Augmented reality in education: a trip to AR Camp at the University of Canberra

AR Camp at the University of Canberra's Inspire Centre

AR Camp at the University of Canberra’s Inspire Centre

The educational use of augmented reality is becoming a hot topic, with interesting implications not just for classroom learning, but also for knowledge management and public engagement with educational material.

Last week I braved the cold (it was really cold!) to attend a 2-day AR in Education Camp at the University of Canberra, hosted by UoC’s fledgling AR Studio at the new high-tech Inspire Centre. The camp drew a diverse group of attendees, including academic researchers, secondary school teachers and students, and generated a lot of conversation about the current state of AR technology.

The theme that kept coming up was interaction. More specifically, how to move AR experiences beyond the passive model of content consumption that currently dominates, and toward models that leverage the unique interaction affordances of AR. And what exactly are those affordances?

Through lots of hands-on activities and demonstrations, it became clear that AR technology is still quite glitchy – particularly when trying to identify images in shifting light levels or when attempting to geo-locate an augmented object to a high degree of accuracy. The software landscape is also very fragmented still, with AR content scattered across numerous browsers that lack interoperability standards.

Despite these limitations – which are likely to disappear as the technology matures – attendees had plenty of ideas for using AR in education. One secondary school teacher is already using AR in her Chinese language classes. She says the tactile manipulation of the mobile phone (or tablet computer) as an interface device seems to help re-establish neural connections that she believes are disappearing, as her students abandon handwritten study techniques for a more digital approach.

AR Studio is an Australian Learning & Teaching Council (ALTC) funded project, developed by a research team from the University of Canberra, the Australian National University (ANU) and Macquarie University. More about the studio.

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