Six uses of augmented reality in class with the potential to transform teaching


Imagine a history class in which the events studied come to life before our eyes: while the teacher narrates the key events of the French Revolution, the students are immersed in an immersive visual experience. Historical figures emerge as three-dimensional holograms in the classroom, recreating the most crucial moments. Robespierre delivers his speeches, the clamor of the masses resounds as they take the Bastille.

Or think of a math lesson where we can interact with three-dimensional graphs on our own desktop. Instead of simply looking at a two-dimensional representation in a textbook, students can manipulate and explore three-dimensional geometry right from their tables. They visualize pyramids and prisms, rotating and moving them with simple gestures.

The possibility of using augmented reality in class makes these situations, which could seem like something out of a futuristic movie, now within our reach. It is a technology that combines three-dimensional virtual elements with the real world. Unlike virtual reality, where users are completely immersed in a digital environment, augmented reality overlays computer-generated information and graphics on the physical environment around us.

Augmented reality in class: an enriched experience

Augmented reality works through applications on mobile devices. With them, through the camera of the mobile phone or tablet, or the lenses of the glasses, we can see the real world on the screen with superimposed virtual elements.

For example, three-dimensional holograms of historical figures or mathematical graphs are projected onto the physical classroom through the screen of students’ devices. This creates an immersive experience where digital elements interact with the real environment, allowing users to view and manipulate information contextually.

What are the positive and negative effects of augmented reality applications in class?

Motivation, performance and positive attitude

Since its creation in 1968 until the term was coined in 1992 , augmented reality has evolved significantly. Today, these applications have the potential to improve students’ motivation , academic performance , and cognitive skills. In addition, they encourage a positive attitude towards subjects and promote the development of skills such as spatial thinking and creativity.

There are legitimate concerns, such as the possibility of students becoming distracted during the lesson due to the interactive nature of the technology. Additionally, not all apps are free, which can present a challenge for schools with limited resources. Teachers may also need more support from subject matter professionals to effectively integrate augmented reality in class.

Below we list the areas where augmented reality can significantly improve the teaching and learning process:

1. Reading and literacy skills

Using augmented reality in class allows students to interact with story characters and environments in an immersive way. By providing stimulating visual context, fostering an emotional connection, offering sensory input, and being interactive, they can make reading more engaging, meaningful, and immersive for students.

They are beneficial at all educational stages, although their effectiveness may vary depending on the level of cognitive development and the specific educational objectives of each stage. In primary education, its playful nature can be especially effective. Of course: it is essential that there is adequate support from teachers. Some interactive books are:

  1. Wonderbook: Book of Spells : This interactive book for PlayStation uses AR to immerse players in the magical world of Harry Potter. Spells come to life on the screen as we explore the pages.
  2. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore : An application based on the printed book that combines animation, music and narration. We scan the pages and watch how the characters move and talk.
  3. Marvel AR : Allows readers to scan printed comics to access additional content, such as creator interviews, sketches, and animations.
  4. Blippar : Although not specifically designed for books, images in magazines, posters, and book covers can be scanned to provide interactive content.

Digital libraries and museums:

  1. Artivive : This app allows artists and creators to add digital content to their physical works of art. Some museums also use Artivive to enrich exhibitions.
  2. LibraryAR : Although not free, LibraryAR offers a wide variety of scannable books and documents. We can explore historical texts, manuscripts and more.

2. Science education

Students can relate scientific concepts to three-dimensional objects and experience scientific phenomena visually and practically. Unlike performing physical tests in a laboratory, using augmented reality in class offers accessibility and availability anywhere, variety of virtual scenarios, reduced costs, safety by eliminating risks associated with physical experiments, customization to fit individual needs , replayability and an interactive experience that provides immediate feedback. Although it complements physical practices, it stands out for its versatility and the possibility of exploring complex scientific phenomena in a safe and accessible way.

Applications such as Nucleus Medical Media allow students to interact with three-dimensional models of cells .

3. Special education

Augmented reality applications such as _Aumentaty_ or AR Flashcards have proven to be valuable tools for students with special needs in the educational field. These applications offer immersive and personalized experiences, allowing students to interact with real-life situations in a way tailored to their unique needs. By providing a visually stimulating and interactive environment, using augmented reality in class improves the ability of students with special needs to complete tasks independently.

Boys and girls with disabilities can benefit from applications such as LookTel Recognizer , which helps people with visual disabilities recognize objects, or AbleLink WayFinder , which helps people with intellectual disabilities travel safely, whether by bus or on foot. These apps use augmented reality to immerse users in a real-life experience, providing them with a controlled and safe environment to practice and learn specific skills. By simulating real-world situations, these applications contribute to the development of autonomy and safety in children with cognitive disabilities, allowing them to practice and understand important skills in an interactive way tailored to their individual needs.

4. Language learning

Learning a new language can be made into an enriching challenge by using augmented reality apps like Lingodeer , Mondly , and Duolingo . These apps not only improve students’ motivation but also strengthen listening comprehension, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and verbal fluency.

By incorporating elements of augmented reality in class, users can experience interactive virtual environments that simulate real-world situations, thus improving the practical application of the language. These apps encourage social interaction through chat and gaming features, improve self-efficacy by providing immediate feedback, and promote autonomous learning by adapting to students’ individual paces and styles.

5. Mathematics education

In mathematics, applications such as GeoGebra , Desmos , and Microsoft Math Solver provide students with an interactive and visually engaging experience. These tools allow students to interact with three-dimensional graphics and models. And in this way they contribute to improving problem solving, understanding of mathematical concepts, motivation and the development of mathematical skills.

Exploring a 3D representation of a mathematical fractal with augmented reality in class, modeling and studying complex natural and scientific phenomena, such as the formation of clouds or the distribution of galaxies, can help us make mathematical concepts more accessible and exciting.

Of course, it is important to adapt the experience to different levels of competition.

6. History and social science education

History and social science education can see a big boost with the use of augmented reality in class. Notable examples include the ability to explore an archaeological site from the classroom using applications such as Google Arts and Culture or Civilizations AR . These technologies allow students to visualize historical artifacts and events in 3D, providing an immersive experience that facilitates access to primary sources.

Although augmented reality applications in classrooms offer significant benefits in various educational settings, there are also challenges related to access, technical limitations, and the need for training for teachers. Apps often offer basic versions for free with premium features available for payment. The diversity of applications and their business models depend on the context and the specific educational purpose.

Augmented reality is opening new horizons in education and has the potential to transform the way students learn and engage in the educational process.

Author Bio: María Jesús Sánchez Soriano is a Professor in areas of education and psychology of learning at the International University of Valencia