Augmented Reality – The Coolest Instructional Technology You Haven’t Heard of?

by Maria Politis on April 15, 2014

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AR Tools are Being Used Today by Creative Educators in Fun, Innovative Ways, but few Know About it (yet).

Educators are always looking for new ways to enhance learning and expand the horizons of students in an engaging and interactive way. Gone are the days when class plans were based around exercises from a text book. The world around us is changing rapidly and even preschool age children are becoming more proficient with different types of handheld devices like tablets.

These devices are an integral part of more classrooms every day and are being used to complete homework activities, present projects, upload assignments and participate in classroom collaborations. Many school systems around the world are starting to move into the world of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device, which means that the tech we use in the classroom needs to work across multiple devices and platforms.

Augmented Reality is an example of a technology that can make classroom learning more interactive and enriching. No longer solely the realm of sci-fi films there are now real, practical examples of Augmented Reality used in classrooms all over the world. The ability to overlay digital content and information onto the real world, using triggers like images and locations, opens up a world of rich learning opportunities.

Students are using AR to make their artwork interactive, to solve complex mathematical problems, to interact with planets in the solar system by scanning an image and make their textbooks come alive.

AR in Action in Teaching and Learning

Check out these examples of Augmented Reality in action in teaching and learning:

First, these high school teachers are using AR to facilitate test prep and review:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHIxYpBW7sc

In this example, we see a third form student learning how to calculate the area of different 2 dimensional shapes using AR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Zb2spZvHFQ.

Here’s a different twist (pun intended) – this demo showing ‘marker based AR’ on the Web using gestures to control the content via the Leap Motion Sensor. This type of digital convergence, bringing together different technologies to create something new, has been happening at an increasing pace since the dawn of the personal computer, and AR brings it up another notch.

Creating Your Own Augmented Reality Applications

For many educators, however, there is still the perception that creating rich, interactive AR is difficult and time consuming to create. So is there any truth to this?

Currently using AR in the classroom involves downloading (or building your own) specific apps to make the content accessible. Sometimes, more than one application is required. The experience can take time to set up. To get AR working in a classroom, you have to download an app from an app store, learn how to use the app, then locate the content in a specialist channel.

There are a number of Augmented Reality tools and apps available today – buildAR.com is one of them. This cloud based platform is for people who want to create Augmented Reality without the need for coding or development. The next phase of the platform integrates the Augmented Web. This means that not only will teachers and students be able to create AR experiences in a standard Web browser across multiple devices (including smartphones, tablets and wearable devices like Google Glass and the Oculus Rift), these experiences can be consumed via a web browser too –  no need to create a special app.

Imagine this Scenario …

For example, historical explorations can now become truly immersive experiences to bring the richness of history to life. Consider an interactive journey which maps the steps of Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. Using web based AR you can map location based journey points around a school building or a whole campus. Students can start in the classroom, which can be transformed into Genoa in the year Columbus was born, by holding a device over a panorama image. Locations like the library and gymnasium can be transformed into the Caribbean Islands or the galley of the Santa Maria, using a combination of image and location based Augmented Reality. Each location point can trigger a clue to the next destination, in the form of a 3D image, video or audio snippet. Rich panoramic scenes can wrap around the students with interactions embedded within. Clues and quizzes can be embedded at each stage of the journey. Imagine the increase in engagement and comprehension of your students using a tablet to discover this journey. Now imagine delivering this via a heads up display like the Oculus Rift without having to create an entirely new app!

Activities like this can be created using Augmented Reality tools today using a combination of image and location based triggers in buildAR.com. Bringing AR to the Web however, will eliminate the need for different applications and combine the experience with cutting edge wearable devices.

As you saw in the first video example above, Aurasma is another AR tool that is available today and is worth learning more about.

How exciting is it to envision a future of education where augmented reality, smart wearable devices, motion sensors, and other technologies will converge into incredible teaching and learning experiences not just right at your fingertips, but right before your eyes!?

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
The Evolution of Augmented Reality Applications for Education and Instructional Use
Augmented Reality and Applications for Education – Part 2
3D Printing – Coming to a Classroom Near you (Sooner Than you Think)!

About 

Maria is a Digital Producer and writer with a passion for engaging content and emerging tech, who has worked in web and mobile teams in telecommunications and digital agencies. Currently, she is Head of Content and Community for buildAR.com.

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