network.

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