The Reality of Augmented Reality in the Classroom

The Reality of Augmented Reality in the Classroom

Pamela Jones Ponners (University of West Georgia, USA) and Yulia Piller (School of Health Professions, University of Texas Southwestern, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3250-8.ch003


Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has school districts across the country scrambling to integrate technology into the academic day. The days of showing a PowerPoint with your lecture and calling it technology integration are gone. Today's educators, and students, are looking for interactive and student-centered immersive technology experiences. What is the reality of bringing augmented reality (AR) into the classroom? How feasible is it to introduce students to these experiences in a meaningful and academically challenging way? This chapter attempts to look at the challenges from the educators' point of view as well as its impact on the learners. In addition, the definition of AR is provided, multiple learning theories that provide the basis for using AR in the classroom are discussed, and an overview of best practices for AR integration is presented.
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Digital tools, if properly integrated into the classroom, can provide enriching opportunities for both teaching and learning. Research shows that such tools can boost student achievement levels, provide immersive and interactive learning environments, afford opportunities for situated and authentic learning experiences as well as provide teachers and administrators with the data necessary to gauge the differences and measure the desired outcomes. One of the main issues with technology integration into the learning environment is the flawed educators’ decision-making process that identifies which digital tool/technology should be adopted. Quite often the educators react to buzzwords or get excited about a particular new tool without having a deep understanding of why this tool should be used for a particular learning activity. The question of “why” is instrumental in any decision on technology integration into the classroom. In 2019 Educause Horizon Report, Kevin Ashford-Rowe suggested that it is imperative for educators to realize that

[…] it is not so much the technology that we use but, more importantly, understanding and being able to describe the reason(s) why we would use it. Will it make it easier for a student to understand an important but complex theoretical concept? Will it more quickly build their competence in following an important process or procedure? Might it even enable them to combine both ideas by allowing them to demonstrate their understanding of key concepts in solving difficult challenges and problems—an approach more in keeping with the types of complex challenges that they’ll likely be expected to resolve in the workplace? […] (p.36)

Answering these questions enables educators to make the best case for utilizing technology in their classrooms. This deep understanding and appreciation of technology integration is critical in our ever-changing world where it seems like new digital tools emerge every day.

In recent years a few new technologies have shown potential in enhancing traditional learning models while enabling new teaching and learning opportunities. Virtual Reality (VR) and AR applications are among them. On many occasions educators use these terms interchangeably when referring to any environment where learners have the ability to navigate and interact with virtual content. Despite the fact that “the two might best be seen on a continuum, whereby AR and VR represent a sliding scale of mixed reality” (Nielsen, Brandt, & Swensen, 2016, p.158), there are distinct differences between AR and VR.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Infrastructure (Technology): The basic set of technology components put in place to ensure connectivity to online resources are available.

Learning Outcome: The desired outcome of a lesson. Usually defined in the objective and measured through the use of an assessment.

Digital Citizenship: Describes the behavior of a person who engages in online communication though sites such as, but not exclusive to social media, private or public chat rooms, webinars, discussion boards, online classes, and email. Educators are leading the way in teaching and creating positive Digital Citizenship.

GPS: Global positioning system. Allows technology tools to connect to people and places based on location.

Mixed Reality: When one or more realities: augmented, virtual, or real, merger in some way, creating a mix of realities.

Overlay: In the context of this chapter overlay is a visual or audio file which appears over the trigger in when engaged in an AR experience. The content of the experience is housed in the overlay.

Classroom Technology: Technology introduced in the classroom to enhance a lesson, such as the use of online resources, mobile applications, and hand-held devices with the intention of classroom engagement.

Virtual Reality: Created though computer generated simulation that allows the participant to be fully emerged into the environment.

Emerging Technology: Technology that is rising into prominence, but its development and/or practical applications are still largely unrealized.

Situated Learning: A learning theory based on the idea that learning is created through real life activities and relationships between people. Situated learning relies on the connection of previous learned knowledge with individualized, unintended, and informal learning.

Empirical: Evidence that is based on observation, experience, or research rather than theory.

Best Practices: Teaching practices developed, over time, through research, experience and observation, which allow for maximum learning for participants.

Mini Lesson: A lesson that is relatively short and focused on a specific skill or piece of knowledge.

Spatial Cognition: Being aware of your surroundings though visual ques, environmental markers, and touch. Spatial cognition can be altered though the use of AR or VR tools.

Visualization: An image that is formed via an individual, creating a mental model.

AR Marker: Also referred to as a trigger. This is a graphical or visual cue that marks when the overlay shows up in the AR experience.

Mental Models: A description of someone’s idea of how something looks, works, or interacts in their world view. Mental Models are created through a person’s experiences, though school, media, and different social activities, and how they interpret their experiences.

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