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Augmented Reality— the leap in education technology

We have written about education technology and its application in the classroom setting and the integral role it has in turning a conventional classroom into a smart classroom. If one were to inquire about the foremost rationale of the extensive application of the education technology, the apt answer would be that it makes the classroom interactive manifold, increased engagement and interest of the students in the subject are corollaries of course. 
In this article we are going to touch upon the cutting –edge application of educational technology in education—Augmented Reality (AR). AR is the superlative state-of-the-art digital technology which has found its application in education with incontrovertibly remarkable results, only rivaled in scope by Virtual Reality or VR. True, there are the handful of schools in India that have graduated to the use of AR yet, nonetheless, we cannot let such significant an intervention go unmentioned while we are committed to the cause of reimagining education, hence this article.
Moreover, in the wake of the developments like the introduction of AI in junior classes of CBSE board schools, there are hardly any reasons to postpone the discourse on subjects like AR.

What is Augmented Reality and what is its relevance in education?

The term augmented reality literally suggests enhancement of the reality. It is basically the technology that retouches the object to amplify the perception of the viewer. In other words, AR brings the imperceptible to the perceptible plane. If it sounds rather abstract, allow me to explain. Remember, when we first witnessed the dispersion of light through a triangular prism or when we first examined the cross-section of the leaf under the microscope? It was the reinterpretation of reality. It is crudely analogous to AR, only in the latter’s case the medium is complex, it is digital. It does not need the physical presence of the things we wish to inspect, as was the case when we actually had the light that passed through the prism or the leaf under the microscope. Now, we can observe the palpitation of the human heart without having a real beating heart on the table, just its image would suffice, which, with the assistance of the software, is rendered in the way that in it we can observe the beating heart, in all its detail. This is just one example out of the huge number of possible applications of AR in education. The electromagnetic waves cannot be seen, same is the case with a molecule of hemoglobin and an atom with electrons revolving around it. With AR, it can be done, it can be seen and can be interacted with, even manipulated. The three-dimensional image conjured up from an improvised two-dimensional display augmented by software is what any of the above-mentioned scenarios would essentially be.

The elementary use of AR in the classroom would be to supplement the classroom textbook learning with the demonstrability that it adds to any lesson. The implacable complexity and abstraction involved in the concepts of mathematics and sciences can be significantly simplified by the application of AR. There are ‘4D’ augmented reality flashcards that are available for the classroom use that helps in the multi-dimensional representation of objects.

With the application of AR, every narrative comes of age and in the hands of a skilled teacher, it becomes a modality with infinite possibilities. It is not hard to imagine what value AR can potentially add to the lesson and the dimensions that it would give to a science lab. AR is capable of providing not only visual augmentation but-- given the appropriate software is at one's disposal—it can provide olfactory, aural, haptic (touch), somatosensory augmentation of the environment too.

The term augmented reality was coined way back in 1990 by Tom Caudell, a Boeing researcher, and its conceptual origin dates back to 1968, credited to Ivan Sutherland who developed first head-mounted display system to show simple wireframe drawings. Since then, AR has come a long way finding application in medicine, engineering, aviation, military besides education.

There are many types of research—though none of them are Indian—attesting to the fact that AR increases the engagement of the students besides receptiveness. Students are in possession of smartphones now and that is enough for the basic AR applications to be availed.


AR in self- study and homework

We have mentioned how the concept of ‘flipped classroom’ has taken shape in the wake of the popularization of the technology in earlier articles. Well, that is an advanced case, for now, we can discuss how AR can help students in self –study.
With AR-enabled worksheets, homework can be made something that student would look forward to completing. There are printable AR worksheets that are in existence and eventually getting popularized. The International Society for Technological Education is the facilitator agency that oversees the R&D of such material.
The AR-enabled classroom has textbooks and apps that have to be selected for the purpose. There are many manufacturers that have initiated their respective editions of such apps and texts.

Giving Labs a new dimension

The labs, as we stated earlier will become more conducive for experiential learning while being safe if AR is incorporated. Experiments that are generally not introduced because of safety concerns and constraints of the budget can now be introduced thanks to AR. There are interesting applications of the AR in biology and chemistry lab.  For example, the human anatomy can only be made any more interactive by the use of Virtual Reality or VR, but then, there are extraordinary requirements for VR that factor in, and AR is in itself is quite adequate and enriching.
Personalization of learning

It can be easily imagined that the personalization of learning is plausible and sustainable with the use of AR. This is the empowerment of the learner in action. Education technology serves this purpose quite adequately, it empowers the learner by giving him/her control of the learning process. The passive learning is done away with not to say rote learning that is easily be made superfluous with the judicious and intelligent application of AR. The option of the creation of personalized lesson for oneself is by far the most appealing facet of AR.

HP Reveal, Metaverse and Traces are some of the mentionable AR apps that can help in the creation of one’s own augmented reality.
The AR, though it might seem counterintuitive, can be heralded as a cost-efficient solution, if the scope it gives to the education is taken into account.
Education technology has a lot to offer and AR is turning out to be one of the most prominent reasons for that promise. The extent of the application of AR is not limited; it can be as usefully employed in the kindergarten as it can be in the tutorials in medical college. The schools will be better placed if they try and employ AR in their curricular implementation, to educate children for the 21st century.

Vinod Kakumanu

Vinod Kakumanu

Founder & Consultant - School Serv

Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.

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