Sick at South Shore Beach: A Place-Based Augmented Reality Game as a Framework for Building Academic Language in Science (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Sick at South Shore Beach: A Place-Based Augmented Reality Game as a Framework for Building Academic Language in Science.

Abstract: Recent research on Augmented Reality (AR) gaming suggests that place-based AR games embedded in larger curricular units provide contexts, experiences and scaffolding that help develops students’ understanding of domain specific language in science. Using a socio-cultural view of learning, this project explores the potential of one specific place-based AR gaming unit, Sick at South Shore Beach, to develop students’ academic language related to environmental science and scientific argumentation. It examines specific game design features aimed at facilitating scientific language development and discusses how lessons learned during classroom implementations will be used to inform future AR designs.

Jim Mathews is part of the Games, Learning and Society group at the University of Wisconsin. The MIT-developed outdoor AR engine used in his project is GPS-, map- and role-based. Features: location awareness, content delivery.

Sick at South Shore Beach is a place-based augmented reality curriculum:

  • 10-15 days to “play”
  • Learners have to investigate why people are getting sick at South Shore Beach– it is a game of scientific investigation, detective-style.
  • To make the game experience authentic, the learners complete sign-up forms on the fictitious company’s letterhead, get emails from their “bosses”, etc.
  • Aimed to improve science language
  • Based on theory of situated learning

Iterative design cycle to iron out kinks in the game:

  1. Spring implementations
  2. Teacher workshops
  3. Fall implementations
  4. Teacher workshops

Very initial findings:

  • Learners were motivated to use and develop specialist language
  • Field experiences helped deepen learners understanding (especially English language learners)


  • The game is more appealing to some learners than others.


  • How to assess this sort of intervention?
  • Are the learnings transferable to other learning areas?

Author: James Mathews, University of Wisconsin, USA

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