Augmented Reality is nothing new for youth. It has been a part of student’s social experience in apps like Snapchat and it made a big splash when Pokemon Go made its debut. But when it comes to learning, does it have a place?
While seeing an object, insect, or animal up close in an augmented reality is certainly preferably to reading about it in your science text, is it really the best way to help students learn?
Is learning via AR it better than that?
Well, yeah. Probably. It will engage kids with the wow factor for a bit, but then what?
And what about the source? Who wants us to buy into this? A textbook provider? A publisher? A testing company? A hardware or software provider?
What’s in it for them?
And, what about all the other ways to learn? Is it better than that? Is it cost effective?
AR: The Verdict? It depends.
When compared to textbooks, most would agree that AR improves upon the learning experience. It can also help make a textbook a bit more interactive and give it some life.
But what about other options? A powerful novel? A game? A MagniScope? A PBS documentary? A YouTube expert?
To help think about this, I turned to my friends at Modern Learners
for some insights.
When thinking about AR, VR, mixed reality, and etc, Gary Stager
, asks, are we “investing in reality first” before we invest in such technologies?
That’s a good question. Especially for kids who live in big cities like where I work. In New York City we have cultural neighbourhoods, experiences, some of the finest museums, zoos, gardens, and experts right in the backyard of our schools. Are we taking students there? Or if we aren’t in such communities, are we using resources like Facebook Live, Periscope, and Skype to connect and interact with real people and places in other parts of the world?
When I served as a library media specialist in an inner city school in Harlem, we had immersive experiences in places like Chinatown, Little Italy, and Spanish Harlem. We visited places like El Museo Del Bario
and the Tenement Museum
. We had scavenger hunts around the neighbourhoods and the museums were happy to freely open their doors to our inner city youth visiting on weekdays.
Of course there are times when a real experience can not occur in place of a virtual experience. For example, a trip to Mars or the Titanic are out of reach. Engaging in or witnessing a dangerous activity for a newbie such as driving a car, plane, train, are other examples.
But even with such extremes, there may be a movie, field trip, game, or museum experience that might provide a better learning experience.
In his Modern Learners podcast Will Richardson
puts it this way. If for some reason we really can’t invest in realities, then yes, these “halfway measures for poor kids” make sense, but only if it really is not possible to bring students more authentic opportunities.
But let’s make sure those real experiences are not available before jumping into augmented ones.
When trying to determine what is best for students, here are some questions you can ask:
How would a student use this outside of school?
Does it help a young person create agency over learning?
Does this have a real-life use?
Is this better than…
Reading about it?
When you consider those questions, you will be better positioned to determine and explain if augmented reality should become a reality for the students where you teach.