Most of the presentations I’ve been asked to deliver at events recently have been solely focused on VR in education so I was happy to get the chance to chat about both AR and VR at the recent EdEX MENA event here in Dubai. Whilst putting my slide deck together I realised that I’d never given AR the same focus in terms of theory as I had done to VR. As a first step towards balancing them, I decided to delve into the Why of AR in the same way I explored the why of VR last month with the article in Education Journal Middle East and the big event at GITEX.
The graphic I produced can be seen below and as always I am happy for you to download and share it. What I’ll do here is add a little additional detail for each of the reasons and exemplar apps that you can explore with your own students.
Harness The impossible
Who wouldn’t want to bring a dinosaur into their classroom? Talk about an amazing hook for writing let alone the potential for science. How about importing a lunar rover? Or an active volcano? AR can produce some truly breath-taking wow moments in the classroom, especially right now as the technology is so nascent and has not yet become as fully embedded in everyday life as it soon will be. There are plenty of examples of AR content that fulfil this criteria. Look at the 4D+ apps from Octagon Studios for a good starting point.
One thing I always think about when looking at an AR application is simply: Is there a point to seeing this in augmented reality? In other words – does this experience benefit students more than viewing the same model on a touch screen tablet where they can rotate, scale and manipulate it as the please? Well-designed AR will allow students to view models more naturally – moving around them to change perspective and getting closer/further away etc. This is perfect when viewing content like AR shapes as it means students can examine the properties with more freedom and precision.
Augmented reality can provide highly interactive learning experiences, providing the developer has taken this into account and created an app that is not just an inanimate model on a screen. Many augmented reality creators talk about bringing content to life in AR and it really is possible to bring learning to life, allowing students to interact with virtual content with a greater deal of autonomy than is afforded them by text, images or even video content. Look at the amazing new Human Anatomy Atlas app from Visible Body as an example. This is a clear evolution of how anatomy has been taught previously using traditional media.
Engaged students will be more intrinsically motivated and in turn develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Augmented reality is fast becoming an everyday part of students’ lives and thus integration within learning scenarios means that students are engaging with content that is both relevant to their world and in line with how they use and interact with digital content. I definitely saw this with my own kids when they got to test out the NeoBear globe:
Look no further than the mighty Aurasma for this one. I recently wrote a lengthy retrospective on Aurasma (which you can find here) after five years of using it in schools. Being able to tag multimedia, student-created content to classroom displays is without a doubt one of the most powerful uses of AR in education.
Other apps that can be harnessed in this way include Blippar, Zappar and even AR colouring apps like Quiver.
Stimulate the Senses
Well-designed AR experiences will be more than just a static, silent 3D model. It should also engage the student through sound and through touch controls, thus creating a multi-sensory experience that elevates the learning content.
Zookazam is a fabulous example of - since the animals are so lifelike, they make authentic sounds, there are multiple levels of narration and touch screen controls to direct on screen information overlays.
The X-Ray Effect
A simple but very powerful concept – AR can let you look inside things. Now the obvious example here is the wonderful VirtualiTee from Curiscope as it literally feels like you’re wearing x-ray glasses as you peek inside the human body:
The x-ray effect is not limited to anatomy though. The history apps from Inspyro allow you to look inside Viking longhouses and more. I’ve also seen a wonderful app demo that allows you to see what food is made up from (protein, sugar, fats etc) which is another great example.
The Budget Factor
It’s often a matter of logistics and economics in schools when it comes to resources and AR can definitely help in this regard. Let’s take the example of 3D shapes. It could be quite expensive to buy whole class sets of 3D shapes for use in maths but for a great deal less you could deploy a class set of AR shapes using an app like Arloon’s Geometry. I’m not saying replace physical resources completely, not at all, but being able to supplement with virtual resources, for a fraction of the cost is going to lead many schools towards AR in the next few years. How about if you were teaching a history topic? History resources are notoriously expensive (often due to the materials used or the detail involved) but using apps like the Inspyro's Sigurd and the Dragon Activelens, you can put Viking artefacts in front of every student.... for free!