Why does AR belong in the classroom?

Pete Casson, Chief Technology Officer at Twinkl, explores the potential that AR games offer to schools and what we can expect to see in our classrooms in the future

Augmented reality (AR) in education is not a new subject, but it is an area that is being increasingly discussed and explored, and for good reason. New developments have made AR more accessible than ever before, blurring the lines between the physical and digital world. These new advancements are opening up realms of opportunity, but the applications of these to educational settings are still mainly experimental.

Augmented reality combines the physical world with the virtual by superimposing computer-generated images or animations into a real-world environment. Using augmented reality provides new opportunities for learning, predominantly because it allows pupils to see things that are not possible in the real-world. Dinosaurs can be brought into the classroom, working parts of the human body can appear from the page of a book and learners can explore new 3D worlds from the comfort of their own.

What makes an AR game different from other computer games?

Augmented reality games are designed to provide a ‘hands-on’ and immersive experience, as people interact with their real and virtual environment simultaneously. The 3D world that is presented can be explored in different scales and learners can navigate around the space through their own physical movements to explore different details and vantage points. This suits a visual style of learning and those who learn from first-hand experience.

The immersive experience reduces the need to give lots of instructions and so AR games are not bound by language. Movement and sound allow children to discover things the app can do and how they can advance through the game. This encourages independent learning skills and makes AR an ideal platform to create games suitable for children of all ages and abilities.

Augmented reality offers a huge scope for education as a tool for all subjects or curriculums. Any object or landscape can be made into a digital model, which can then be brought to life through AR.

AR games, in general, are less expensive than alternative options, including computer games.  Unlike some consoles, applications are cheaper to purchase or in a lot of cases free. Applications can be upgraded through app stores directly, making it easy and cost-effective to keep up with the latest version.

Because augmented reality only requires an application and a tablet or phone it works well for schools.

Because augmented reality only requires an application and a tablet or phone it works well for schools. In most cases, this equipment is already available and for the majority of teachers is familiar, meaning that they don’t have to rely on a technical expert to set up the environment.

Google and Apple are both making AR technology free as part of their browser functionality. This is making it easier to access and view 3D and AR models in a wide variety of locations inside and outside the school and home.

What can we expect to see in the future?

As the technology develops, we expect AR to be more widely used throughout schools and education.

At the moment, some AR technology is restricted to certain upgrades of phones or tablets, but we expect that in the future AR will become platform agnostic, meaning it can be used on any device or tablet.

You also won’t need to have Wifi access for many apps, making movement and outside teaching more accessible and appealing with AR content.

Currently, AR offers 2-4 multiplayer games, but future games will offer the ability for more players to work together. It may also be possible for different types of devices to be used to play and interact together. Hopefully in the future whole class groups could be involved in the same activity. One day, even, different classes and schools could connect through the same AR landscape.

In the future elements of the games created with AR will also advance.  Digital models will be able to interact with environments and detect real-world objects. For example, at present, a digital model can walk across a table using AR, but would not detect a cup placed on that table. In the future, the model will register the item and walk around it, a concept that has multiple potential applications for the classroom.

Audio and facial recognition is also likely to advance, opening up game-play without the need to touch the screen and personalising the experience.

As any subject will be able to take advantage of new AR technology to support learning, it could potentially be adopted across the whole curriculum.

It’s an exciting time for education and AR. That’s why we’d recommend schools become familiar with the technology sooner – to take advantage of another dimension to learning.

W: twinkl.co.uk