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Teachers' Guide to Augmented reality

Augmented Reality is a concept that has been around for sometime now but with the latest innovations in the digital world, augmented reality has been foregrounded posing serious questions as to its relevancy in education and learning.

What is Augmented Reality ?

Augmented Reality is exactly what the name implies: an augmented version of realty created by mixing technology with the known world. It might be a distorted, augmented, or less augmented version of the actual world but in its basic form, augmented reality is a simulation or rather a way of superimposing digital contents into the real context.

Augmented reality has its origins as early as the 1950s and has progressed with virtual reality since then, but its most significant advance have been since the mid 1990s when researcher Tom Caudell coined the term "augmented reality,"

What is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality?

Some people still confuse virtual reality with augmented reality when in fact there is a clear dividing line between the two concepts. In virtual reality, you only experience and see the virtual things. But augmented reality - you're still seeing the real world; t just augments some virtual information on top of the real world. So, it gives you actual information but didn't replace the real world you're experiencing.

Augmented Learning ?

With the embrace of Augmented Reality there appeared a new concept of learning called "augmented learning". This is basically  an on-demand learning technique where the learning environment adapts to the needs and inputs from learners . Broadly speaking, "environment" here does not have to be constrained into the physical learning environment such as classroom, but could refer to such learning environment as digital learning environment, through which learners can stimulate discovery and gain greater understanding.

A decade or two ago, augmented reality was exclusively used on computers through specific applications that users install on their desktops but the introduction of mobile gadgetry, particularly smartphones and PC Tablets prompted app developers to design augmented reality apps that work best on these mobile devices and hence the entry of this concept into the mobile era. 

How does augmented reality works ?

As I argued earlier, augmented reality is about enhancing the real world by using digitized content. Using a mobile application, a mobile phone's camera identifies and interprets a marker, often a black and white barcode image. The software analyses the marker and creates a virtual image overlay on the mobile phone's screen, tied to the position of the camera. This means the app works with the camera to interpret the angles and distance the mobile phone is away from the marker.
 A straightforward example is when travelling to a foreign country. Imagine you landed in Paris and you want to do a sightseeing tour to discover the wonders of this city, before the introduction of augmented reality apps, you would have to hire a tourist guide and pay for all the charges. But now with an augmented reality app in your smartphone, you can browse Paris and delve into its historical monuments the way you want. Holding your phone camera in front of Eifel Tower, for instance, will both show you the real tower ( reality) and will also provide you with nuggets of information on its history which will augment your understanding of that landmark (augmented reality).

The Potential of Augmented Reality in education

Augmented Reality  can be used by researchers and teachers for instance in order to promote more interactive learning environments. Examples include:

1- field trips - “AR museums could guide students of all ages through interactive digital media based around a specific theme – maybe even challenge them to play games along the way”.

 2- AR Development Labs – aim to conjure up projects that entertain as well as educate. Affiliated with high profile companies such as Google and Microsoft, they involve the creation of interactive and 3D objects for studying purposes.

3- school in the park – in the US, school children can engage with AR via their smart phones by exploring local zoos, history centres, etc. They not only receive exposure to numerous educational digital media resources but also can be trained to create their very own AR experiences.

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