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Exploring the Benefits of Augmented Reality (AR) in the Classroom


Augmented reality (AR) enables young learners to explore their own world in new and eye-opening ways. Because AR technology often utilizes devices that students already have— or are already present in the classroom — there are low barriers to entry for educational systems. Making use of familiar devices also means a miniscule learning curve for learners, who may appreciate the incorporation of highly engaging and interactive technology within their curriculum.

The possibilities of AR are just now being explored, and future applications promise increasing integration within existing learning processes. But even now, AR has shown itself to be an outstanding learning tool, serving as the "proof of truth" to students by making connections between existing lessons and their real world experience. Sometimes, it can now even serve as the main "feature" of a lesson plan, with subsequent lectures, experiences, and checks for understanding from a captivating AR experience.

Kinfolk has found success and promising results for both self-paced learning and in-classroom experiences. Here are some of the main benefits to using AR in the classroom, in particular, that we and some of our pioneering peers have observed.

Engage Students by Immersing Them in New Realities

Holding learners' attention is an ongoing challenge, especially in an age where devices offer instant access to gratifying entertainment and interaction. A solution — one that makes the most of highly accessible and popular technologies — is to offer them learning experiences that combine the reality they are experiencing with the power of digital interactivity, all through the lens of a familiar screen.

AR use cases include visualizations, informational overlays, projected simulations, and other interactive experiences capable of drawing students in while keeping one foot firmly in the classroom setting. These types of lessons are both exciting and impactful, with the capability to increase learner engagement by 30%, according to one study.

"AR pushes imagination by quite literally augmenting the spaces around us," observes Kinfolk's Jasmine Maze. "We can use it to think about the past, but also to spring into a shared future."

These capabilities can enable students to immerse themselves in history by walking through a community frozen in time, or getting up-close-and-personal with an overlooked Black, Brown, Indigenous, or Queer historical figure. It also invites questions and connections through its immediacy, putting us on the same footing as those from our past. This experience can, in turn, allow us to imagine a future where these figures' values and visions form the basis of a new society where equity and mutual respect are possible.

Enhance Learning Experiences

Educators often end up searching for a way to draw the impact of a lesson home, often by seeking to communicate it through a multitude of possible learning modes. With AR, they can leverage technology to "create lesson plans with multisensory experiences," suggests St. Louis-based Maryville University. The institution says that learners could "benefit from immersive virtual content that incorporates an experiential learning style in which students carry out physical activities instead of watching a demonstration," while noting that AR also "can help with sensory development."

For example, traditional lesson plans for history can often leave students feeling disconnected from their past, as if they are on a separate plane of reality trying to peer down into the murky annals of history through lecture and literature. AR breaks through barriers to deliver a sense of immediacy, enabling learners to experience a version of history, as if to wonder what it might've been like. 

"How might it have felt to live in Seneca Village?" is a difficult question to answer, normally, but with virtual walkthroughs and overlays projected onto existing structures and walking paths, Seneca Village suddenly jumps out at them — or, rather, they jump into it — dispelling barriers to understanding while instantly communicating the relevancy of what happened over a century ago.

Personalize Learning

AR technology can be both collaborative and self-directed. Students are able to follow through materials at their own pace, or along their own path. Comprehension is enhanced through multisensory engagement, and students are often able to revisit certain materials and "loop back" when a new concept has the effect of coloring one they had been introduced to prior.

These benefits can be particularly helpful for students with individualized learning needs, including those with ADHD, ASD, or other forms of neurodivergence and learning disability.

AR can even be leveraged for at-home and asynchronous learning. "Teachers can set gamified tasks and organize virtual explorations or practice sessions," offers one AR developer, noting that "all students need are their mobile devices." 

The experience has the added benefit of allowing students an opportunity to engage in real-world skill and competency building. "With AR, you can practice things as they make sense with the physical world," says Maze, developing critical comprehension and technology use skills that could come into play later in life, including in the learner's eventual career.

Open Opportunities for Exploration and Experimentation

In-classroom discussions always have the potential to get lively and enlightening, but putting learners in control of their own lesson experience can have an even bigger potential for emergent forms of learning. Learners are able to engage with the material in different ways, and they are often offered the possibility of toying with multiple variables, or taking deep-dives into further context.

With history lessons, for instance, learners can study the impact that history might have had on people, the land, etc. through simulation as well as narratives sourced from historical experts and first-hand witnesses. 

Establish the Threads of Real-World Connections

All of the above benefits to AR in the classroom have the cumulative effect of bridging the difference between hearing and reading about something versus the feeling of being there yourself. Learners are able to relate to the material on a personal level and not just as a distant observer, or someone merely memorizing rote knowledge.

This deep level of context can not only change perceptions but possibly attitudes and behaviors, enabling learners and other users to be more thoughtful about concepts like historical oppression or the ongoing effects of climate change.

"The use of VR and AR helps students understand people’s unique situations across the world," says Washington D.C.-based American University's School of Education, adding further that "using technology to build culturally responsive environments helps students respect cultures different from their own." 

AR Means New Realities and Immersive Experiences Can Be Close at Hand

AR's use in the classroom is an enormous opportunity to drive engagement and improved learning through interactive and collaborative experiences, which can also be self-guided at the learner's own discretion. Part of what makes this technology so exciting is that, in many forms, it is readily available through existing and frequently used devices: 1.7 billion of them, globally, by Statista's count

Further, lesson plans can easily bend to incorporate AR elements, or divert the entire core lesson into one or a handful of impactful AR experiences.

"When adopting AR there is also no need for a complete curriculum overhaul," suggests display tech company ViewSonic. "It can be even more effective in supplementing current pedagogical materials by simply adding more contextual experiences" in ways that can "stimulate interest and discussion in different subject areas."

In the realm of historical education, we at Kinfolk are naturally huge proponents of AR's use, both within traditional curriculums as well as for out-of-classroom and self-paced learning. See more about how we can bring learners closer to new realities and drive home impactful and relatable learning experiences by visiting our educational AR use cases page.