As technology continues to advance, educators are constantly developing new and creative ways to teach their students. From the chalkboard and the projector to smartboards and tablets, the tools being utilized in education have rapidly changed within the last decade. In more recent years, educators have begun to add augmented reality (AR) to their ever-developing range of educational tools.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality, often shortened to AR, blends the real-world environment with computer-generated additions to “augment” how the user experiences reality. AR usually does this by incorporating physical environments as the “background” or “setting” of a game or application and then adding digitally-created elements that interact with the real-world environment such as objects or digital overlays. AR programs utilize a number of different devices such as helmet gear, gloves, and hand-held devices like tablets and smartphones. Augmented reality differs from virtual reality in that virtual reality immerses the user in a completely fabricated “reality”, whereas augmented reality creates a blend of the physical environment and digital constructs. Similarly, AR differs from augmented Virtuality (AV) in that AR adds computer-generated, virtual elements to a reality-based environment while AV incorporates reality-based elements to a virtually-generated environment. The most well-known examples of AR in current times are the different lenses on Snapchat which allow you to superimpose cartoon filters over your own image and games like Pokemon Go that add computer-generated elements to real-world environments.
Augmented Reality In Education
As AR technology has advanced, a number of different educators and educational institutions have started to incorporate AR into their teaching techniques. In the classroom, a number of teachers use AR apps that animate science textbooks and study flashcards to make the experience more enjoyable for the student. Some teachers also use AR to enhance the homework that they give their students by incorporating interactive puzzles and quizzes for their students. Another effective way teachers have begun to use augmented reality education is through AR Lab classes, which allow students to interact with 3D models of humans, animals, and plants in their lab classes. This often provides students with a more concise way to explore and learn about the topics in lab, as the AR systems will provide the students with valuable information on the objects they’re dissecting or the chemicals they are experimenting with as they are completing the lab.
Along with being used in the classroom, a number of different organizations have begun to use AR education to train employees or even soldiers. One example of how AR education is being used in society can be found in the US army, where trainers are using an AR program known as the Synthetic Training Environment (STE) to prepare their soldiers for combat. The STE program does this by simulating combat conditions over a real-world environment to give soldiers realistic combat experience before they have to risk their lives in actual combat.
AR education has also become increasingly popular among museums and other historical educators, who utilize AR to provide their audiences with an interesting, interactive learning experience that teaches them about the history of different places and people. One example of this is an AR educational game that was developed by Grendel Games, “Blok Out”, which teaches people who visit a medieval prison in the Netherlands, known as the “Blokhuispoort” about the history of the building by having the user play a mystery game as they tour through the building. As the player solves the puzzles and advances in the game, they learn more interesting facts about the Blokhuispoort and the history of the surrounding area. Similarly, other companies have developed games that allow students to become “environmental detectives” in a way that teaches kids about how industrial development can affect the natural environment and encourages players to become more environmentally aware.
Benefits of Augmented Reality in Education
Based on case studies and real-life applications of augmented reality education, experts have determined that applying augmented reality in education can have a number of benefits.
- Getting students more interested: Studies have shown that using AR in education can help students become more interested in learning through the use of interactive 3D models of the subject a student is learning. Whereas a student may become bored when learning topics such as geology or evolution from a normal textbook, they are far more likely to be interested when their lesson involves a 3D model of a volcano or a dinosaur! One marketing study has shown that using AR in education can cause 87% of students to be more likely to come to class, and 72% of students to be more likely to participate in class.
- Personalizing Education: Students who struggle with education find that many of their troubles can be attributed to how the material is presented to them, and often find that they learn better when information is presented to them in a way that is best for them. Incorporating AR education in the classroom allows students and teachers to personalize lessons to the needs of the individual student. Along with this, augmented reality programs would allow students to have access to interactive education. Whether that’s allowing students to learn at their own pace or allowing teachers to create personalized study guides for their students, application of AR education has shown that its ability to personalize a student’s learning experience is one of its greatest benefits.
- Help Students Grasp Difficult Concepts: Many students have trouble grasping certain concepts, such as geological processes or the rotation of the Earth on its axis, because they have trouble visualizing these processes. AR can provide students with accurate visuals of unobservable concepts through 3D models, which can help students grasp concepts that they struggle with and prevent them from misunderstanding the information about these subjects. Similarly, AR education is particularly beneficial to students who are primarily visual learners. Studies on the use of AR education in math classes have reported that it made the concepts easier to learn and retain.
- Creating a Learning Community: Another benefit of augmented reality programs in education is that students can use it to connect with other students and study together. In this way, educators can help their students connect a learning community in which they can help each other work through difficult concepts with the assistance of AR apps. This could be particularly useful for long-distance classrooms or online classrooms, where students often do not benefit from the level of connection and support with their peers as students in traditional classrooms do.
Disadvantages of Augmented Reality Education
- Cost: Although AR technology has developed a great deal in recent years, it is still very expensive to create and maintain. Companies often have to make large investments in order to develop devices that can implement and interface with augmented reality programs. Even once these systems are operational, companies have to continuously spend money on these programs in order to keep them running. As many educational organizations, such as public schools and museums, already struggle to maintain their funding, they would likely have difficulty paying for the development and maintenance of AR programs.
- Performance Issues: Like many other kinds of new technology, many augmented reality programs in the development stages and innovators are still working out the kinks. While this is often expected with new types of technology, this also means that educators will likely have to deal with a range of performance-related issues such as bugs and interface problems until these issues are worked out. As such, educational augmented reality programs may be more difficult to implement than other educational-technologies until their development is further along.
- Dependence on Physical Markers: Most augmented reality applications use aspects of a users’ physical environment to tether the virtual elements of the program to reality. As a result, most AR programs require prior knowledge of a users’ environment in order to work properly. This could limit how augmented reality is used in education. In particular, educators wishing to implement AR apps in long-distance classrooms or online classrooms may have difficulties in doing so unless they can work with their students to tether the AR programs to their physical environments.
Undoubtedly, using augmented reality for educational purposes would have a number of benefits. Although there would be some disadvantages as well, the most notable drawbacks can be resolved. The problems of cost and performance issues, for example, could be alleviated through supporting professionals businesses that specialize in the development of AR education programs, such as Grendel Games. These companies excel in developing educational augmented reality games on a managed budget and can help academic organizations interested develop plans to implement AR in their classrooms as well.
What about Virtual Reality in Education?
Earlier we mentioned virtual reality in our explanation of what augmented reality is and how it differs from VR. Now that you’ve heard about the benefits and disadvantages of incorporating augmented reality in education, you may be curious about how virtual reality can be used in education and the possible benefits or disadvantages of this application. Similar to augmented reality, virtual reality has the benefit of helping students become more engaged in learning and providing them methods of learning materials that are more personalized to their individual needs. However, virtual reality education does have some challenges as well, such as motion sickness and distracting students from the educational material. For more on the benefits and disadvantages of incorporating virtual reality into education, be sure to check out our article on the topic.
Serious games are also making inroads into education. Students sometimes need a push when it comes to motivation to learn. Often that is the teacher, but it can also be different. Because serious games offer a different experience than a book or a test, it sometimes doesn’t feel like a lesson. Games are fun, kids know that better than anyone. This ensures that children are exposed to the teaching material for a long time if this is explained by means of a serious game. The result: better knowledge transfer. That is just a brief summary. Want to know more about serious games in education? Then read this article.
If you have any questions about leaderboards, gamification or serious games in general, feel free to ask us!