In education, realia (pronunciation reel-ee-ah) are objects from real life used in classroom instruction by educators to improve students' understanding of other cultures and real life situations. A teacher of a foreign language often employs realia to strengthen students' associations between words for everyday objects and the objects themselves. In many cases, these objects are part of an instructional kit which includes a manual and is thus considered as being part of a documentary whole by librarians.
Realia are also used to connect learners with the key focal point of a lesson by allowing tactile and multidimensional connection between learned material and the object of the lesson. They are best utilized for simple objects lending themselves to classroom settings and ease of control with minimum risk of accident throughout the student object interaction.
Technology has begun to impact the use of realia by adding the virtual realia option, whereby three-dimensional models can be displayed through projection or on computer screens, allowing the learner to see detail otherwise difficult to acquire and to manipulate the object within the medium on which it is displayed. The option of zooming and looking within objects makes virtual realia an important learning tool in technical environments where it may be difficult or impractical to examine an object in as much detail manually, such as the workings of living organs or machinery containing hazardous parts, such as combustion engines.
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