What if you told your students that the same technology that makes Iron Man a superhero is going to help them finish their math homework?
As technological development rushes on at breakneck speed, devices that once would only have existed in the pages of comic books are steadily becoming commonplace. From personal computers to smartphones, Cochlear implants to Google Glass, modern technology is constantly changing the way we process and interact with the world around us.
One of the most exciting developments of recent years has been the rise of augmented reality (AR). AR technology integrates the physical world with the digital, allowing the user to overlay reality with computer-generated data; the same way Iron Man’s visor, for example, provides real-time information about people and objects in his field of vision.
Currently, the closest thing we have to Iron Man’s technology is Google Glass, which was released in 2013 but has yet to graduate from its prototype phase. But virtually any smart device with a screen and camera is now capable of hosting AR technology, and there are a growing number of AR apps available.
AR is still on the brink of total technological domination, but it has been slowly revolutionizing education processes in schools across the world for years. Part of its brilliance is in its flexibility: apps such as Aurasma allow the user to identify real-world “trigger images” and then link these to computer-generated videos, graphs or other data. A teacher, for example, might establish a particular homework sheet as a trigger image so that when students scan the page an instructional video will pop up.
Both students and teachers will benefit from the use of AR in an educational environment. Its applications are nearly endless. Teachers can create interactive documents such as periodic tables. Students can make their own 3D pop-up books with apps like Zooburst. Librarians can record book reviews that will appear whenever the relevant book cover is scanned.
There are already a number of excellent educational AR apps available for a variety of subjects. Quiver provides coloring-in templates that can be turned into interactive stories and games. NASA’s Spacecraft 3D allows interaction with the spacecraft exploring our universe. AR Flashcards gives access to a large range of fun, interactive flashcards on topics like spelling, colors and animals.
The true beauty of AR is in the way it is urging students to engage with the real world. Parents often express concern at the amount of time their children spend on their phones and computers, hidden away in closed bedrooms. AR takes the best parts of these technologies and integrates them with the physical environment, encouraging curiosity and exploration. It’s a huge game changer, and soon we’ll all be wondering how we ever got by without it.
Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.