Learning with Augmented Reality

For my third Toolkit challenge, for my “Universal Designs for Learning” grad class, I wanted to discuss a relatively new technology tool for use in the classroom called Augmented Reality. Please also see my previous Toolkit blog posts on Living a Responsive Curriculum & Learning to “Leave” the Classroom: Differentiating Programming. This tool has many potential benefits for removing barriers for learners when utilized within the pedagogical framework of UDL. The Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) argues we need to provide Multiple Means of Representation, Multiple Means of Expression and Multiple Means of Engagement to better meet the diverse needs of the learners.

What is Augmented Reality?

In basic terms, AR layers computer information over real life perception. Mashable (2014) defines Augmented reality as “a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. One particular free AR app, called Aurasma, works by using the camera on mobile devices to capture an image that is “triggered” and shares interactive content. For example, a learner draws a picture on paper. He or she then takes a photo of the drawing on a device to create a “trigger”. Then a video, audio recording, graphic, GPS location etc. is linked to the “trigger”. Later, when the drawing is scanned, the device or another device if shared on a channel, recognizes the “trigger” and then plays the connected song, video, graphic etc.

Augmented Reality- Explained by Common Craft (Illustrated youtube video).

Matt Mills: Image recognition augmented reality. Ted Talk on AR.


Providing Multiple Means of Representation

CAST (2011) states “learners differ in the ways that they perceive and comprehend information that is presented to them.” Also, David Rose & Bridget Dalton (2009) argue we should “present text in individualized ways to reduce the barriers that might interfere with learning to comprehend”(p.80). Therefore, Educators need to help provide an array of options for accessing information such as videos, audio stories, images, songs etc. Augmented Reality can assist in providing multiple means of representation. No longer must knowledge be accessed by printed text alone. Here are a few examples:

1) Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Sign Language: Using AR, flashcards of vocabulary words can contain a video overlay that explains a word/concept/task in Sign Language (representation).

2) Offers auditory alternatives. Learners can access videos, sound clips, and other information connected to a “trigger”. An example: an image on the wall plays a recording of a pronunciation of a word or a video explanation. A piece of paper can explain a mini-lesson. An educator does not always have to be around to help a learner for any surface potentially can speak to a learner. Words of encouragement can be embedded also.

3) English Language Learners: AR can provide overlays over word walls or images which speak or show images of words to learners in their familiar language. Thus, increasing personal understanding  by removing language barriers.

4) Learners own Pace. If one were to use a flipped classroom or pre-recorded teacher/learner instructions for a lesson, a learner could complete challenges or tasks at their own pace. Instead of every learner sitting and watching a lecture at the same time, a lecture could be pre-recorded and then when/if needed scanned by a learner. They could fast forward, pause or start again or skip if they already know the content/task. For example, for a science lab, directions could be scanned on labels to remind learners of concepts or purposes of a tool. If a learner needs more time to complete a lab they can take their time. Thus, fostering learning at your own pace environments.

5) Customizes displays of information. Learners can zoom in on images, view a math equation in 3D, pause a track/video, listen to audio, share a link, increase font size….

6) Experiential: Connect to the community and world. Viewing art images in a book is never the same as walking the halls of an art gallery of watching an artist create in action. And often, taking an entire class to another country or another city may simply be unfeasible. Check out this video on teacher Andrew Vanden Heuvel who explores parts of the world teaching physics online and takes learners on virtual field trips around the world. (Although Google Glass is being pulled from the shelves temporarily, this form of AR technology may provide more uses for removing barriers for people unable to physically attend a location in the world).

7) Provide access to information/communication for people with physical disabilities. See this video about Alex Blaszczuk, a young girl who can not use her hands and Google Glass helps her take pictures, find information and connect with others through voice activation.

8) Visually Imparied. One system being developed, called NAVIG (Navigation Assisted by artificial Vision and GNSS), is a wearable device to help ease navigation in the community. The device, much like a smart phone AR app, can recognize and locate objects as a person walks around. Providing help with navigation and connecting people to the surroundings using auditory communication. (Please see article “NAVIG: augmented reality guidance system for the visually impaired“, Virtual RealityPublished by Springer-Verlag London: 2012.)

Learners can create! Multiple Means of Action & Expression

Creating in the hands of learners. A learner can create a video or voice recording of their learnings, questions or comments and attach these clips to other items. For example, a child paints a mural. He/she then creates a “trigger” so when another classmate or an educator scans the created mural, their trigger plays perhaps a self reflection or a video sharing their creative process. This could potentially be used in countless ways when allowing student choice.

Risk Free Experimenting & Prototyping. With Google sketch up, a learner can design an idea to make in shop class, for example, a chair. They can then sketch their prototype and view the sketch in life size 3D, using AR to critique, alter and edit their idea before actually hand building the real thing in wood. This may help some learners visualize their ideas before fruition and also help with confidence by allowing students to be creative, take risks, and make mistakes without consequences (Thornton & Ernst, & Clarke, pg.20).

Learning can take place anywhere & Incorporate physical movement. AR does not mean sitting at a desk being complacent. Scavenger hunts are one idea. Create, or better yet have your learners create, scavenger hunts around your school and playgrounds locating and solving “triggers” or “QR” codes. Learners can run or walk around figuring out the hunt, solving questions, finding information for any subject. What a great way for learners to create interactive demonstrations of learnings for their peers. Further, students could use their mobile phones for learning while exploring their own communities, essentially learning can take place anywhere, and not always within the confines of school walls.

Multiple Means of Engagement

Reflection/Meta-Cogntition. With today’s technology, there is no excuse to not allow a learner the opportunity to reflect, assess, and provide feedback on their own learning. I had a student create a beautiful diorama which she put so much effort into where she then created a “trigger” on a 3D clay character. The trigger opened a video of her explaining her choices in representing images, where she felt she was successful and areas she felt she could improve upon. If a learner is strong verbally…let them voice record! If a learner is strong in drawing…let them illustrate their ideas! The possibilities are endless if we focus on learner strengths and provide choice. Further, by connecting subjects in a cross-curricular manner we can help foster more meaningful connections to the learner.

What if aliens crash landed at your school!? Rebecca Mitchell and Dennis DeBay (2012) created a game called “Alien Contact”, focused on collaboration, problem-solving and AR. “After conducting 17 implementations, mostly at urban public middle schools in or around Boston, Massachusetts, USA, during the 2007–08 school year, [they] determined that AR increases academic engagement by tapping students’ interest in mobile devices, differentiates instruction by personalizing information or tasks for students, and creates situated learning experiences”. Mitchell & DeBay also argue AR simulations “engage students who are typically disengaged in mathematics classrooms, encourage collaboration, allow for differentiation of instruction, and stimulate authentic learning.” (pg.21).

The Possibilities are of integrating AR within educational pedagogy are truly endless. If any surface can essentially become a screen linking you to sounds, images, videos and information than an entire school environment can become interactive in so many layers. Yet most importantly, when used in partnership with UDL principles, Augmented Reality can foster new opportunities by removing potential barriers for learners to access information, share their understandings and increase and foster engagement in learning.

Now, “how” can I use AR within learning environments? Truly, the possibilities are ever expanding and being tested out in education around the world…so here are some sites if you are interested in exploring this technology in your own practice.

Aurasma   –  Layar    –   Two Guys and Some iPads   –   20 Examples from TeachThought   –   Kleinsperation


CAST. (2011). “Universal Design for Learning Guidelines – Version 2.0: Principle I. Provide Multiple Means of Representation. Wakefield, MA. Retrieved from http://www.udlcenter.org/aboutudl/udlguidelines/principle1

Martinez, Sylvia Libow & Stager, Gary. (2013). “Chapter 9: Shaping the Learning Environment. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrance, California: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.

Mitchell, Rebecca & DeBay, Dennis. (Sept/Oct, 2012). Get Real: Augmented Reality for the Classroom. Learning & Leading with Technology. ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education). pg.16-21.

Rose, David & Dalton, Bridget. (2009). “Learning to Read in the Digital Age. International Mind, Brain, and Education Society. Blackwell Publishing, Inc. Vol.3, No.2.

Thornton, Timothy, Ernst, Heremy V. & Clark,Aaron C. (2012, May/June). “Augmented Reality as a Visual and Spatial Learning Tool in Technology Education. Technology and Engineering Teacher. 18-21.

Wikipedia. “Augmented Reality”. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality