Environmental Detectives—the development of an augmented reality platform for environmental simulations

  • Eric Klopfer
  • Kurt Squire
Development Article


The form factors of handheld computers make them increasingly popular among K-12 educators. Although some compelling examples of educational software for handhelds exist, we believe that the potential of this platform are just being discovered. This paper reviews innovative applications for mobile computing for both education and entertainment purposes, and then proposes a framework for approaching handheld applications we call “augmented reality educational gaming.” We then describe our development process in creating a development platform for augmented reality games that draws from rapid prototyping, learner-centered software, and contemporary game design methodologies. We provide a narrative case study of our development activities spread across five case studies with classrooms, and provide a design narrative explaining this development process and articulate an approach to designing educational software on emerging technology platforms. Pedagogical, design, and technical conclusions and implications are discussed.


Augmented reality Handheld computing Design research 



This research was supported with a grant from Microsoft—MIT iCampus as a part of the Games-to-Teach Project. The authors would like to thank the PIs of the Games-to-Teach Project, Randy Hinrichs at Microsoft Research and Henry Jenkins, Director MIT Comparative Media Studies for their support of this project, as well as Kodjo Hesse, Gunnar Harboe, and Walter Holland for their hard work in the development of Environmental Detectives.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Teacher Education ProgramMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.University of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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