Augmented Reality (AR) is the integration of digital information, such as images, videos, or 3D models, into the real-world environment, providing an enhanced perception of reality (Yuen, 2011). By overlaying digital information onto the real world, AR enhances the learning experience and provides students with interactive and immersive educational content (Bower et al., 2014). This article explores the concept of AR and its significance in motivating learners, simplifying complex concepts, and creating a dynamic and inclusive learning environment. Additionally, theories that support the integration of AR in educational technology are discussed, followed by myths related to AR and a glimpse into the future of AR in EdTech.
Augmented reality (AR) has a rich history dating back to the 1960s, with its origins in computer graphics and virtual reality research. In 1968, Ivan Sutherland developed the first head-mounted display, laying the groundwork for AR devices. In 1992, Tom Caudell coined the term “augmented reality” to describe a digital display system used in aircraft assembly. However, it was not until the late 20th century that AR gained momentum. The development of smartphones, improvement in processing and rendering, improved cameras, and other advanced computing capabilities in the 2000s enabled widespread AR adoption. Notable milestones include the launch of ARToolKit in 1999 and the release of Pokémon Go in 2016, which popularized AR among consumers. Since then, AR has been steadily advancing and finding its way into various industries, including education (Aggarwal & Singhal 2019; Caudell & Mizell, 1992). Today, AR is typically experienced through devices like smartphones, tablets, or wearable devices that use cameras, haptics, and sensors to detect the user’s surroundings and display relevant digital information (Hosch, 2023).
Benefits in Education
By bridging common gaps between concepts and the physical world, AR can enable learners to explore complex concepts in a hands-on manner, increasing their motivation to learn (Billinghurst & Duenser, 2012). AR can also offer dynamic and interactive learning experiences that actively involve students in the educational process. Through gamification elements and interactive simulations, AR allows passive learners to become active participants, resulting in higher engagement levels (Ainajdi, 2022). Catering to diverse learning needs, AR can also support differentiated learning by offering customizable content and adaptive learning experiences (Kaufmann & Schmalstieg, 2003), including providing new strategies for teaching students with special needs, such as autism (Berenguer, 2020).
Augmented Reality (AR) has also shown potential in enhancing different pedagogical approaches (Shelton, 2020), including the following:
- Constructivist Pedagogy. AR can be used to encourage deep engagement with tasks, concepts, and resources through information overlays (Kerawalla et al., 2006).
- Situated Learning. AR can help integrate educational experiences within real-world environments, bridging the gap between classrooms and reality (Chen & Tsai, 2012; Dede, 2009).
- Game-based Learning. AR can be used for immersive digital narratives, providing authentic resources, feedback systems, and practice in transferring skills to real-life applications (Dunleavy et al., 2009; Klopfer & Squire, 2008).
- Inquiry-based Learning and Problem-based Learning. AR can offer contextually relevant information and virtual models for analysis and exploration within the context of solving problems in the external world (Johnson et al., 2010).
Myths and Disambiguation
Augmented Reality (AR) is often wrongly associated with Virtual Reality (VR). However, AR stands as distinct from VR by overlaying virtual content onto the real world, seamlessly blending physical and digital worlds together, in an attempt to enhance the real world, while VR replaces the real world with immersion into an artificial environment (Parekh et al., 2020). Educators must grasp this fundamental difference to make informed decisions when integrating AR into the learning process, as each approach provides unique benefits and challenges (Nur Fitria, 2023).
In addition to understanding the distinction between AR and VR, it’s also essential to grasp the differences between Extended Reality (XR) and Mixed Reality (MR). XR serves as an umbrella term encompassing various immersive technologies, including AR, VR, and MR (Alnagrat et al., 2022). While AR overlays digital elements on the real world, MR goes a step further by merging digital and physical environments interactively. MR introduces a spectrum ranging from the real world with minimal digital elements at one end to the virtual world with minor real-world components on the other end (Rauschnabel et al., 2022). Recognizing these distinctions is crucial as each of these technologies has unique affordances and applications, particularly in the field of education.
Another prevalent misconception is that AR is limited to gaming. Although it gained popularity in gaming initially, AR’s potential extends to education, healthcare, retail, everyday tasks, and more (Parekh et al., 2020). Many AR applications do not incorporate any game mechanics but rather provide user-friendly ways to allow learners or users more broadly to quickly access information and to make sense of or to more deeply understand the world around them (Boardman et al., 2019).
The future of AR may involve exploring methods for implementing touchless hand interactions in real time, leveraging machine learning agents, and integrating remote learning components into AR applications designed for educational purposes. In parallel, the recurrent mentions of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality in comparison to other modalities persist as processing and graphical rendering capabilities steadily become more compact and cost-effective through the utilization of headsets, smartphones, and haptic devices. This underlines the continued likelihood of sustained attention directed towards these technologies (Kimmons & Rosenberg, 2022).
AR experiences will become more seamless and immersive with expectations including improved AR hardware, such as lightweight and affordable smart glasses, making AR more accessible to learners. Additionally, advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning will enhance AR’s ability to personalize educational content and make sense of real-world objects (e.g., faces, locations).
Moreover, collaborative AR experiences will enable individuals from different locations to interact and learn remotely, fostering increased global collaboration and cultural exchange. As AR applications expand, we may witness the further development of virtual classrooms, where learners can more easily gather in shared virtual spaces and engage in collaborative learning activities.
In conclusion, Augmented Reality (AR) has the potential to significantly influence education by providing more immersive, interactive, and connected learning experiences. It can motivate learners, simplify complex concepts, cater to diverse learning needs, and create dynamic learning environments. By supporting constructivist, situated, games-based, and inquiry-based pedagogies (Shelton, 2020), AR holds promise for enhancing student engagement and understanding. However, it is crucial for educators and policymakers to address challenges such as cost, content quality, privacy, ethics, and accessibility to ensure that AR contributes to a more inclusive and effective educational landscape.
Aggarwal, R., & Singhal, A. (2019). Augmented Reality and its effect on our life. In 2019 9th International Conference on Cloud Computing, Data Science & Engineering (Confluence) (pp. 510-515). IEEE. https://doi.org/10.1109/CONFLUENCE.2019.8776989
Ainajdi, S. M. (2022). The effectiveness of using augmented reality (AR) to enhance student performance: using quick response (QR) codes in student textbooks in the Saudi education system. Education Tech Research Dev 70, 1105–1124. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-022-10100-4
Alnagrat, A., Che Ismail, R., Syed Idrus, S. Z., & Abdulhafith Alfaqi, R. M. (2022). A Review of Extended Reality (XR) Technologies in the Future of Human Education: Current Trend and Future Opportunity. Journal of Human Centered Technology, 1(2), 81–96. https://doi.org/10.11113/humentech.v1n2.27
Berenguer, C., Baixauli, I., Gómez, S., Andrés, M. E. P., & De Stasio, S. (2020). Exploring the impact of augmented reality in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: A systematic review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(17), 6143.
Billinghurst, M., & Duenser, A. (2012). Augmented reality in the classroom. In Computer, 45(7), 56-63. https://doi.org/10.1109/MC.2012.111
Boardman, R., Henninger, C. E., & Zhu, A. (2019, August 14). Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: New Drivers for Fashion Retail? Technology-Driven Sustainability, 155–172. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-15483-7_9
Bower, M., Howe, C., McCredie, N., Robinson, A., & Grover, D. (2014). Augmented Reality in education – cases, places and potentials, Educational Media International, 51:1, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1080/09523987.2014.889400
Caudell, T. P., & Mizell, D. W. (1992) “Augmented reality: an application of heads-up display technology to manual manufacturing processes,” Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. 2(659-669). https://doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.1992.183317
Chen, C. M., & Tsai, Y. N. (2012). Interactive augmented reality system for enhancing library instruction in elementary schools. Computers & Education, 59(2), 638-652. Elsevier Ltd. https://www.learntechlib.org/p/66704/
Dunleavy, M., Dede, C., & Mitchell, R. (2009). Affordances and limitations of immersive participatory augmented reality simulations for teaching and learning. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 18, 7–22. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-008-9119-1
Hosch, W. L. (2023, June 6). Augmented reality. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/augmented-reality
Johnson, L., Smith, R., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2010). The 2010 Horizon report: Australia–New Zealand ed. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.
Kaufmann, H., & Schmalstieg, D. (2003). Mathematics and geometry education with collaborative augmented reality. Computers & Graphics, 27(3), 339-345. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0097-8493(03)00028-1
Kerawalla, L., Luckin, R., Seljeflot, S., & Woolard, A. (2006). “Making it real”: Exploring the potential of augmented reality for teaching primary school science. Virtual Reality, 10(3-4), 163-174. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10055-006-0036-4
Kimmons, R., Rosenberg, J. M. (2022). Trends and Topics in Educational Technology, 2022 Edition. TechTrends 66, 134–140. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-022-00713-0
Klopfer, E., & Squire, K. (2008). Environmental Detectives—the development of an augmented reality platform for environmental simulations. Education Tech Research Dev 56, 203–228 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-007-9037-6
Nur Fitria, T. (2023). Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Technology in Education: Media of Teaching and Learning: A Review. 4. 14-25. https://doi.org/10.29040/ijcis.v4i1.102
Parekh, P., Patel, S., Patel, N., & Shah, M. (2020). Systematic review and meta-analysis of augmented reality in medicine, retail, and games. Visual computing for industry, biomedicine, and art. 3. 21. https://doi.org/10.1186/s42492-020-00057-7
Rauschnabel, P. A., Felix, R., Hinsch, C., Shahab, H., & Alt, F. (2022). What is XR? Towards a Framework for Augmented and Virtual Reality. Computers in Human Behavior, 133, 107289. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2022.107289
Shelton, B. E. (2002). Augmented reality and education: Current projects and the potential for classroom learning. New Horizons for Learning, 9(1). https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/itls_facpub/96/
Yuen, S. C., Yaoyuneyong, G., & Johnson, E. (2011). Augmented Reality: An Overview and Five Directions for AR in Education. Journal of Educational Technology Development and Exchange (JETDE), 4(1). https://doi.org/10.18785/jetde.0401.10