Access to Learning with Augmented Reality Starts with Devices
What teacher doesn’t want to hear these words, “Now this is how I learn!” “Can we do this again?” “My brain hurts...I have so many questions!”
The Potential of AR
The statements above show the potential of immersive technologies such as augmented reality (AR) in the classroom. Students share an experience they would never get otherwise. Yet, we also know that technology tools in and of themselves have little impact on student learning without access, purpose, strong content, and sound pedagogy. This is why Jaime Donally wrote her book, Learning Transported. She states, “I discovered that although many educators were won over by the wow factor, they couldn’t see a direct connection between immersive technology tools and content areas and student objectives...the application needed to be clearly laid out with a direct connection to student standards and lesson plans.
The Hardware Issues
The beauty of immersive technology such as AR, is that it is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. One issue, as is common in the world of edtech, is school-wide availability of devices that can handle recent technologies. This technology in schools ecosystem mirrors recess antics in that we chase the new kid on the block only to discover another new kid will enroll tomorrow. In my experience, the infiltration of inexpensive Chromebooks and G-Suite for Education into the classroom was a game-changer for student access. You could buy two, or even three, Chromebooks for the price of one iPad. Some districts completely eliminated purchasing updated tablets, especially iPads. That is a mistake for many reasons. What is developmentally appropriate for our youngest learners? Anyone who has ever tried to teach keyboarding or witnessed kids taking 20 minutes to type a 3-word Google search knows this. An AR experience, the relatively new kid on the block, invites kids to get up, move above, around, in front of what they are viewing through their device’s camera. That is not so easy with a laptop.
Immersive experiences are finding their way into all types of devices, such as zSpace and Magic Leap, but mobile devices such as phones and tablets are still the norm. In this transition era of immersive tech for schools, school IT staff need to add checking device compatibility to their long list of look-fors. Here is a list of devices that support ARCore and ARKit. District policies, budgets, and competing priorities complicate the matter.
I don’t want to be the playground bully here, but make no mistake, immersive technologies will be ubiquitous to American classrooms in a relatively short time...at least in the school districts that have the vision to plan for the purchase of mobile devices and apps that make exploration of immersive content possible. We cannot afford to ban instead of manage, ignore instead of embrace, or burden teachers instead of train and support them. Student learning depends on us. Just as broadband internet access is a huge barrier to student learning, some schools will find ways to get compatible devices only to find new problems on the playground...lack of affordable, meaningful, and standards-based AR content and professional training.
The Institute for Learning Perspectives, or Perspectives XR, is an educational non-profit dedicated to helping educational institutions use immersive technologies to teach the humanities.
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