It is usual in education to be overly cautious whenever a new technical innovation is heralded, preferring to concentrate, perhaps rightly, on its pedagogical benefits in terms of increasing educational value. Augmented Reality is no different. Advertising has brought Augmented Reality to the masses, gaining much publicity in such marketing campaigns as Lynx, where the public could interact with augmented angels in Euston Station.
Although Augmented Reality has been evangelized for years, there have only been a handful of examples for educational purposes, such as the British Museums’ Ancient Egyptian trail or The Augsburg Display Cabinet AR experience at the John Paul Getty Museum. I feel much of the problem, discouraging more use case scenarios is the technical jargon that distances the average user, in addition to the lack of traction gained by the Virtual Reality movement in the early 1990’s, leading many observers to conclude AR is a fleeting fad.
After all, technology should be transparent and not all encompassing particularly in education where the emphasis is on the teaching material. Users do not want to spend time adapting to a new way of learning, the technology should be built to seamlessly integrate with established learning tenets. If the student is overly conscious of the technology permeating the learning experience, this can inevitably lead to dissatisfaction.
The SCARLET project, while embracing the potential of AR, hopes to concentrate on delivering the benefits to student learning without being a flag bearer for the technology. These are described below:
- Users can see and touch real manuscripts/editions while having the security of interactive guided support, allowing users to work at their own pace.
- Being able to interact with a core medieval text while referencing supplemental materials via visual triggers (e.g. augmented 3D models that overlay the physical image and require user touch gestures to proceed) can spark enthusiasm, confronting the materiality of objects, and preparing them for solo research.
- AR promotes ‘active’ teaching, maximizing the opportunity for interaction, encouraging critical response and the adoption of new perspectives and positions. This is in opposition to traditional didactic methods that are predominantly teacher led.
- Users retain a very small amount of the information that is delivered, and a slightly larger percentage of what is shown to them, but when we become actively involved in an experience, learners will remember and retain the majority of the information presented to them.
- AR can harness both asynchronous (emailing tutor questions) and synchronous (discussion with peers) e-learning methods.
- Abstract concepts or ideas that might otherwise be difficult for students to comprehend can be presented through an enhanced learning environment offering access to source historical artifacts and online research in situ.
- The learning curve for new users engaging with mobile AR through browsers is relatively quick enabling the learning/pedagogy to be the driver, not the technology.
SCARLET is unique in that it has a multi-disciplinary team working to achieve aims with a focus on student learning, an iterative development cycle that places the user (student) central in terms of project design evaluation and review. While other implementations of AR have stopped short of engaging with the pedagogic agenda, SCARLET will hope to utilise the diverse academic expertise to integrate these methods into the finished outputs.