Augmented reality is fun, but what makes it better than computer programs, online learning or even book reports and flashcards? To find out, we spoke to teacher-turned-techie Drew Minock, co-founder of the educational blog TwoGuysAndSomeiPads.com and a “4D Education Evangelist” for the augmented reality company Daqri. Here are his thoughts on how augmented reality can have an impact on education:
- Bring the teacher home
Homework help is probably the most powerful way I used augmented reality as a teacher. I would take a picture of the homework assignment, and then use an app named Explain Everything to attach a mini-lesson. When the student puts the device over the homework, it looks like I am writing on top of their homework while I am explaining it to them. The impact is huge for kids who didn’t fully comprehend the concept in class, especially visual learners. Using augmented reality, we saw the homework get completed more often, and test scores went up. Parents sent us emails saying that they loved it.
The mini-lesson helps students and parents. A lot of the curriculum uses vocabulary that is very different from how the parents learned the concept. Then the student says “That’s not what my teacher said,” which creates a conflict. Using augmented homework, students—and parents—see the explanation the teacher used in class.
- Allow students to dig deeper
Using augmented reality, kids do more than just watch a video. They become the director of their own learning experience. They get to choose which path to take by following the layers, which creates a whole new level of engagement.
This is guided digging, supervised by the person who created the augmentation, not setting the kid loose on the Internet. And it allows a teacher to bring in things you can’t bring into the classroom anymore: You can’t bring in mercury, but you can use Elements 4D blocks and show how the elements interact.
- Facilitate learning for students with different needs
With augmented reality, each student can progress at his own pace and revisit the material as often as needed. Families with autistic children can use augmented reality to put pop-up tutorials on objects at home that help their children master independent tasks. The kids can watch the tutorials over and over to reinforce the learning. In the classroom, a teacher can use augmented reality in the same way to explain a concept to each student individually without repeating the lesson.
In our school, we used Magic Camera Sign Language with deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students to teach sign language. It also helped the hearing students learn sign language so they could communicate with their DHH classmates without interpreters.
- Foster creativity and engagement
Instead of a book report or poster project, students can add layers such as video and audio using a tool like Daqri 4D Studio (a creation platform that makes it easy for anyone to add augmented reality content to any object). You should see how engaged students are when building and presenting one of these projects. I had one student who created a poster about the soccer player Lionel Messi. He added video of himself playing soccer to incorporate his own experience.
When students publish their work, the whole idea of giving a presentation shifts. They can make their project available via the cloud, and it is meaningful when they see that their work had an effect on someone on the other side of the world.
- Increase time on task and retention
Why will a kid play Minecraft for 4 hours but not stay engaged with schoolwork for 10 minutes? Kids can do their lessons on a computer or a worksheet, but they won’t talk excitedly about that. They talk about how augmented reality makes the learning come to life. A kid can print out a target (what an AR program views to access the content), open up Anatomy 4D, and see the entire human body on the table. Each system in the body can be explored while it is showing how it works. It’s like a magic trick, and that engagement is an aid to retention. There is nothing like seeing kids experience this for the first time. For the younger kids, an app like AR Flashcards can bring that same magical experience that encourages engagement and learning their letters, shapes, colors and more.
- Promote collaboration
Getting kids to work together is hard, but vital. In my class, we had 10 iPads with 22 to 24 students, so they had to work with somebody else. Students tend to see only their own approach to solving a problem, but working together they see there can be a different approach. A program can also help kids learn by adding an element of fun competition. For example, using PBS Kids Fetch Lunch Rush, they compete to solve math problems quickly.
- Introduce computing at young ages
Every kid can use the augmented reality creation process, beginning with a drag-and-drop platform that does not require coding skills. Once they are excited and understand the potential of what they can create, they can begin to explore coding—and they already understand the concepts of what computers can do. Kids who learn programming can take it to a higher level. But at any stage, they are gaining skills they will need to manage the technologies that always will be part of their lives.
Augmented reality technology is constantly evolving, and new ways to use it are being created every day. The content can be fixed by a person or company who creates the app and targets, like Elements 4D. Or an application can offer a creation platform that allows teachers and students to make their own custom content. You are only limited by your imagination.