Pedagogical arguments for Augmented Reality as an educational tool

Two weeks ago I was invited to the Mimas presentation to showcase the Scarlet and Scarlet+ project outcomes. The ideas presented were examples of how Augmented Reality (AR) had been practically applied to Higher Education, and some of the current ones that are in development.

Laura Skilton, Mimas Learning and Teaching Co-ordinator, said “Mimas have now worked on numerous AR applications within education ranging from special collections to a geology field trip. We’ve learnt a great deal from experimenting and collecting student and academic feedback. We used this showcase as an opportunity to demonstrate to the University of Manchester, where Mimas is based, this knowledge and to show that AR can enhance the student experience – it’s no longer just a gimmick, it is being embedded into teaching.”

Whilst there is enthusiasm within areas where AR developments have taken place, there are still many in education who see this as a gimmick. So as I have been working with several Further Education partners around the use of AR, Laura asked me to consider what I thought the pedagogical implications for using the technology were, to counteract this ‘gimmick’ viewpoint.

What can augmented reality provide that you can’t provide with a PC and hyperlinks?

The immediacy of access to resources

With a PC you need to log on and then navigate to the resources, whether this be a link, a Google search or something on your Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). This is fine but can be a long process and some of the impetus and immediacy can be lost in the process. With some users the temptation to do something else during this process can be strong, especially where networks tend to be slow. So you risk losing attention and concentration. Using augmented reality you can link precisely and directly to resources eliminating this.


The ability to provide links to resources in non-PC environments

Not every teaching environment has immediate access to a PC, so do we just ignore digital resources in these situations? The number of learners with their own smart devices is increasing, and the number without them now is low, coupled with more institutions providing good WiFi, these provide the perfect way to access this form of content from any location.

We just need to accept the BYOD agenda and welcome this new breed of mobile phone into our teaching so we can harness its power. An example of this being used is Kendal College’s Living Learning Plumbing, delivery of video through AR into workshop areas.


Situated learning

The most effective learning takes place when it fits into existing cognition. If we can deliver learning at the point of need, and in context, then we are delivering it more effectively. It also fits in with the learner choice agenda too, making the learning available when they want/need it.

As a student in Floristry, from South Staffordshire College, says “I can still practise skills at home if I miss a class and I can continue to develop my skills independently without a tutor. I find it easier to understand one of the videos for revision of practical tasks rather than reading notes.


Interactivity and choice

Augmented Reality used to be simply scan and link to one piece of content, be that a web site or a video or something else. The ability to add in interactive choices, even with simple development platforms, transforms the process from being merely passive, to the learner exerting choice. Buttons can be included so the learner can choose whether to simply read some information, watch a video or test their knowledge. The links can be to social media, a blog, Twitter, Facebook or Pintrest, so it can be used as a portal to stimulate social interaction.

The Landmap project is an example of this interactivity; users can turn the geographic layers on and off to view different information.


Creating media rich experiences for learners

We live in a world where rich imagery is all around us, mainly the advertising contingency has made sure of this. QR codes are now commonplace elements of signage; just a few years ago people wondered what they were. As things like this become part of our everyday lives then there is an expectation for it to pervade every aspect.

The quirky drawings and hand written banda sheets I made during my first teaching practice wouldn’t pass mustard with today’s learners. Augmented Reality gives the possibility of adding rich media to any printed material.


Making resources inclusive

Motor Hazards - Augmented Reality posterThere is an argument that goes if everyone can’t access the resources then it’s not a good way to distribute them. However achieving the truly universally accessible resource is (probably) impossible. What we need to do instead is provide a range of formats, so anyone accessing them can choose what suits them, whether this be to do with their learning style preference or accessibility needs.

One resource I worked on, Motorsport Hazards, provides British Sign Language feedback for deaf learners. Another example that I was sent for review just this morning, from South Staffordshire College, provides an augmented escape plan for SLDD learners. A poster in the rooms used by the learners will tell them the fire alarm procedure, then a first person point of view video will show them the route out to the muster point.

One tutor from Myerscough College who is developing an interactive calendar as part of an enterprise unit summed up the use of AR as a way of “mystifying learners.” Whilst this may hark back to that gimmick view, it also includes the notion of engagement and interaction, that I think sums up the educational use of the technology perfectly.

Well this is my list of arguments so far. If you have any more please let me know.

RSC support for Augmented Reality

There is a growing interest in the use of AR as an educational tool. In response to this the RSCs and the University Campus Suffolk have set up an Augmented Reality Special Interest Group. Resources are hosted on RSC Eastern’s Moodle and the aim is for it to become a portal for resources and a forum to discuss technical issues.

Both the images in this post are AR enabled, to view them simply download the free RSC Northwest app from iTunes or Google Play and scan them with your device. Other Jisc RSC Northwest examples for you to use with the RSC Northwest app are available here.

Contact your local RSC for support in using Augmented Reality for educational purposes in your organisation.

Next week I’m running an Introduction to Augmented Reality event in Manchester on Wednesday 22nd May. As I write this, there are still a couple of places left so come along if you want to find out more about AR. Booking is open until Monday.

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