“Augmented reality, what the heck is that?” Yep, I had the same reaction when I first heard about Augmented Reality (AR) and how it was effecting education. The purpose of this blog post is to put you in the picture about what AR is, how it’s already impacting the way that we learn.

Over the past decade, technology has well and truly entered the classroom, from interactive white boards and brand spanking new pc’s. But during this time students have powered ahead in their use of technology, becoming what some people call ‘Digital Natives‘ – a fully formed group of people for whom technology isn’t new, confusing and maybe to be feared but to be embraced fully into their daily lives. In many respects students have left classroom technology well in their wake.

The Statistics: Kids are Hooked on Technology

A report by EU Kids Online shows that in the UK, a third of children as young as three to four years old go online using a personal computer, netbook or tablet regularly. Some 87% of children aged five to seven also use the Internet, representing a 68% rise from 2007 to 2012.

Trends are similar across the globe, with developed countries like South Korea boasting the world’s highest speed Internet penetration. Children are used to the very latest features which give games a more realistic feel. One of these features is AR, in which layers of digital information – comprising photographs, videos and sounds – are superimposed over the ‘real world’ round them.

Lets now take a look at the forms that AR takes, what it looks, sounds and feels like, and examine some practical examples of how it’s being used.

Types of Augmented Reality already in the classroom

Two types of AR technology are used in classrooms these days:

  • Mobile devices fitted with GPS technology, sensing movement and position
  • Relatively immobile devices like laptops and personal computers, which also recognise position

What Does Augmented Reality Look, Sound and Feel Like?

Let’s take a look at examples of where AR is already at work, to get a sense of what it can bring to a lesson that could ordinarily be boring and theoretical.

A great place to start is LearnAR. Their technology allows teachers to superimpose the intestines, lungs and liver, over an actual student’s body, giving students an excellent indication of where these organs are actually located. Imagine the fun to be had in that.

LearnAR offers various free learning resources, on everything from Chemistry to Physics, Maths, and even languages, leaving indelible images and sounds in the minds of young learners. Realistic imagery is great as it also encourages higher order thinking, and provokes intelligent questions and discussions which are not likely to ensue from the typical drawing one might find within a science book.

Another popular resource is a free plugin for GoogleSketchUp. The allows students to study and analyse the 3D models they have created in the physical space which surrounds them and to share their creations with others. All students need is a webcam, personal computer and a printed code attached to the required software.

The Inglobe Technologies website provides a short video presentation which shows how AR can be used in areas like 3D Design. In the video, a 3D house is rotated, viewed from the top (without the roof so that rooms can be clearly visualised) and by floor (e.g. budding designers can enjoy an aerial view of the ground floor of a two-story house by simply ‘removing’ the second floor). This is an excellent way not only to hone student’s design skills, but also to present material on a wide range of subjects. The plugin is impressive, allowing students to section across any axis of a 3D design, present objects with real-time shadows and present their material in timed slideshows.

Some of the most fascinating ways the plugin can be used include:

  • Moving the maker/camera to make it seem like an animal is approaching a student
  • To present a puppet show using puppets designed in 3D on GoogleSketchUp
  • To superimpose a famous person’s face on a student’s, so the student can answer questions posed by fellow students on this historical figure’s life and experiences
  • Using virtual scenery to make a video for anything from history to maths assignments
  • To view realistic maps of existing cities so students can build their own, more sustainable cities

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to using AR in class; if you are a teacher and are unsure as to its scope, why not set an assignment for students, which involves them using AR in any way they can dream up, to present a particular area they are currently studying in class?

The Statistics on Augmented Reality

AR can make the studying experience fun; in the commercial sector, surveys have found that consumers value AR products 33% higher than non-augmented reality products.

According to Juniper Research, AR apps for mobiles will reap billions of pounds worth of sales by the year 2017. According to the report, the games sector will reap the greatest revenue in the world of AR, though this technology will increasingly be applied to other sectors as well, such as lifestyle, business and general entertainment applications. Education, to my mind, also has to be a massive market for this technology.

The future of augmented reality

Although AR is already doing plenty to make classes more entertaining and informative, some critics note that since this technology is dependent on a screen, it lacks the truly realistic feel that children could experience if, they say, they could actually ‘hold’ a 3D object in their hands or see it on their desk.

The good news is that engineers are making great progress in technologies such as special AR goggles, which serious ‘gamers’ and ‘techies’ are already using. It may be a while before the goggles are affordable enough for use in schools, but the ever-increasing number of new technologies mean that soon, AR will be more ‘real’ than ever. Teachers who are already relying on AR look forward to the day when they can share and be inspired by resources and 3D images created by other teachers and their students.

Interesting stuff, hey? Glad you read this blog post now?

Why don’t you tell us about what you see at the potential of AR in education, by adding a comment below – we would love to hear what you have to say. In the meantime, we will keep a close eye on AR and keep you in touch with development, as we believe it truly has the power to transform education.






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