Extended reality is changing the way society operates. From communication to entertainment and gaming, to training in the workplace, it's normal to find VR headsets as easily as a PC or game consol. Twenty years ago, the same thing could have been said about computer towers in a school library. As educators learn more about the possibilities of XR and what it could bring into the classroom, more are eager to adopt this method of teaching than before. Let's take a look into the specific possibilities of augmented reality in education.
A quick search through the iPhone app store for "augmented reality in education" brought up hundreds of apps perfect for teaching kids. That's because developers as well as teachers themselves have realized the benefits of using augmented reality. But why is that?
First, learning tends to feel like a game, rather than an assignment that students have to complete. If it were a normal assignment, they'd be graded on performance and skill, as well as the percentage of correctness. Because augmented reality focuses more on the practical application of a subject, the student can "play" through a scenario, such as mixing unstable chemicals to learn the negative consequences of doing so.
Second, AR helps students visualize concepts, leading to faster learning and greater retention rates. The time spent on any given subject is reduced. Humans, generally speaking, are experiential learners, meaning that in order to really grasp complicated concepts, it's important to get hands-on, physical or visual experience.
Third, it places responsibility for the student's education back into their hands. While a teacher's responsibility is to facilitate learning and create a positive learning environment, a student will only learn as much as they take responsibility for. By using AR, students are more engaged in lessons and feel more confident in their learning capabilities.
Fourth, augmented reality provides a safe way to learn about unsafe subject matter, like combustible chemical compounds or animal dissection.
Last, but certainly not least on this very incomprehensive list, is cost. Unlike VR, AR doesn't require expensive equipment other than the smart devices that most people already have. With a smartphone or tablet and the right app, teachers can be flexible with their lesson plans.
1. Tools for Learning
While AR doesn't always require any special tool to use, other than the specific app used, there are some useful items and things to know before getting started. A tablet or smartphone is the typical vessel, and if there are issues with viewing the lesson objects, here are a few things that can help. Make sure the viewing area is a flat, open surface. Textures and patterns work best. Make sure the surface being used is not glossy or reflective as it will cause issues with the smart device's camera lens.
Augmented reality is the most accessible XR technology, with the only necessity being a smart device, but there are things that can enhance user experience. For instance, the Merge Cube, a target device that allows the student to actually hold the object of their interest and examine it in 3D. The student can turn the cube around and hold it in their hands, and with a picture laid on top of the cube, it gives them a new way to study the subject up close.
2. 5 Apps that Support Augmented Learning
- Animal Safari allows students a closer look at different animals, as well as interactive components and informational items.
- Hologo has both teacher and student portals that offer experiences in History, Biology, Mathematics, and other core subjects.
- XR Guru's Immersive Learning Hub has designed lesson plans specifically for middle school and higher education with focuses on Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.
- Even Google Translate has an augmented reality feature. Simply point the camera at the letters that need to be translated, et voila! The phrase makes sense.
- Arloon Plants allows the user to point the camera at a plant, which will then give facts and features of that plant.
3. Lesson Ideas Using Augmented Reality
Lesson 1: In preparation for a class field trip to the local zoo (or in place of one), use an animal safari app. The app will show how big or small an animal, such as a tiger, is in comparison to the student and their surroundings. Have students pick an animal they like and read the information listed to learn more about their eating and sleeping habits while they walk around it to learn more about their physical appearance.
Lesson 2: Use augmented reality to discuss diet and nutrition using a chemistry app. This will help the student understand the chemical make up food, and the effect it has on the human body. Discuss how and where certain compounds are digested, and where digestion actually begins. Emphasize how many types of sugars, carbohydrates, and proteins are found in food, where to find them, and how to identify healthy compounds.
Lesson 3: For Art History, allow students to choose any piece of art to write a report for. Using augmented reality, the student can find a specific image or piece of art. This would work best with 3D art such as a sculpture. The student could walk around the augmented image and potentially read or watch the history behind what inspired the artist to create it in the first place and the process that went into it. For a group lesson, pick one piece of art together and discuss thoughts in regard to it.
Lesson 4: In reference to the Merge Cube, allow students to use the target object to hold and study a human heart. Be sure to note where the four chambers of the heart are, what the veins and arteries are and what makes them red or blue and state their functions. Using this guide, have students draw the heart as accurately as they can.
Lesson 5: Have students pick a habitat, such as the jungle, a pond, or the mountains. Using an app that allows students to paint or draw on the walls and objects around them, have them adapt the room into their chosen environment. Have them write down the key features before beginning so they include them in the drawing, as well as the animals and foliage they might find.
Education is in constant flux, and with the advancements in extended reality, it's bound to evolve even faster. It won't be long before every school in the country is able to utilize XR technology to teach comprehensive subjects in a manner that benefits the speed at which a student can learn. As the world moves further from processing information and into truly understanding complex concepts, XR and augmented reality will be there to facilitate the process, and more schools will access this technology.
With so many companies exploring XR tech, it's important to find one to trust. XR Guru offers powerful visualization to match the speed at which the human brain comprehends information, immersive learning experiences, elevated engagement and retention, and overall enhances online learning in many subjects. With a recently launched Human Anatomy package, science just got even cooler.
Check out more information on the educational packages available to educators, individuals, and families.
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.