More than just a fad technology that was used for capturing Pokemon in 2016, augmented reality (or AR) is creating incredible possibilities across numerous industries – not least in education. It’s offering some of the most exciting classroom innovations of recent times and already fundamentally improving lessons across the world.
But with limited knowledge surrounding the benefits of embracing AR, coupled with the overestimation of cost and underestimation of its value, its rate of adoption is still yet to reach the levels it deserves.
So why should you consider bringing AR into your classroom? And how do we reignite AR excitement and engagement in the same way digital Pikachus did?
Read more: Can Pokemon Go be part of the classroom?
What is AR?
For those less familiar with the idea of augmented reality, put simply, it’s an interactive experience where technology is used to place a computer-generated image into the real world. By pointing a device’s camera at a given surface, the world around you can be transformed with augmented video, sound and graphics to entertain, engage or — for what we're really interested in — educate the user.
Practical use of AR has been around since the early ‘90s when Louis Rosenberg, a researcher for the US Air Force created Virtual Fixtures, a system that could enhance humans’ effectiveness by overlaying visual information on a workspace.
From the start, AR has had the potential to be an incredibly useful tool for improving productivity, something which has continued to be developed to this day. And yet, despite the fact that modern technologies are increasingly making those cyber aspirations of the past a reality, there still exists resistance to the opportunities they are providing.
The case for AR in the classroom
The creativity and scope for interactive learning with AR has developed dramatically in recent years. AR is allowing children to explore digital resources applicable to practically every subject in the curriculum. Digital recreations of old Roman cities have enhanced history classes and allowed students to see and learn how civilizations lived. 3D models of organs and cells are making biology lessons amazingly fun, while maintaining the same crucial levels of educational contents. And games drawing on the interactivity of AR are teaching children digital and problem-solving skills hidden behind the familiar joy of playing video games.
Read more: 3 Benefits of using Augmented Reality in education
The difference between these AR resources compared to teaching techniques rooted in textbooks is that children are increasingly responsive to today’s digital world; their education should reflect this. Place a child with a static PowerPoint presentation, then compare it with giving them sandbox worlds filled with 3D futurism. To say the difference in their enthusiasm to learn is drastic would be an understatement.
Balancing AR with the traditional classroom
Not to say that conventional teaching has no place in today’s classroom; educators are doing incredible work to keep learning fresh and fun without the need to rely on new technologies. There are plenty of worksheets, presentations and lesson plans that provide brilliant learning for students without the need for digital intervention.
Nonetheless, the excitement and escapism of AR resources, used alongside other methods, is an opportunity that is too incredible to be overlooked. A technology that raises smiles and subverts children’s reluctance to learn is something that’s surely worth considering for today’s increasingly tech-driven students.
What’s more, from a practical perspective, all this unparalleled interactivity and learning can unfold at students’ desks for relatively little cost or restructuring to school systems. We’ve already seen devices like tablets flooding into classrooms at practically every level of education. The tablet is a brilliant device for hosting AR resources and it’s already accessible to a majority of educators.
Schools simply need to discover the great resources that are currently available and take advantage of the value they offer. With more and more educational AR apps being released, now is a great time to start discussing the merits of AR in your school.
Read more: 6 Awesome AR apps for the classroom
Currently available AR resources
Classroom apps that utilize the learning potential of AR are already here. At Twinkl, a company that creates educational resources that can be used at each step of a child’s learning
journey, we’ve been developing AR apps that draw on all opportunities enabled by this technology, adapting them to enhance the teaching of international curricula and, more importantly, ensured practicality for teachers across these classrooms. We want to do more than excite and entertain because we know AR truly is capable of so much more.
Games like ARchitect — a physics game which lets students build 3D bridges, towers and other structures while learning about forces and materials — are just the start of what a long list of opportunities for AR engagement inside the classroom. With many other ambitious apps in development and several others already released, we strongly believe great edtech organisations will create a future for AR in education.
As time goes on, AR adoption will increase along with the variety and quality of resources available, but the time to start considering its implementation is now. Great AR technology is here, we just need to realize its value.