Augmented Reality (AR), over the years, has continuously been evolving to enrich our experience in a variety of interactions – learning, entertainment, or otherwise. From the visualization of information from objects in Sci-Fi movies to Snapchat doodles to Pokemon Go, coupled with the spike in smartphones with increasing computing capabilities available in the market, augmented reality is steadily proliferating in our daily lives.
Virtual Instructional Strategies are Here to Stay
When the world woke up to the realities of the disruptions COVID-19 caused across all walks of life, educating millions of students worldwide came to a standstill. Virtual teaching and learning were adopted overnight with the creative application of every digital resource that was at reach.
Slow adoption rates to education technology from the teaching community, once considered a critical challenge in implementing technology-assisted teaching, just evaporated instantly. The EdTech industry, which was struggling to take off, is now attracting billions of dollars in investments worldwide.
For almost a year now, stakeholders in the entire education value chain have experienced, first-hand, the benefits of technology-assisted learning strategies. From here on, we can only see how education technology and virtual instructional strategies will complement in-person teaching-learning experiences.
The Reality of Learning Loss
One of the challenges that disruption to in-person learning has brought with is ‘Learning Loss,’ when students and teachers eventually return to school, full-time, without any restrictions. While there are many positive transformational changes that one can count the current situation has brought to education, the reduced learning gains a student would have had in a typical academic calendar is an issue most educators are aware of.
Learning loss is expected to be more pronounced in subjects like math and science, where a student will be able to move from one concept to another in a sequential manner. In these subjects, students’ common challenge is effectively correlating the topic of study with its applications and visualizing concepts in real-time scenarios. COVID-19 forced restrictions or otherwise, learning gains achieved in these subjects have always been a challenge is a fact.
A Case for Augmented Reality Instructional Content
Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience (also commonly referred to as Dale’s Cone of Learning) provides a perspective to our conversation here. ‘Direct Purposeful Experiences,’ ‘Contrived Experiences’ and ‘Dramatized Experiences’ are placed at the bottom of the cone as those interactions require multiple senses being simultaneously engaged during a learning event. It is a generally accepted principle that better learning outcomes on complex concepts are achieved if a more significant number of senses are involved in the learning process.
‘Direct Purposeful Experiences’ are always not possible. Until technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) became mainstream in conversations across industries including in education, facilitating ‘Contrived Experiences’ and ‘Dramatized Experiences’ as an instructional strategy fell short of what it ought to be.
“Contrived and Dramatized experiences place the learner at the center of learning, and the participatory experiences these offer fosters improved learning efficacy.” Through observation and interacting with inactive cognition, processing information is quick and easy, leading to increased knowledge retention.
Of the three extended reality technologies, AR has immense potential in the context of its application in education, at least in instructional materials for grades 3 to 8. AR is the most easily accessible of the extended technologies available today that can be deployed at scale.
Creating immersive educational content wherein the learner is rooted in reality while visualizing and experiencing educational content can exponentially increase knowledge assimilation. Consider a couple of simple examples that may seem very basic, but from a child who is exposed to these concepts for the first time, it would make a huge difference:
- Visualizing the interaction between atoms, molecules, and bonds that leads to numerous results and applications in our daily lives.
- Visualizing virtual growth cycles and anatomy of plants and animals and their interaction with the environment.
- Visualization of virtual 3D objects from various angles to understand spatial geometric concepts through the manipulation of variables and interaction with the objects
AR’s ability to create an immersive and interactive experience that can be combined with game mechanics offers an excellent platform to improve motivation.
Embracing AR Instructional Content
The speed of moving vehicles, the functioning of the universe, the process of generating electricity, the transformation of energy, and many such complex topics of study that are most difficult to visualize can be made more straightforward today with the use of AR-based learning modules. Imagine walking alongside wild animals in your garden or visualizing the world map on the study table.
From problem-solving, collaboration, and enhancing proficiency in scientific and mathematical concepts, AR offers 2D and 3D representation in real-time, which contrasts with the traditional presentation of information in classrooms.
The human body is equipped by evolution to make sense of information in myriad ways, but we are not leveraging most of them. “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking”, says Richard Buckminster Fuller, the well-known futurist. AR has evolved to offer just that. AR helps embrace pragmatism and imagination with empathy.