Over the last decade, from 2011 to 2019, smartphone use has increased from 35% to 81% (Source), making them a staple in nearly every home. Mobile technology has become the main method of using the internet. Gone are the days of dial-up internet where if your mom made a phone call, your connection went dead. Connections are faster, communication has changed, and technology is evolving. As a result, this increase of technology has made education more accessible than ever. With the rise of XR technology in education, the most logical entry point for classrooms is through the use of augmented reality or AR.
With its shorter learning curve, increased student immersion, and budget-friendly nature, AR can improve educational involvement for students and teachers alike. So, let's take a look at the key benefits of augmented reality in education, and what it can do for classrooms across the country.
What is augmented reality and what can it do for schools?
Augmented reality is the layering of digital images over a physical space via a smart device, such as a phone or tablet. Its supplemental nature aims to enhance the real world by overlaying objects with images, video, audio, and even written text to explain subject matter. Using a handheld device, a person can see entire textbooks worth of information displayed in a real-world space. It has the ability to explain information in a physical way, and because of the way it differs from virtual reality, it offers a more seamless interaction between the digital and real world.
Augmented reality is the most accessible of extended reality technologies. All a person needs to use AR is a smart device, something with a camera that can digitalize the real-world environment, and an app that takes the subject matter and overlays digital graphics onto it. This can come in the form of an actual picture of, say a giraffe that is placed on the digitalized floor, or written text displaying information about an actual giraffe at a zoo. With the simplicity of using an app on a phone, the possibilities and applications for augmented reality technology around the educational sphere are limitless.
Smart Devices in Education
What are some devices that an educator can use in order to have augmented reality as a supplemental tool in their classroom?
- Phone or tablet - This is the very basic of technology that the teacher needs, and most teachers already have this in their toolkit. Tablets are becoming like computers once were, and now it's difficult to find a classroom without them.
- The app - In order for augmented reality to work, the teacher needs a specific app that has been coded for augmented reality. With this tech becoming more widely accepted, it's increasingly easier to find cheap or free apps that match the curriculum, and installing these apps is as easy as pressing a button.
- Smart screen - While a phone or tablet is the most accessible device to use, it's by no means the only one. Smart screen monitors that can display an image for the teacher to digitally overlay their own written words or diagrams and work in real time to teach a lesson can easily replace the standard whiteboard and projector.
- Focus objects - A focus object is an object with sensors attached to it that gives the camera something to attach its image to. Ordinarily, the AR app will have the user scan the surrounding area in order to attach the graphic to the floor or wall. The user would then walk around the displayed graphic to see the back and sides. But with the focus object, the user can hold the object and turn it around, and the sensors enable the camera to pick up movement and rotates the subject to get a more accurate depiction without walking around it. This works best with smaller objects.
- Pinching gloves - Similar in design to the focus object, pinching gloves have sensors designed to interact with augmented reality and give students the capability to touch the augmented image and handle whatever was on the screen as if they held it in their hand.
Key Benefits of Augmented Reality in Education
Augmented reality is old news, really. It's been around since the 1990s where it was used heavily in military training and television. However, mainstream knowledge of the tech is more recent, coming to light with things like google maps and travel guides. Since then, it has become an effective tool for learning, and its recognition in the classroom is more common and accepted. So, here are 5 key benefits of using augmented reality in education.
- Advanced Learning Opportunities - Field trips and dissections and chemical experimentation all have their own set of unique hurdles to jump. Between finances, messes, and general safety procedures it's impractical to be able to do all these all the time. But with the right textbook and app, the world of science and history, art and literature, have opened up. Instead of just reading about the structure of musculature in the human body, students can scan a code in a textbook and identify each individual muscle in the body, where it is, what it's called, etc. Enhanced Memory - Augmented reality improves information retention and the student can remember more in a shorter given time frame than having read information in a textbook or watching a video. Because of its more interactive nature, augmented reality gives the student a better understanding of a subject in a shorter amount of time. It provides them with the opportunity to learn more than ever before.
- Collaborative Efforts - AR allows for continuous collaboration between interested parties because of its digital nature. The rapid sharing of information helps with student engagement and keeps them continuously interested in the subject matter.
- Unique Learning Environment - Offering AR as a supplemental tool gives students the opportunity to take their education wherever they want. Students have more engagement with the subject matter and are more willing to interact with the lesson in a hands-on way.
- Cost-Effectiveness - AR is a low-budget entry point into the world of XR tech in general, with many people already owning the required devices to use it. Some classes already have tablets as a standard tool, but even if they didn't, a quick Google search revealed some tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab S8, to be less than $100, making the addition a great option for implementing augmented reality into classrooms.
Augmented reality technology is a highly accessible form of XR, and it's easy to use nature - not to mention that it's relatively cheap in comparison to others - makes AR a highly effective way to get the benefits of XR into schools. With the rise of augmented reality technology in education, the most important thing to remember is that it's all about the student, and how this technology can benefit them. The cost of the technology is the least of the positive attributes of AR. Increased information retention, better learning environments, positive collaboration, and unique learning environments give the students a more positive learning experience overall. Augmented reality allows the student to learn at their own pace and have a better understanding of lesson material than ever before.
About the Author: Anna Taylor
Anna Taylor is a freelance writer and avid researcher- a jack of all trades, but a master of none. She graduated from the University of Hawai'i with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts because she had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. She has since found her love of Extended Reality and the possibilities it brings to the world, as well as gardening, cooking, and writing. Anna lives in Interior Alaska with her family.