Education is a field that rarely experiences technological innovation, at least in comparison with the changes experienced by average consumers and businesses. Still, there is a minority of schools, universities, and other educational institutions that take risks and try to integrate new technologies into the learning process.
Augmented reality is one of the aforementioned technologies being tested in education. While it is already popular in various industries and markets, education is a new frontier. We are taking a deeper look at the role of augmented reality in education in this article, including its benefits, trends, and real-life examples.
How AR in Education Works
Augmented reality allows users to see digital characters and elements layered on top of their real-world surroundings, presented through a digital display of some sort. For example, the incredibly popular game Pokemon Go used smartphones for this purpose. Users’ phone cameras recorded the surroundings while the display showed the modified image with digital elements inside the app.
Apart from smartphones, modern consumers can also buy wearable gadgets connecting them to AR. For instance, Vuzix Blade, Google Glass, Epson Moverio BT-300, and DreamGlass are all popular smartglasses with AR capabilities available today.
While hardware like a phone or pair of smartglasses allows the technology to work, the actual content and mechanics of the simulations comes from software. The overwhelming majority of modern AR applications are available on mobile marketplaces like Android’s Google Play and iOS’s App Store.
Still, some apps are developed specifically for one gadget and sold on the individual marketplace of the gadget’s maker. It is even more common for the software to be developed not for one operating system or device marketplace, but rather a single company for private use.
Benefits of Augmented Reality Apps for Education
Augmented reality has been around in one form or another for decades, but the first significant instances of its use in education come from the past 1-2 years. Even in this short time, it has proven very advantageous to the learning process, and we would like to share some of the most prominent examples.
1. Making learning interesting to more students
It is well-known that the modern generation of school students is finding it harder to pay attention to textbooks, blackboards, and paper handouts, instead being used to getting their information online and from a screen.
This is consistent with a recent experiment conducted recently in a Los Angeles school. Students learning astronomy were given access to augmented reality in the classroom, teaching them about solar systems and the formation of stars. Needless to say, the experience was very popular with the schoolchildren that tried it.
Similarly, augmented reality was used as a platform for teaching students in Treadway Elementary School in Florida about topography. A 3D projector visualized mountains, water sources, and other geographical features, with responsive animation responding to the children’s movements.
2. Visualizing complex concepts
Some concepts are difficult to understand and even harder to properly depict and present in a textbook. However, augmented reality serves as a new medium where it is much easier to achieve. This was proven true in a small Texas school – Forest Park Magnet School. Smartglasses were handed out to students, and they got to learn about the history of the slave trade through the visualization of ships, trade routes, and documents of that era.
Apart from historical knowledge, this technology has also been applied in the field of math. At Garden Lakes Elementary School in Arizona, students tested a mobile app intended to teach fractions, visualizing them in space and granting functionality to shift them around and move them. Such functionality is not available on paper or a whiteboard, and proved to be a big success with students.
3. Learning becomes globally accessible
While some of the AR applications are developed with a specific group and location in mind, others are made specifically to be available remotely or accessible to everyone, such as augmented reality language learning programs. For example, a massive project in Myanmar is aiming to improve children’s sexual education and teach about healthy gender relations with augmented reality books, available both inside and outside schools.
In an effort to teach about vital organs, the BBC has created a mobile application for users around the world called “Human Body: Secrets of Your Life Revealed”. This program features 3D models of the liver, heart, and brain which can be tapped to see more information about the different parts. The mobile device camera is also used to visualize the organs in any setting.
4. Refining professional skills
Beyond augmented reality apps for kids, students in college can use this technology to refine skills and knowledge that already possess, as well as gain new ones. For example, the Yale School of Nursing has already started instructing students to practice medical procedures with an application that visualizes wounds and health problems with the help of mannequins, smartphones, and QR codes.
Another fascinating example in the medical field is found in the UK, where Dr. Amir San of the Imperial College of London is trialing a new and groundbreaking kind of assessment. In the test, students wear headsets to see a hologram of human anatomy and assess their knowledge of it. This form of testing can be much more efficient than any written on paper or practical tests on mannequins.
5. Reducing hardware and equipment costs
When it comes to practical education that requires physical involvement and learning props, this equipment can be rather expensive and difficult to transport, especially if we are talking about military training. This is an issue that Program-Ace tackled in our “Wheel Replacement Training” application. This software can be used by cadets and recruits to learn how to change wheels on various military vehicles without ever needing to work with a real vehicle or wheel.
Outlook for Augmented Reality in Schools and Beyond
Looking at the numerous real-life examples above, it’s clear that human ingenuity knows no bounds, and augmented reality is just the technology needed to bring education to a higher level of effectiveness and engagement all over the world. There are already so many success stories involving the technology, and the number just keeps on growing. The upward trend is clear, so it should certainly be one of the key niches that app developers, schools, universities, and other educational establishments invest in over the next decade.
Building an AR application in Education
Given the many potential benefits, basing your next educational application in this niche is a smart move. However, what does it take? The development of such an app will be impossible without some coding and specialized software. If you find yourself lacking the knowledge, time, or experience necessary to handle development, you can start going through manuals or hire another company to do it for you.
Program-Ace is an R&D company based in Eastern Europe with an affinity for innovative technologies. We have developed numerous such applications in the past, and would love to do many more, including in the field of education. Over the 26+ years that our company has been on the market, our achievements in this field have been documented and rewarded many times; we know how to develop AR content well. In case you would like to know more about working with us on a project, do not hesitate to reach out.