The use of augmented reality in classrooms is growing, as more educators discover this affordable option for bringing a new dimension to the printed page — and to physical objects — in a way that can engage and motivate learners. Unlike virtual reality (VR), where users look through viewers to experience 3D, 360-degree videos and still images, augmented reality, or AR, comes in several forms.
AR can involve overlaying computer-generated images onto live video. It can also be activated by viewing a trigger image with a mobile device loaded with an AR app. A third method involves headsets. Users view their environment while 3D holograms appear to enhance, inform and entertain. One promising AR device, Microsoft’s Hololens, is currently shipping to developers.
Real-time, superimposed images
Perhaps the best example of this type of AR comes from the world of sports. Sportvision embeds country flags that appear to be under the ice in speed skating events. Football fans see the first-down markings or the line of scrimmage as if they were painted on the field right under the players’ feet. And during the Olympic Games in Rio, TV viewers will see real-time visuals superimposed on footage of swimming, diving, running and sailing events. You can use these exciting athletic events with their AR enhancements to develop classroom activities. Scholastic, ReadWriteThink and Teachervision have suggestions for using the Olympics as a catalyst for learning.
This is probably the most common use of AR in the classroom today. A flat surface comes alive with 3D animation and sound. The moving images can be on a page of a book, a preprinted 3D surface (such as a cube) or a document downloaded from a webpage and printed out. What makes AR different from QR codes, or other links to videos, is that the AR content is superimposed onto your own real-time environment.
Carlton Books has published a series of titles enhanced with augmented reality images. The apps are free and the hard cover books retail for $12.95 or less. They include iSolar System, iScience, iDinosaur, iStorm, The World of Thomas and King of the Railway. Interactive Animal Books’ Animal Kingdom is another example of a book-based augmented reality source that would be ideal for the classroom.
Quiver is a delightful enhancement to the traditional coloring book. Simply download images from the website and have students color the drawings with regular colored pencils. With “magical” augmented reality and the free Quiver app, the drawings come to life, with airplanes flying, dolphins swimming and dragons breathing fire. The Quiver Education app is $7.99, with discounts for schools. It has science and math lessons that show animations, such as the stages of a volcano erupting, the parts of a cell and lively dodecahedrons.
With Elements 4D, produced by Daqri, you can experiment with chemicals in a safe, but interactive way. Six sides of six cubes have target images that can be combined using the AR app with surprisingly realistic effects. Anatomy 4D, also produced by Daqri, is one of many examples of simple-to-use, free AR apps. You merely point your mobile device at the target image to generate the sound and animation. You will hear the human heart beat, watch the blood flow and isolate the various parts. It is for students who are at least 17 years old.
Lunch Rush produced by PBSKids, under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Education, is a game requiring the Fetch! Lunch Rush app, printed game pieces and room to move. It combines physical movement, math skills and problem solving, all of which require augmented reality to achieve a goal.
The mission of the producers of Aug That! is to enrich and enhance schools, students and teachers. Their efforts are supported by research showing that using augmented reality in the classroom can raise test scores as well as address visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning styles.
The phenomena of 2D surfaces coming to life is fascinating and engaging. When you address ISTE Standards for Students, including Research and Information Fluency and Creativity and Innovation, you can track and document learning outcomes. When such a powerful technology is combined with well planned, intriguing lessons, the results will be positive and measurable. And, as the name implies, reality will be augmented, and your students, as you will observe, will be entranced and enthralled.
Maureen Brown Yoder, Ed.D., is a professor of educational technology at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A former classroom teacher, she currently works with inservice educators and teaches an online course on emerging technologies. She coined the term "electronic constructivism" and has written extensively on how to thoughtfully and creatively integrate emerging technologies into existing curricula.