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How will technology shape learning?

A look at the trends and impact of digital transformation and possibilities of AR in education and training

Technology has become an imperative part of education in the past decade. The introduction of immersive technologies meant interactive classes and unparalleled experience in learning. A study conducted by Justin Tosco, a master’s student at Saint Catherine University, shows that students prefer lessons that use technology.

The study found that there was 16% accuracy in short answers and increase engagement for students taught with the aid of technology.

We are currently living in a fully-digital world with average adults spending over 5-7 hours a day on the internet. And Generation Z – a popular name for today’s school-going kids, have grown along with this digital boom. This makes them quite familiar with the use of technology in everyday activities.

Research by Geer and Sweeney (2012) showed that the use of a variety of media applications to explain concepts increased the understanding and supported greater collaboration between students.

AR provides an efficient way to represent a model that needs visualization. This immersive technology provides seamless interaction between the real and virtual world. Furthermore, it facilitates field visits within four walls, thereby increasing visual retention.

Some key benefits of adopting technology in education:

  1. Improves knowledge retention (taps the potential of visual memory)

    Students learn multiple subjects at school and need to remember them all. Technology like Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality bring content to life. Studies suggest that visual memory appeals to mind within 0.01 second! Students learn as they see, thereby sub-consciously retaining knowledge.

  2. Induces interest in students (provides the wide platform for students to self-exploration)

Generally, teaching is believed to be the mode of acquiring knowledge or learning. Immersive technologies facilitate self-learning, in a fun and engaging manner. Subjects like History, which are narrative and quite visual, can be easily learned through these.

  1. Facilitates holistic learning (caters to visual, auditory and speech sensory)

As a study rightly says, use of technology involves real-world problems, current informational resources, simulations of concepts, and communication with professionals in the field. In addition, learning using technology is believed to complement the traditional forms of teaching and learning. This promotes the visual, auditory and speech senses simultaneously.

  1. Reduce classroom disruption (aids students with limited attention span, engages a big class)

Learning and paying attention to new concepts are challenging for children with autism, down syndrome, etc. AR and VR have proven to improve their attention span, aid in expressing their self and improves their interactive behaviour. Furthermore, these technologies act as students’ centre of attraction, thereby reducing any possible distraction.

  1. Improves mastery of abstract subjects (theorems, certain chemical compounds, food chain)

Learning about obtuse triangle or explanation of food chain through mere theory makes a student’s life difficult. These are abstract concepts and are understood better when demonstrated. Augmented Reality and other similar technologies bring such abstract subjects to life with their overlay and video demonstration capacities.

  1. Visualisation of theoretical concepts (Eg: air pressure, Archimedes principle, types of clouds)

Learning by viewing animated objects leads to better understanding and simplifies what is taught. Immersive technology such as Virtual Reality can enable students to feel or experience some theoretical concepts like air pressure, or the working of Archimedes principle.

  1. Simplification of complex subjects (table of elements – their qualities, geometric formulae)

We have discussed on technologies ability to simplify learning. Let us understand this further:

The introduction of powerpoint slides or projectors meant students had a visual aid to break-down important points while being taught. Whereas, some of these technologies weren’t accessible always and by all students. With high levels of mobile penetration to Gen-Z, today’s technology like 3D learning, AR, VR, MR and AI are all accessible at the touch of a button on a mobile.

These technologies enable re-visiting and learning a concept at an individual time and pace. They further act as a personal tutor for students, walking them through every step.

  1. Objectification of content (providing a direction to what is being taught)

History and Civics are two subjects with relatively easy concepts to understand but can be quite monotonous if learnt theoretically. Use of technology in such subjects enable objectification of content and provides a skeletal frame to what is taught. For instance, when learning about legislature or an assembly, students can play-out scenarios of a majority, coalition or stages in creating a law. These are effective methods of teaching and enables them to grasp concepts better.

Advantages of AR in Education

  • Supports seamless interaction between real and virtual environments and allows the use of a tangible interface metaphor for object manipulation
  • Provide instructors with a way to strengthen students’ understanding in the classroom by augmenting physical props with virtual annotations and illustrations
  • Creates a learning experience that is linked to the formal classroom, so that student(s) can learn outside of class hours and outside of school limits
  • Enables the visualization of interactions among amino acids and protein building processes as static 2D/3D images and 3D dynamic images (animations)

(Source: University Teknologi Malaysia Research)

Applications in medical training

AR and VR are widely being used to train medical students in a number of ways. VR can be leveraged in training medical students and residents on procedures for a more truly immersive experience before engaging with real patients.

For patients, these technologies can speed education about conditions or treatment plans.

Use of virtual cadavers in anatomy training is one specific example, which can be extended to practice sessions with an AR-enhanced smartphone.

(Excerpts from Deloitte Digital Trends report)

The University of Twente, Netherlands is developing an economical smartphone technology based on the usage of Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) and Augmented Reality (AR). This technology enables medical personnel to reconstruct 3D body sections quickly, by directing the smartphone to the area of interest.

Subject wise application:

Subject Purpose of the technology Features used

Chemistry

Provides an efficient way to represent and interact with molecules AR exhibits

Chemical engineering

Using a glass tabletop laden with coffee mugs and popsicle sticks, students rearranged the objects in a recent teaching exercise to simulate reactions in a real-life, sprawling chemical plant. Projector, AR table-top, QR coding

Mathematics

Aides teaching geometry, shapes, area etc AR and MR

Geography

Facilitates virtual tours; enables visualising different flora and fauna. To a certain level, immersive aspect lets students experience air pressure or view how a water cycle is complete. AR, VR and MR

History

To gather information and enhance the experience of visitors to cultural organisations (museums and archaeological sites) Mobile AR educational games

Biology

To teach participants that habitats are connected like links in a chain (food chain)
Facilitates students to view micro-organisms and their characteristics without the help of microscope (to an extent)
AR

Physics

To overlay graphics on top of the physical props to visualize these forces (speed, velocity, acceleration, pressure, friction, energy changes) invisible to the human eye Augmented video, video conferencing, tracked physical props (e.g. toy cars)

Architecture

Enables 3D visualisation and walk-throughs of cites;

helps assess structural worthiness, measure area and volume;

aides error correction in draft plans easily with its layered approach
from lighting to flooring to foundations – it will also let designers test out environments before actually building them

AR, VR and MR

Astronomy

To show augmented views of the celestial bodies and support learning using spatial visual guides and views from a terrestrial observer AR and VR

Medicine

Enables complete learning of body parts from the external skin to internal organs;
facilitates in learning more on surgical points;
virtual cadavers help students overcome the fear of surgery;

virtual reality provides medical and dental students a safe and controlled environment to practice surgeries and procedures, allowing them to make mistakes without having any impact on an actual patient, and prepare for any unexpected situations.

AR for body over-lay

Holo-lens assisted surgery in VR

MR

Journalism

Will aid in separating verified and unverified news information;
news aggregators will also help identify a breaking news through social media and other related uploads before the first official news is out.
AI

 

The way forward:

Technologies such as AR, VR, MR, AI etc are fast changing the face of learning and education. Integration of these technologies benefits teachers along with students. With the aid of technology like AR, visualisation of subject matter improves. Teachers can impart knowledge and facilitate learning in a simple way.

Use of technology in learning should be focussed on student centred learning. As observed earlier, these have vast use in almost every field of work. These technologies have become the new basic skillset to work around just like emails and mobile apps.

Businesses are adopting AR and VR to enhance processes. They have proved to save time, cut costs and increase efficiency.

As disruptive technologies grow, thousands of jobs will be created, and several others’ skill sets will widen. Introduction to these technology concepts from school will better prepare students for a digital world ahead.

 

With excerpts from 1, 2, 3

Shaping the role of educators with technology

 

Digital transformation will impact job roles in future. Hence, it is important to shape the role of an educator. Market leaders predict that Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) will change the basics of how teachers teach.

E-Learning

Immersive technology will enter e-learning and classroom learning in near future, making teachers mentors first, says Michio Kaku, Physicist and Author. A recent Technavio study predicts that online higher education market in the US is set to grow at a compound annual growth (CAGR) rate of 20% until 2021.

If teachers start using technology as a medium of instruction whilst teaching, it will enable students to learn the ropes of this at an early stage.

Some ways in which teachers can use AR/VR technology in classrooms:

  1. Smart class: Moving away from traditional projectors or picture projects, teachers can use AR to overlay an animal or forest picture for a social science class or produce a square or hexagonal shape for geometry.
  2. Presentation skills: Adding fun to Powerpoint, teachers can promote the use of AR/VR and prompt students to learn further by pointing at an object.
  3. Beyond classrooms: AR/VR can be used anywhere with just a small, handheld device. This can enable teachers to make field trips and lab visits even more interesting with prompters and overlays.

The Technavio report further says AR in education market will grow steadily at a CAGR of more than 82% by 2021. Educationists say, students are increasingly interested in learning things that are aided with an augmented overlay or e-vision. In such an environment, the students are completely engrossed in the space around them. These enhance students’ cognitive and interactive skills.

Based on an article published in Edtech and EdSurge.