One of the most common misconceptions about Augmented Reality is that it belongs in the future, when in fact it is all around us – right here, right now. It is also incredibly user-friendly whilst utilising cutting edge technology, making it ideal for incorporating into learning environments.
But let us first define exactly what augmented reality is. Simply put, it uses specially designed apps installed on handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones, to extend the physical world with a digital overlay. This is done by scanning objects known as triggers. The images are analyised by the app that then applies an extra layer of information that can be text, video, audio, images or links to other sites. Users can also generate their own AR content that can be shared with and accessed by others.
While this may seem reminiscent of fantasy worlds in films and video games, we must realise that children are growing up surrounded by technology; to the point where it is very much a normality for them to know how to use an iPad and write basic coding before secondary age. With augmented reality, their learning experience is instantly brought to life, becoming multi-sensory with the opportunity to independently explore things further.
Benefits of Augmented Reality in Education
We are already aware of the many benefits associated with interactive education. Augmented reality combines factual learning with imaginative and creative thinking. Imagine being able to take a science lesson where pupils can build a 3D human heart, or pick planets out of a projected solar system for closer inspection.
AR also lends itself to maths and science – demonstrating with ease how they can be applied to the physical world. For example, children can be asked to estimate the height of a building then scan it to find out the answer. They can investigate their surroundings and learn the names of trees and plants and insects. History is also highly suited to augmented reality, especially out on field trips, where students can scan structures and monuments to compile their own digital projects. There is also the opportunity to take graphic design to a new level with interactive 3D modelling.
Augmented Reality Apps
The latest app from Jack Hunter Games, has been specifically designed using AR as a means of encouraging children to read. It cleverly combines a physical book with an app used on a smart device, allowing readers to engage in the story in ways once thought impossible. They themselves can become part of the adventure and learn new things on the way.
So how does one go about generating content in augmented reality? At present, the two most popular tools for creating AR are Aurasma and Layar – both of which are free apps and work with iOS and Android. Once you have accounts set up, anyone with login details can create and access AR experiences. This means that teachers and students can all contribute.
It is important to understand that AR is not about replacing existing teaching methods but rather enhance them. It would be wrong to think that everything should be digitalised, especially where children are concerned. Yet it would be equally misguided to assume that it has no place in the classroom when so many aspects of our day-to-day lives are reliant on computer technology. Furthermore, the possibilities are literally endless and there are plenty of opportunities for children to work together to create their own exciting learning worlds, without limitations.
About the Author
Nick Le Chat is an avid augmented reality & technology enthusiast, with an interest in how technology & augmented reality can be integrated into the classroom.