Classrooms are forever evolving. First, with the addition of the abacus and the magic lantern, and later with the use of calculators and personal computers. Since the start of the 21st century, the IT evolution has picked up its pace. Many schools around the globe provide students with a tablet for 1:1 everyday use. The latest educational trend is the introduction of augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to the classroom.
Augmented Reality (AR) is a device that adds digital elements to a real-time view by using the camera app on a smartphone. An example of Augmented Reality experience can be found in the Snapchat lenses that add different filter designs to your picture.
On the other hand, Virtual Reality (VR) is a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world using VR devices such as Google cardboard or Occult Rift. The AR device transports users into real-world and imagined environments such as the middle of a deep blue sea or flying with the birds in the sky.
Recently, these two devices have found their way into the 21st century classroom, make learning interactive, effective and engaging. African educators need to embrace these tools to deliver a more interesting learning experience.
In most cases, lessons revolve around a certain textbook and augmented reality could enable its images to ‘pop out’ and make the textbook become an interactive lesson.
For example, you want to show students about wild animals using the VR device, student get to experience the real world of animals in the jungle. Making it look as if they are in the animal world. And so many other possibilities.
Also, biology students studying the human circulatory system could place their device over a textbook image and see the heart move and show in great detail how blood is pumped around the body. And this is likely to improve students concentration and enthusiasm.
Keeping practicalities in mind, AR will offer more accessibility to a broader range of schools, as the technology itself is easier to implement within the classroom. Once established (i.e. sufficient AR-enabled textbooks and apps are created), AR should be much cheaper to implement across schools with limited budgets. So, AR might be the better choice for schools that don’t want to commit to full VR headsets and VR capable PCs.
However, AR isn’t just limited to the classroom. The potential for its use on class trips and at home is another thing that augmented reality can provide that VR cannot. For example, teachers could provide a homework sheet with ‘markers’ on them for students to use with their smartphones at home.
While cost is a running theme when implementing VR, AR and MR, it’s an important factor, and in some school the most important metric. Once AR materials (books, task sheets, textbooks and more) are set up and the apps and content is made, implementing AR is a pretty cheap option for children with smartphones or schools offering tablets.
It’s likely that a subscription AR package will be used by schools to get curriculum-based AR apps and in theory, the benefits to learning are huge.
Mixed reality seems to be a term developed by Microsoft for its ‘mixed reality’ headset the Hololens. It works much like AR and has seen early uptake in architecture and construction, as well as higher learning, such as teaching medical students about the human anatomy.
In the UK, 94 percent of teachers believe that virtual reality would improve classroom teaching, Lenovo research finds, with almost half of teachers estimating VR will be commonplace in schools in the next five years.
Statistics shows that;
Education is expected to be the 4th biggest sector for VR investments.
Also, VR in education is predicted to be a $200 million industry by 2020 and $700 million by 2025.
According to Digi Capital’s report, by 2023, AR will conquer 3.5 billion devices and turn into an industry with a revenue of $85 to $90 billion. The VR is expected to develop at a slower pace, with up to 60 million devices and $15 billion in revenue within the same time frame. It’s no wonder major players have already made their moves towards the expansion of their services. Leading the charge, Snapchat and Facebook have recently introduced AR and VR features.
Even the governments around the world realize the potential for these technologies in education and training. In the last few years several countries have introduced AR and VR initiatives:
The U.S. Department of Education organized a two-year long EdSim Challenge that has recently announced a winner – Osso VR. It’s a training platform that allows doctors and other medical professionals to gain hands-on experience in cutting-edge techniques. The Osso VR developers enjoyed the grand prize of $430,000, while four other finalists received $50,000 each and other prizes from the leaders of the VR market.
Over 170 of Chinese research institutions and companies have joined in the efforts to increase the pace of AR/VR development and formed the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance (IVRA).
The French Ministry of National Education included AR into the middle school curriculum to encourage the development of problem-solving skills through technology. Students get to identify the problem, come up with a solution and design it using AR tools.
In UAE, 17 schools have joined a pilot project and incorporated VR into their curriculum. Students enjoy virtual expeditions to the environments they would never see otherwise because they are too dangerous for young explorers. The Ministry of Education plans to introduce VR to a higher number of schools shortly.
Despite the recent government crisis, South Korea plans to invest millions of dollars in the VR/AR industry within the next few years. The Korean Virtual Reality – Augmented Reality Complex (KoVAC) emerged in Seoul. The complex will provide resources for many fields willing to incorporate VR, including education.
THE BENEFITS OF AR & VR IN CLASSROOM
Some consider virtual reality a trendy gaming industry invention, but its practical uses in education are astounding. Here is a quick overview of the possibilities it provides for educators:
Visualization of concepts that are otherwise impossible to produce. Teachers no longer have to struggle with two-dimensional boards to illustrate three-dimensional structures. And better visualizations leads to better understanding and improves knowledge retention rate.
One of the biggest problems of traditional education is the lack of time and resources to provide individualized teaching to every student in the classroom. Augmented Reality provides teachers the tools needed to have information about every student, so that he/she knows which one needs more help, which one is doing just fine and which one is really understanding it.
Augmented Reality can transform the classroom and its content, it definitely makes everything more visual and attractive for learners. Reading about the parts of the human heart may not be exactly interesting, but watching how it works through AR can be much more appealing.
Sometimes money is a barrier for learning, both schools and learners can be affected by it. Augmented Reality bridges education inequalities, it makes the contents accessible for everyone in the classroom, making no differences between students.
Fostering the learning process
AR enables students to experience a different learning cycle that will make them retain more knowledge longer. As Confucius said: ‘’I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand’’.
Wide variety of fields
Augmented Reality technology can be applied to all kind of fields and levels of knowledge. However, it is true that it maximizes its benefits when it comes to Skills Training. AR provides the perfect mix between reality and virtual reality, so real physical devices can be used while saving costs and reducing risks.
Developing student’s creativity and curiosity
Students always bring different points of view to the classroom and each of them will have a different perspective about what they are learning. With Augmented Reality they are able to explore and learn more about what they find interesting. Creativity and curiosity would definitely be fostered, and AR is the perfect way to get your students’ imagination flying.
Both Virtual and Augmented reality technologies offer numerous exciting opportunities for an education system that can be instrumental in solving its key challenges and bringing to a new level of quality.
With the technologies rapidly developing and expanding its availability – it is more of a question of time when they will be considered as a viable option with its own distinct value.