Over the last few weeks I have been reading many blog posts heralding 2013 as the year that AR becomes the present instead of the future. Unfortunately, from an educational perspective, AR is still written about primarily as a marketing and advertising tool where user experiences can be shallow and fleeting. Location based AR such as Bomb Sight has probably come closest to demonstrating a recent educational use case, allowing the user to identify where bombs were dropped in WW2 London and experiencing the conditions of the blitz through historical photos.
There is certainly plenty of enthusiasm in the educational community for AR, but quite rightly we are forced to look beyond the gimmicky nature of new technology to qualify how this can improve existing support mechanisms for students. As most online examples are created by companies outside of the educational sector it is difficult to know where to start. In response to this, I thought it would be good to list a few tips when thinking about using AR in an educational context for the first time.
- Look at existing support material, think about how AR can enhance or offer a new experience to the user. If you are merely translating them to be delivered via AR, you should perhaps think carefully about whether this is a good idea.
- Work with students from the start of your project, this can provide a valuable tool which can inform future development and identify if they would find an AR resource beneficial.
- When using natural feature tracking (either a 2D image or 3D object) print out of the tracking image and add cut out notes so you can visualise the content (3D models, text, audio, video, images). This is similar to a paper browser wireframe employed in website design. It can provide a quick and simple method to plan the layout and a time-saving tool to easily communicate your ideas to others.
- There is so much potential with using AR for tactile or kinesthetic user groups so make sure your AR uses interactivity to place students central to the learning experience. For instance, to explain the periodic table, you could provide images or molecular models next to chemical symbols providing a visual relationship.
- AR is more suited to deliver small bite sized chunks of information that users can digest quickly. Think of your AR experience as a springboard for further learning and investigation, piquing the curiosity of the user.
- If possible the tracking image should be integral to the learning experience. The user can then make a meaningful association between the printed image/object and surrounding e-resources. This is more likely to lead to better knowledge retention.