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Can Reality Technology Engage the Next-Generation Learner?

Can Reality Technology Engage the Next-Generation Learner?

Students today have extremely high expectations when it comes to the technology and media they consume. The rhythm of their daily lives beats with a constant, ubiquitous digital pulse. From the latest viral video to online games with production values once reserved for major theatrical releases, students have massive amounts of digital content at their fingers tips. Given these extreme expectations, how can digital curriculum compete for the attention and engage today’s learner?

Reality technology, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed-reality (MR), have the potential to immerse students in multi-dimensional, responsive environments with stunning visuals effects layered with audio, text, interactive media and a vast world of information. Before we explore the potential of reality technology in education more deeply, here’s a quick, simple way to think about AR, VR, and MR:

Augmented Reality brings any digital object into the user’s environment, usually through a live view from the camera of a smartphone or tablet device – think Pokemon Go.

Virtual Reality immerses the user into a different environment, real or imagined, usually using a headset device like HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or Google Cardboard.

Mixed Reality combines elements of AR and VR allowing users to interact with digital objects and their environment simultaneously using devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens.

A New and Evolving Technology

While reality technology is still in the early stages of adoption, it is evolving and growing incredibly fast with significant breakthroughs offering new opportunities in education. On June 4, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference, Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, announced the ARKit 2.0 which introduces a brand new multi-person mode. This new mode allows users to share data and digital objects in a virtual environment. Imagine students in the future collaborating in AR to build virtual projects.

At Facebook’s developers conference this past April, CTO Mike Schroepfer proclaimed their mission to get “billions of people into VR by reducing the cost and complexity”. This technology will soon be simple enough and inexpensive enough for every student to have access. Remember just a few years ago 3D printers and robotics were out of reach for the average school budget, but are commonly used in classrooms across the country today. Schroepfer also demonstrated Facebook’s latest social VR technology that enables users around the world to connect and interact with each other via realistic avatars and high definition renders of real environments. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of students taking virtual courses each year collaborating with their peers through social VR.

Here are a few examples of how AR, VR, and MR can help educators engage students:

Experiences Never Imagined

With reality technology students can travel across the world or be transported to past times and experience events, culture and history in ways never before imagined. Traditional text, pictures and videos can tell and show students about the Parthenon, but reality technology can place a student in the Parthenon immersed in the sights, sounds, culture and events of ancient Greece.

Access, Equity and Inclusion

We don’t need research statistics to tell us how students living in urban poverty or isolated in rural America have limited access to the advantages and opportunities of other children. Reality technology can break down some these barriers. For example, a great painting from the National Gallery of Art London or an artifact from the Smithsonian Museum can come into the classroom (or wherever learning occurs) through AR and VR experiences layered with knowledge previously inaccessible.

Creating New Worlds

Some recent breakthroughs in reality technology are now allowing students who live worlds apart to come together and interact with three-dimensional objects, share knowledge and ideas, complete tasks, solve complex problems, and create new realities of their own design.

A New Partnership Brings Reality Technology into the Classroom

Edmentum has partnered with Boulevard Arts, a premier publisher of AR and VR learning experiences that bring works of art and artifacts from the greatest museums of the world to students using augmented reality technology. The two companies are currently piloting VR US History experiences while designing and building a suite of humanities courses with AR experiences woven into the course design for high school students in the subjects of English, History and Art.

The challenge of engaging today’s tech-savvy learner is greater than ever before. But, the potential to provide deep, immersive learning experiences that truly capture the mind and engage the heart of every student through the power of AR, VR, and MR is available to educators now. And, new, groundbreaking features and content are being developed every day.