A Study on Real/Virtual Relationships Through a Mobile Augmented Reality Application

A Study on Real/Virtual Relationships Through a Mobile Augmented Reality Application

Laura Fedeli (Department of Education, Cultural Heritage and Tourism, University of Macerata, Macerata, Italy) and Pier Giuseppe Rossi (Department of Education, Cultural Heritage and Tourism, University of Macerata, Macerata, Italy)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/ijdldc.2014010102
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Abstract

The increasing adoption of mobile devices and their impact on the processes of conceptualization are affecting the educational field enhancing interest in the educational use of these devices and, specifically, in the potentialities of augmented reality applications. Several studies have recently been developed to investigate this area and the gap that currently exists between technological development, the conceptualization of the real/virtual relationship and the reflection on the way in which these applications impact different learning contexts. A qualitative research study was developed by the Department of Education, Cultural Heritage and Tourism of the University of Macerata along with a primary school teacher following a collaborative model framed in a naturalistic paradigm. The overall research goal was to make explicit the nature of “mixed reality” in which the student acts within the real-virtual continuum, and the role played by technological means in such a process. Specifically, a mobile augmented reality application, “Point at”, was investigated. Once installed on iPads, the application allows the recognition of physical objects and activates a web resource connected to the object.
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Introduction

The study involved two classes of the last (fifth) year of the “Fratelli Cervi” primary school at the “Dante Alighieri” Institute in Macerata, Italy. About 50 ten-year-old students and their common teacher of science and technology took an active part in the process along with three researchers from the Department of Education, Cultural Heritage and Tourism of the University of Macerata.

In our vision interest is focused on the processes that create a bridge between different “worlds” (physical and digital ones) to check if technological devices can foster dialogue between them. In our perspective different worlds exist and Augmented Reality (AR) is meant as a connection tool among them independent of the adopted technologies. Both 3D visualizations, geolocalization and the use of codes can be seen as bridges to tie such worlds and foster metaphorical interpretations. The present paper not only aims to investigate the augmented reality application (AR app), but also to verify if an app with elements of augmented reality can improve communication among worlds and if in this process the body in its whole complexity has a role (enactivistic vision of education).

Students are used to informally accessing different channels of communication and interaction and it is necessary that schools work on the interconnection of these different worlds. Students need to recognize the rules of each world and the way to express and behave both in physical and digital environments. The school needs to highlight a common foundation of existing values to raise awareness and to ensure that students’ identities develop consistently. Every world has specific rules (e.g., “etiquette” can assume different forms if applied in a face-to-face class, in a web forum or in a multi-user virtual environment like a role-playing game) and technologies can foster a comparison among different rules and also identify core elements of consistency. From an educational perspective the objective of the study is to determine if the use of AR apps, to be used in a formal context through mobile devices, can create new perceptions of the relationship between real and virtual, and consequently, new practices by students in primary school.

The overall goal is to make explicit the nature of “mixed reality” and of the elements of both continuity and discontinuity between the different worlds. A specific focus is the role played by a formal institution in such a process.

The research questions that guided the process are the following:

Does the involvement with AR apps modify student awareness on continuity and discontinuity between the different worlds? If so, in what ways?

How does the use of AR in formal activities impact vision based on the “real/virtual” dichotomy?

The technological means through which the research has been developed is the AR app “Point at” (https://developer.qualcomm.com/mobile-development/mobile-technologies/augmented-reality). The Vuforia technology can detect and track any image with specific characteristics such as images showing good contrast (bright and dark regions) and no repetitive patterns.

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