Augmented Reality in Education
(Photo Courtesy of Greg's Head http://www.raizlabs.com/)
According to Wikipedia, augmented reality is “is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.”
Heading to the movie theater these days, kids are immersed into a whole new world with 3D technology. Within the first few minutes of the film, a movie goer is no longer sitting in a seat in the theater, but truly feel they have been transposed into the setting of the film and witness, along side the main characters, the events that unfold in the adventure. This is one example of how technology has enhanced the way we view our digital world. However, this is only virtual reality in it’s simplest form. After all, the movie goer is still just consuming the material. They are not interacting with anything.
Advancements in gaming has certainly changed the way our kids think about entertainment at home. Instead of a single joystick that we were used to, kids are moving, swinging, jumping and throwing virtual objects to interact with an on screen game. This is a step closer to blended interaction, but these kids are still reacting to only a virtual world.
I truly believe a blend between hands-on learning, and virtual learning is the key to molding 21st century life-long learners. In order to accomplish this form of learning, a student must be thrown into an augmented reality scenario.
Chris Dede of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, has been working with a team to develop these types of scenarios and lessons for kids. With their inspiring EcoMUVE program and EcoMobile, students are fully entrenched into a pond or forest habitat to inspect the environment and surrounding area. Both of these locations appear online virtually, and in and around the Boston suburban area in the physical world as well.
Augmented reality allows students to visit the actual habitats and using smart phones or iPods, students can enhance their learning by using these devices to draw more information from physical locations, or checkpoints. These findings are then recorded and used in the virtual environment to help students dig deeper into meaning and synthesize the possible issues with this habitat over time based on scientific measurement, research and data trends.
Students become collaborators in a real life problem solving group in which they must analyze and synthesize (two higher level thinking skills) to communicate possible solutions to the problem that is disrupting the environment. They get real hands-on learning and yet can transform the learning using technology to dive into the pond in a miniature submarine to analyze the particles in the water during different climate changes and over time to analyze changes to the environment.
Augmented reality offers students the chance to see things over time in their physical world that they would not have been able to without the technologies. No matter what day the field trip is scheduled to the pond environment, these students can now see what it looked like in different seasons and in years past. The software can even share a look into the future based on growing trends.
In my eyes the future of service and project-based learning will incorporate more augmented reality options as the growth in the mobile technology industry continues to amaze and enhance our own personal world. In other words, it is a perfect blend between real life and the virtual one.
Sometimes when people hear "augmented reality" their minds drift to some vision of a science fiction world. The truth is augmented reality isn't science fiction, it's technology that is readily available now.
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