Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality is one of the newer waves of technology that has been delivered to the world’s population over the last few years. But what exactly is it? And how can it be used to improve education and learning?
Augmented Reality is a technology that superimposes images or information onto videos, photos, or heads-up displays. An example is the popular mobile phone game: Pokémon Go. Augmented Reality became household- and classroom discourse when teenagers (and not-so teenagers) became infatuated with the Pokémon Go game. As with many other technologies, it grew in popularity due to its entertainment appeal, but how can this technology be used in the field of education?

What is AR?

Augmented Reality is a form of multimedia that can be used to make written content come alive. It transforms text-based documents, using a device with an AR app, into a multi-sensory learning experience. The app is used to scan the page, which then superimposes the multimedia 3D images onto the real-life view from the camera.
For example, if you are teaching content on dinosaurs, the learner scans the page, and on their device, the student sees a 3D T-Rex. As they move the device, they start interacting with the dinosaur as if the dinosaur was in the classroom. The dinosaur gets superimposed into the space around them, making it a more visual and audible experience.
Augmented Reality allows for a more authentic experience than what text can provide on its own. Text leaves the student trying to understand the concept through language only, instead of using multimedia to spark a greater interest in the content. In other words, AR makes the content come alive, which is more exciting and relevant for learners.

How is AR currently being used in education?

Using Augmented Reality to enhance teachers’ capabilities is one of the significant benefits of using this new technology. It is another tool in the teacher’s toolbox to teach content. However, we should be mindful that it is just one of the tools, and teachers should be encouraged to use multiple resources to aid them in teaching concepts.
Some of the ways Augmented Reality can be used in education are:

  • Motivating learners by being able to add more dynamics to your interactive lessons.
  • You can use AR to help bring difficult and abstract concepts and ideas to life.
  • AR-assisted lessons and 3D models can elevate the interactivity level for the learners. You can use it to help build perspective, as well as to encourage learners to be physically active. This technology lends itself toward the inclusion of fun activities such as scavenger hunts, where content is attached to specific images and items in the real world.
  • Educational institutions like museums can use AR to add more information to their exhibits, thereby creating easy-to-digest content.
  • AR apps can be used to help model objects and structures that are invisible or expensive. For example, AR could be used to superimpose organs on fellow learners to aid in the learning of anatomy.

What could the future of AR hold for education?

The use of AR in education could become commonplace in the classroom leading to many advantages and innovations for teaching.
With the saturation of AR-capable technology, educators can inevitably take advantage of this by building or creating programs that embrace this technology for the benefit of their learners: benefits like using this technology to create more engagement, as well as encouraging learners to learn in different ways. The mix of physical and mental exercises could increase productivity and retention of information.
By utilising the apps and concepts laid out by fellow educators, teachers will be able to captivate the attention span of teenagers and children who live in a world with ever-increasing distractions. All of the benefits that we have discussed will be built upon, along with the advancement of the technology surrounding Augmented Reality.
By partnering with technology-driven content, eLearning companies, and publishers that specialise in digital publishing, we will be able to deliver better quality content aimed at improving education all-round.
However, this does require teachers to learn how to use this technology to design effective learning opportunities.

What are the benefits of AR?

There are many benefits that teachers could take advantage of with regard to AR:

User Interaction

The result of using AR effectively leads to increased interaction during lessons because of the ease of access through the learners’ smartphones. Due to the interactive content, many educators can entice learners to engage in more educational content, even when at home.


Even though the initial investment in devices and infrastructure to accommodate and develop AR technology could be expensive, schools could see savings because they would not need to print materials. Most AR content can be accessed via the learners’ own smart devices, and this means less cost to the bottom line.

Relevant Context

You will be able to add multiple levels of content from images to text to 3D visuals. By layering the content, you as an educator will be able to make more concepts contextually relevant, provided that content exists that would suit your unique context.

Differentiation of content

With better engagement that has been proven to be garnered from the inclusion of AR in curriculums, you will be able to differentiate your lessons by including various levels of AR-assisted teaching opportunities based on the capabilities and development of each learner.

What are the challenges of AR in South Africa?

Many challenges face educators in South Africa when it comes to the use of AR in their classrooms. The two major concerns are access to the AR technology and the creation of subject-specific content.
The first is perhaps the hardest to overcome, especially with the vast number of under-resourced schools in the country. Not having the resources to invest in the technology and programs needed inhibits the roll out of this technology countrywide.
The second challenge is the lack of subject-specific content that utilises AR technology in congruence with the more traditional methods of teaching, especially in South Africa. Learners could be subjected to generic content that is not situated in their unique context until teachers have the skills and resources to develop their own AR content.

Final thoughts

While AR may be relatively new, it seems to be one of the technologies that will become commonplace worldwide. The benefits of including this as a method of teaching can only serve to enhance education and training overall. With the increased engagement and retention of content, teachers will be able to meet the individual needs of diverse learners. As with every other new teaching method or tool, it will take time to learn and integrate it into your classroom, but evolving with the world and remaining in tune with the trends that the youth find fascinating will assist teachers in remaining relevant in the 21st century.

by: Dr. Francois Naude

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