The global buzz unleashed by the release of the Pokémon Go game for smartphones in 2016 exemplifies how augmented reality technology is growing. Educational institutions and app developers are already finding ways to incorporate the exciting, perception-bending capabilities of augmented reality design into lesson and textbook design. Read more about how augmented reality is revolutionizing EdTech:

First: What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality describes the use of technology (such as smart and tablets that have microphones and cameras) to augment or add additional layers to a real-world activity.

In Pokémon Go, for example, cartoon creatures are distributed randomly across geographical maps that correspond to real-world geographical co-ordinates. Via GPS, players are alerted in-app when a Pokémon is ‘nearby’, and when they enable their cameras they can see any Pokémon in the vicinity as an overlay on their screens (in real-time) and catch it by interacting with the app’s virtual interface.

AR thus can be used to superimpose visual data on real-world backgrounds

So what is the educational potential for AR?

The educational possibilities are innumerable. In 2015, Cambridge University Press released the ‘Cambridge Experience’ app for iOS devices, for example. Cambridge designed this AR app to ‘bring classroom materials to life’. When users point their smartphones or tablets at compatible posters, course books and other learning materials, additional information such as facts, educational videos or illustrative photography is displayed on-screen.

This value-adding functionality makes it possible for educators to give learners more interactive, novel learning experiences. UK-based magazine Education Technology notes further benefits of AR in the classroom. Possible applications include:

  • Enhancing static content such as posters with helpful facts and newer insights
  • Helping learners to visualize complex problems such as maths equations
  • Making abstract concepts easier to understand via animated visualizations

Augmented reality in the South African educational scene

In South Africa, augmented reality has already been embraced by some. Via Afrika Publishers launched an app for learners that enriches high school textbooks with digital content. The app enables learners using Android or iOS devices to stream audiovisual content such as science experiments and animated maths solutions.

It isn’t only in basic education that AR has been causing a stir in South Africa. The Naledi3d Factory, founded in 2000, uses virtual reality (what the company refers to as ‘interactive visual simulations’) to train adult learners in important concepts such as workplace safety and manufacturing methodology. Naledi3d also created 3d-Educate, a multimedia platform for using augmented reality in the classroom.

Some of the benefits of AR for the classroom Naledi3d champions include:

  • The ease with which materials can be translated for learners in indigenous language groups
  • You can adapt messages to suit local, contextual needs

Educational initiatives such as the iSchoolAfrica programme have been striving to implement tablet use in under-resourced schools. As more and more learners are gaining technological literacy, AR is increasing ways educators can make materials engaging and relevant.

As the above examples illustrate, learners who are digitally savvy and already encounter elements of gamification in their daily lives can benefit from AR. Incorporating additional layers of information via augmented reality enriches and augments learning possibilities.