Augmented reality (AR) is a staple in mainstream media these days. It's impossible to turn a corner on the street, or flip through an ad on a phone without seeing an example of augmented reality technology. SnapChat, Home Depot, and Pokémon Go are all examples of AR and show the mixed uses of AR in media and marketing. These are all ways we unintentionally and unknowingly use the technology every day, whether you're a gamer, really into social media, or just want to know what paint color looks best on your kitchen walls. It's almost beginning to look like Back to the Future's version of 2015, if maybe just a little late.
Media isn't the only place starting to look like the future. Augmented reality use cases span dozens of industries, and its hard to find one that wouldn't benefit from its technology. What better place to introduce it to than the world of education. Teachers can use AR to supplement traditional training methods and students can use it to enhance their current understanding of their base of knowledge. Augmented reality in education is rapidly changing the way that educators teach and simultaneously giving students a better grasp of critical concepts.
Augmented Realty- A Brief Overview
Augmented reality is a digital overlay of images onto a physical space. This overlay can be done with text, audio, video, and pictures. A few examples of this are SnapChat filters, Google Translate, and Ikea's furniture placement app. It is a subset of a wider spectrum of extended reality (XR) technology. It's more immersive sibling is virtual reality, a technology that just about everybody is aware of to some degree at this point. All XR technologies need a processor, display, and sensors to use, but virtual reality uses a head mounted display (HMD) to display the imaging, whereas augmented reality's display comes complete with its processor and sensors.
Virtual and augmented reality differ considerably in key areas, most importantly for classroom settings is their teaching capabilities. While virtual reality is good for one or a small group of people at one time, augmented reality can be used by the entire classroom at one time because everybody is privy to the physical space. For instance, while there are now augmented reality HMDs available in the form of glassware, its not necessary for the basic augmented applications that are more likely found in a school setting. That's because all you need to use augmented reality is a smartphone. Even if a student doesn't have a smartphone, it's easier to share than an HMD.
How to Supplement Augmented Reality in Education
An important difference between augmented reality and virtual reality is that while virtual reality eliminates the physical world, augmented reality supplements what's already there. Take the Google Translate app for instance. Hovering the viewfinder of a phone over a road sign in a foreign country takes the original language of the sign and translates it into the preferred language. In a similar way, augmented reality can supplement education by taking what's unknown, or misunderstood and adding to the information there. Here are a few ways that augmented reality can supplement or add to the classroom.
Guided Education- Teachers can't be around every student for every individualized lesson. On average, there are about 20 students per teacher in a classroom. While the teacher will obviously give the lesson in front of the class, there will come a time for personal reflection and internalization of concepts. Augmented reality can help guide students through the personal study and keep them on track.
Textbook Supplementation- Many places are equipped with augmented reality QR codes that lead users to apps and other digital locations. Combine this with the fact that textbooks are always coming out with newer editions that have additional information that wasn't available when the first was printed and it would be easy to equip a textbook with a QR code that leads the student to videos, additional reading, and images that help solidify critical information.
Encourages Experimental Education- An important aspect of learning is practical application that helps internalize critical information. People learn by doing, and augmented reality is a tool that encourages the experimentation of ideas. Experimentation isn't just a scientific concept, though a valuable part of the scientific process. Instead, it is a process of following questions, using information for memory retention, and finding answers to questions previously unknown.
Student responsibility- Augmented reality is exciting. That's the simple truth of the matter. AR technology is a gamified way of learning. It causes students to be more engaged and interested in the information presented to them. As a result, they're more excited to find new information to learn. A large problem seen in education is that it doesn't teach students how to learn but gives them a standard set of information to memorize. A big part of learning is following an interesting line of information to know what's at the end. Augmented reality presents that process of information, opening a whole new world to the student and enabling them to take responsibility for their own education.
3 Augmented Reality Apps That Teachers Can Use
With the wealth of information available to the world, its difficult to wade through the muck and the mud to find what you really need. Finding exactly the app you want is tricky with the limited amount of time available. So here are 3 augmented reality apps that teachers can use, from somebody who uses them.
- Constellation Star Finder AR is an app that helps find stars, planets, and constellations in the sky. Simply point the viewfinder at the sky and digital representations pop up on the screen. It can be used to learn detailed information about the night sky in a fun and interactive way. It's basically like having a telescope right in your hand.
- Animal Safari AR is an interesting way of bringing the zoo to you. The viewfinder of a phone will scan the space in front of the user and, using that physical information, can place the desired animal onto the floor. This is excellent for anybody with an interest in zoology (from a tiny bug to an elephant), or if you've ever wanted to stand next to a lion and find out how much taller they are. In the app, users can even feed the animals.
- AR Anatomy uses similar spatial technology to display a human body onto a physical platform. Students can learn muscle group names, skeletal formations, and circulatory system facts by selecting specific functions within the app. This one is great for anybody interested in the medical field and expanding on what they already see.
Augmented reality in education is the future realized today. It's what everybody's favorite sci-fi movies from the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s showed it could be, without all the extravagance attached. AR technology helps educators supplement the information they're given and is a resource that will engage more students and give them a greater understanding of their own interest. Giving students a good foundation for exploratory learning will help them become educators, medical and manufacturing professionals, and valuable workers in their own right. Not just workers who show up, but workers who show up and challenge processes and information in beneficial ways that create a better future for everyone.