Augmented Reality (AR) is the ability to overlay digital content into the real world by scanning image codes with digital devices. Although still relatively new, the AR market is expected to boom in the upcoming years, with a projected market value of $150 by 2020.
AR can turn routine lesson plans into interactive experiences stimulating any age student. Yet, not many teachers are taking advantage of the new technology. Apple reports there are seven million iPads in schools across the United States, but that doesn’t come close to the more than 50 million students enrolled in public schools in the fall of 2016. The shortage of equipment comes from the high costs associated with the technology and applications. AR can take a flat 2D illustration and turn it into a 3D model allowing students to rotate it and study significant details that might be hidden in a textbook. Teachers can create tutorial videos solving math problems that students can access when they get stuck on their homework. There are countless uses for AR in the classroom, but teachers need to be taught how to effectively implement it.
Professional development for teachers
Since AR has just started getting recognition in education, there are few curricular resources to support this technology. There are also limited professional development classes for teachers to learn the variety of ways AR can be used. Teachers trying to use AR are having to dive into the unknown and learn as they teach, which, although time consuming, does allow educators to hone their skills and establish their own guideline for success.
Yet, some of the older generations of teachers are afraid students will have trouble using AR. In order for the technology to be implemented correctly, curriculum needs to be updated which takes time. Teachers need time to create new lesson plans and curriculum to get the most benefits out of the new technology. While there are already developed applications teachers can use while studying space or the human body, students sometimes get the most development by creating their own projects with AR. All of these developments for teachers require extra time and ability, but most are already stretched thin trying to adhere to Common Core or district regulations.
AR uses digital devices that have a camera such as mobile phones, tablets, or head mounted displays like Microsoft’s Hololens. There are several ways to view AR once you have the device. You can install a reader app to scan codes that will show specific information to students. These are typically codes generated by the teacher. There are also mobile apps that have built-in software like Spacecraft 3D or Anatomy 4D. Teachers have to print or purchase the paper markers where each object or lesson will appear. The last type of AR is markerless or location based. This uses the device’s GPS or sensors to scan the real-world environment and places the virtual information overtop. To be able to use the AR technology effectively, teachers have to have access to high-speed wireless Internet that can process the use of multiple devices. Most apps involve sound, so students will need headphones and if student are working together, headphone splitters are needed to allow more than one person to hear the instructions.
Unfortunately getting electronic devices for an entire classroom is expensive. Some retailers have discounts for educators buying tablets, computers and wearables, but iPads still cost at least $300. Wearables such as HoloLens cost more than $3000, which is beyond the budgets of most public school teachers. Many teachers are already purchasing classroom supplies out of their own paychecks. Technology grants are available to help cover the costs, but the grants can be difficult to find. Teachers often don’t have excess time to search for additional funding beyond their budgets. The cost for faster wireless Internet that can cover a larger amount of connected devices is a concern for the school’s budget. While some AR apps are free to use, not all are. Some have an initial cost and some have in-app purchases to be able to access all the information. If you are using a variety of apps for different subjects this could initially be costly.
When using electronics and programmed software, things can go wrong. Apps can crash, data can be lost and devices can run out of space. A student’s AR experience can be halted until the device or program is fixed. Students using the program to study for an upcoming test could lose out on valuable time to learn materials. Teachers need to look for the device with the greatest functionality for what they want to achieve in the classroom. Not all apps are created for both Android and Apple devices, so teachers need to do extensive research before deciding on a brand. The placement of AR codes can cause problems with how well the device is able to read it. If the lightening is bad or a code is placed too high or low the device might have problems identifying it. Students will not be able to enjoy the full AR experience.
As technology advances, school’s budgets need to increase to provide up-to date resources for teachers and students. When money is tight, schools need an easy way to find and apply for grants. Websites such as Digital Wish should become more prevalent, so teachers can get donors to help buy classroom needs. Devices and apps should be discounted for educational classrooms, so more schools have access. Teachers should attend professional development classes to understand the new technology and how to implement it in their classrooms. Teachers need extra time to make curricular changes for the AR technology, so students are getting quality learning.
Younger generations are being raised in a more technological advanced world and will want to use those same technologies in school. These students will resist traditional learning but will thrive in a classroom that supplements learning with augmented reality.