Augmented Reality: does it have a place/future in education?

Augmented Reality (AR) is still in its infancy, but as people like me look further afield to find interesting technology to use in (and out of) the classroom, it has been on my radar a bit recently. So, what is it?

“Unlike Virtual Reality (VR) that aims at replacing the perception of the world with an artificial one, Augmented Reality (AR) has the goal of enhancing a person’s perception of the surrounding world. Being partly virtual and real, the new interface technology of AR which is able to display relevant information at the appropriate time and location, offers many potential applications; these include aiding in education, training, repair or maintenance, manufacturing, medicine, battlefield, games and entertainment.”
Source: Asia Research News, Augmented Reality: The Future of Education Technology

Check out this YouTube video that demonstrates AR from the SMLXL blog;

It is also worth watching this video, this time from TED Talks: “Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos augmented-reality maps“. Here Blaise shows a new Microsoft online mapping enterprise called Bing Maps, which is amazing (dependent, I would think, on the quality of your Internet connection?) in the implementation and scope for it’s uses. How about a virtual tour around a museum, a building, or even an archaeological dig by a member of the team  or organisation involved (in a different country?) while the class stays in the classroom but interacts and even directs the proceedings – bring the field into the classroom:

But what of AR in the classroom? The wiki from Trends in EdTech for “Classroom Learning with AR” (currently) lists the following applications for Augmented Reality in the classroom environment;

  • Learning styles: rich examples of complex phenomena (engineering, earth sciences, medicine, environmental applications to name a few) while being engaging.
  • Authentic Learning: AR can tremendously enhance vocational studies for those wishing to enter the trades: auto and aviation mechanics, electricians, carpenters, etc… The ability to annotate real elements and the ability to add to reality by superimposing virtual aids, will aid in instruction and learning for those disciplines where a specific spatial configuration of elements must be learned and remembered (auto mechanics, medicine, chemistry).
  • Realistic models: AR provides a means of “seeing” phenomena in 3D, thereby bringing the contextual three dimensional nature of the real world to the their learning. Textual and pictorial information in the typical 2 dimensional print-based resources loses much of the richness of the “real” world elements, and involves an element of interpretation that is difficult for some students.
  • Engagement/Interactivity: Illustrations in books can come to life with AR technology and can captivate readers of all ages.

Rob De Lorenzo, on the Mobile Learner blog post “Augmented Reality and On-Demand Learning” says:

“… that using AR apps is unrealistic given the current reality of school board policies and certain teacher attitudes concerning the use of cell phones for learning. Granted, if students are not allowed to use their cell phone to help them learn then AR apps are useless.”

We have a huge shift in expectations to overcome before technologies such as AR, game-based learning, simulations, etc are accepted in anything more than a fad or ‘suck-it and see’ mentality.

Further reading: