In 2013, the Horizon Report produced by Educause featured six educational technologies to watch in the coming years. One of these was wearable technology that would enable Augmented Reality (AR) to reach its potential and seamlessly integrating digital content into the education ecosystem. Three years on and we have seen a significant increase in wearable technology entering the consumer market and companies such as Apple and Nike taking full advantage of this new sales potential. But what about AR?
Firstly, what is AR, what are the potential benefits to education, and how can you get involved here at UWE?
AR is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world. You may remember Google Glass a project that used a specific pair of glasses to display information to the wearer, and although the project stopped it has already been reported that a new version will be released aimed at the business market. AR has made most of its impact via the use of smartphones and tablets. Publishers have been harnessing the power of AR on Magazines to engage their audience with rich media content that is lifted off the page and displayed on the screen of the readers smartphone or tablet.
What are the potential benefits to education?
In the UK, smart devices are becoming more commonplace, and the numbers of students owning these devices are starting to mirror US ownership figures wherein 2015 92% of students owned a smart device – exceeding laptop ownership of 91% for the first time (Educause, 2015).
This ubiquity has lowered the barriers to access for AR and educators can now start to harness the power of AR, developing content that is richer and more engaging than some traditional methods. To date, research has found the use of AR in the classroom provided improvements in students memorability and engagement, both key to effective learning.
Examples of AR in education
UWE has already been using AR. The UWEMobile app allows a student to navigate their way around the campuses, and find key locations such as the Library or Cribbs B. Outside of UWE, other examples of AR in education include treasure trails where students use AR to discover information and links about relevant subjects. Within the classroom, research by Cuendet and Sébastien (2013) utilised AR to guide learning and help students learn the principles of organising a warehouse. Participants need to learn and understand the trade-offs between how fast goods can be stored and the storage capacity of the warehouse. Researchers developed a device called a TinkerKey. The device would augment information (fig 1) onto activity sheets. The sheets allowed students to physically move objects such blocks and cards into positions on the sheet, representing their own warehouse designs. By using special markers on the blocks and cards, AR was triggered to change the state of a block or perform a specific action such display a step-by-step 3D animation of the process.
During the project, the system was used to teach carpentry students the Rabattement technique (fig2). A technique that transforms paper-based designs (2D) into full 3D objects. Using the TinkerKey, student were able to visualise how the process works and via a series of activities, students would gradually move through more complex activities, with visual support from the TinkerKey.
This use of AR in the classroom afforded flexible management of the classroom. The academic was able to walk between each table and place specific cards onto each student’s activity sheet. These cards triggered an action, such as allowing the student to move to the next activity or display (via AR) an alternative approach the student had not yet discovered. It also allowed the academic to manage high-performing groups by enabling them to run multiple simulations, but still keep control and provide additional information to the lower-performing groups.
How can you get involved at UWE?
We are already working with academic colleagues on AR projects in Construction and Paramedic Science that will enhance the student experience in a number of different ways. Furthermore, we are in discussions with professional services about how AR can help their roles.
If you would like to know more and get involved in a pilot within your department, contact the EIC team.