This year, so far, has seen many new pieces of augmented reality hardware hit the market. Software developers are now starting to create lots of exciting ways to make the most out of a powerful, new, interactive toolset. Whilst the main focus for products such as the Oculus Rift, or Leap Motion, seems to be new ways to play games, there is definitely the space for such items to break into the education fields, given the right software. Implementation, therefore, is key, as is identifying classroom solutions.
It would be easy to imagine AR playing a role in subjects such as History or Geography, where a visual approach to discipline would no doubt allow for more interactivity with the topic. However, it seems clear that the sciences would be the biggest to gain from having AR resources available to schools, as they have the most to gain.
Imagine instead of having children trying to picture in their minds the workings of sub-atomic physics, or having to rely on messy white-board drawings, you could have a child interact with the individual particles themselves through an AR headset. Biology lessons would no longer have to be a dreaded, messy venture by teachers, as dissections could take place through AR software. Reducing the need to source valuable subjects for dissection, it would certainly be a lot quicker to complete the lesson, and a lot quicker to clean up safely afterwards. In terms of safety, however, Chemistry would certainly be the subject which would reap the rewards over other disciplines a lot more.
The safest, most controlled atmosphere
Experiments in the field of Chemistry are always limited by how safe you can be in a classroom; you would be hard pressed to find students below university level experimenting with mercury in any form. Certain chemical reactions have the potential of being so violent that they are never brought into schools at all, and instead are taught about via static school-videos and non-interactive presentations. Imagine having an AR program which would allow students access to chemicals they would previously have been unable to have first-hand experience with. It would increase interest in the subject, be incredibly safe, and give students invaluable experience about the nature of the objects they previously had to imagine.
The prohibitive cost will always be a topic which raises its head when talking about augmented reality in schools. However, just as twenty years ago no-one would have imagined a school having a digital white-board in every classroom, or a computer for every child, it’s not impossible to imagine a time when the prices of AR equipment drops and the prospect becomes a lot more realistic. Certainly there are subjects where augmented reality would have no bearing; it’s a hard sell imagining the impact AR would have upon mathematics. There is definitely a hold that could easily be filled by the added value AR would bring to academia, through all ages of school life.