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Augmented Reality: how does it help learning?

Virtual Reality, through the use of simple and inexpensive tools like Google Cardboard, is being used more often to assist education methods in schools.

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Modern teaching methods increasingly tap pupil engagement with emerging technology. Virtual Reality (VR), through the use of simple and inexpensive tools like Google Cardboard, is being used more often to assist education methods in schools. Augmented Reality (AR) as a form of edtech is also gaining traction as a result.

More than just a passing fad, augmented education may still be in the nascent stages but it shows strong signs of explosive adoption. By layering virtual content on top of printed materials, objects or geographical locations, the opportunities for meaningful learning experiences in pedagogy are endless.

With the rise in popularity of VR and AR outside school, more teachers can see the value of emerging technologies in the classroom. Through a vast supply of free and easily accessible educational apps, educators can facilitate all manner of virtual experiences for their pupils. AR fosters collaborative learning by encouraging pupils to work together to bring content to life. Most importantly, it keeps pupils engaged and motivated in their educational environment.

Get students out into the real world

The main gripe with traditional video gaming is that, as a home-based activity, it discourages children to get out and experience the outdoors. Augmented Reality, however, is the bridge between the virtual and the physical. It encourages interaction with the real world, but fosters digital literacy.

This unity between natural and digital is even more valuable in education. On school trips, for instance, AR can enhance location-based learning by simulating history. It can allow pupils to see ancient buildings, artefacts and remains in a more realistic setting.

The interactive nature of AR supplements these physical experiences with educational facts and figures, provides visualisations of past events like historic battles, and allows pupils to see ancient costumes, architecture or vehicles in situ. Augmented Reality can make education more fun, exciting and engaging.

See inside the living human body

Animal dissection is a controversial pedagogical practice. Traditionalists argue the method is essential as it gives pupils first-hand experience of how an animal body is composed and can apply the same principles to human anatomy. This learning technique, however, continually raises ethical and environmental concerns.

But what if you want to show your students how fast the human heart beats? Or demonstrate how this powerful organ pumps blood to the rest of the body to keep it alive? It may seem impossible, but apps like Anatomy 4D allow teachers to do exactly that. By pointing a device at a printable resource, students can launch a realistic and entirely interactive organ on a flat page.

Our colleagues at Promethean in Australia have created a short demo of how Anatomy 4D — also available in the UK — can bring biology to life on the Promethean ActivPanel:

Bring the solar system into the classroom

Astronomy and the solar system is an integral part of the school curriculum. Demonstrating the layout of the stars and illustrating the constellations in a visual and comprehensible way, however, takes creativity.

With applications like Star Walk, pupils can point a device to the sky to identify stars and learn key information about their locations and properties. Have your pupils work together to explore and discover specific stars or whole constellations on a time limit.

Interactive geometry

Maths is a hard subject to bring to life and teachers often struggle to engage pupils with a lower numerical ability. With AR, however, pupils can build and visualise 3D models using maths, providing an interactive understanding of how angles and dimensions impact spatial forms.

With apps like Augment, pupils can manipulate virtual models to get a better understanding of details, features and functions of different shapes. It also highlights to pupils that geometry has an essential role to play in designing and building everyday objects.

Turn art into an interactive animation

Educational art app Quiver gives teachers access to subject-specific material for pupils to colour in and then turn into animated educational content.

Animations are then entirely interactive, can be viewed from any angle, and — most importantly — are displayed in the unique way the pupil has created and coloured it. This personalised approach fosters a sense of ownership in the pupil, motivating them to learn more about the topic.

Personal augmented educational content

Educators can go even further with AR by creating their own bespoke augmented content for their pupils. With apps like Aurasma, teachers can tailor their content to specific lessons, learning needs or pupil profiles. For example, when scanning a homework page, pupils could launch a video from their teacher helping them work through an exercise or describe a subject in more detail.

Pupils can even create their own AR content, perhaps recording themselves or each other discussing a particular topic or project, and then assigning that content to a location or object in the school for other pupils to learn from.

Many of these augmented education applications are free to download. They can be easily integrated into existing edtech like Android-based Promethean ActivPanel and free software like ClassFlow. Within the ClassFlow marketplace, Sketchfab offers hundreds of free augmented reality 3D models to seamlessly embed into existing platforms like PowerPoint. Much like inexpensive VR tools, building AR into teaching needn’t come with a high price tag — interactive apps are now accessible and available to almost anyone.

As an up-and-coming form of edtech, the most important quality of Augmented Reality is its adaptability in pedagogy. It allows children to engage with their subjects more creatively and even design their own peer-to-peer learning channels. It promotes inspiration and motivation, allowing the freedom to interact with subject matter in a way that would be impossible in the purely physical world.