A number of practitioners have recently linked information through a mobile device with objects in the real world. This can be done either through the labelling of the objects with QR codes or by means of augmented reality (AR) apps.
The use of QR codes is simple, with a variety of free QR code generators and scanners available for all mobile devices. The main drawbacks associated with this approach is the reliance upon the codes - users must locate a code in order to get the content. Conversely, content will only be linked to a physical object if a code can be attached to it.
AR can be seen as the next step in content linking - it doesn’t necessarily require a symbol to be attached to an object. This is because some systems use a special symbol while others recognise the shape of a specified object or image as the trigger for the content.
The other difference between QR codes and AR is that, with QR, the code (which may be text of any sort including a URL) is the content or a link which will take the user to the content, eg on a web page.
In the case of AR, however, the content is overlaid on the image that the user sees on the screen of the mobile device. In a sense, a QR code will take the user’s attention to the linked content while AR will bring the linked content to whatever the user is observing.
One of the main strengths of using QR and AR in education is that they can take learning out of the classroom. Information can be accessed at the point where it is needed or where it is most relevant. By linking content to location we can assign a relevance to it; the location, in turn, can enhance learning by providing additional sensory inputs to be associated with the content.
In addition, the learner actively engages with the information, choosing whether or not to access it when it is encountered.
The 3D nature of some AR can greatly assist learners in visualising complex 3D structures such as molecules. Maps can be viewed from different directions in three dimensions, giving learners a much richer understanding of the contents.
Some examples of QR and AR apps:
University of Chester - hearing voices app
The hearing voices mobile app draws together expertise of educationalists, healthcare professionals, learners and those who hear voices. It offers a comprehensive package to support and promote an understanding of the challenges faced by people who hear voices. An evaluative study will take place during spring/summer 2015 to evaluate the app's usage and who is using it.
Simulation is central to the app's pedagogy. It incorporates audio footage recorded by voice hearers - the content is designed to reflect the variety of voices commonly experienced.
Learners engage in a number of cognitive and social tasks whilst wearing headphones and listening to the recordings. Some of the voices are positive, providing encouragement and support while others are confusing or critical, repeating strange phrases or disparagements. The sense of reality is enhanced by the mobility of this resource as learners can carry out the exercises in any environment.
The app features text-based information with explanations for voice hearing and the means of helping individuals to manage these experiences. There are interactive exercises and reflective prompts throughout the text to facilitate deeper learning and encourage learners to consider how the content relates to their practice.
The app responds to health and social care employer’s demands for accessible and flexible education for their workforce. It is relevant to a wide range of health and social care professionals, relatives and carers, service users and professional groups (ie the police), who come into regular contact with those who experience mental health problems.
Hearing voices can be used independently or integrated into educational initiatives as fully directed or blended learning. Educational facilitators can work with groups of learners and utilise the exercises as short activities within a traditional classroom setting.
University of Chester - living and dying well dementia app
Health and social care assistants assume a dominant position in care giving for people with dementia. Many paid and unpaid carers undertake this challenging and demanding role with minimal preparation and little or no access to further training.
With collaboration from the Alzheimer’s Society, the Gold Standards Framework, the End of Life Partnership (EOLP), the living and dying well dementia app bridges this gap with a free, accessible educational resource which promotes an understanding of dementia and its impact on those affected by the condition, whilst focusing on some of the key issues in end of life care.
The app uses a storytelling approach to follow the journey of Jill as she ages, develops dementia and eventually dies. The content is split into bite size chunks and features supporting text, interactive exercises and reflective prompts to embed learning
The content is split into bite size chunks, each including a video of Jill and her family, portraying different stages of the disease progression, together with supporting text, interactive exercises and reflective prompts to embed learning and encourage users to consider how the content relates to their own experience. It also features a series of podcasts from people with dementia as well as their relatives to generate understanding.
There is a supporting website available which includes extended versions of the podcasts.
An evaluative study will begin shortly after the launch to investigate the impact of these resources on the knowledge and practice of its audience.
Portland College - use of apps to increase engagement
The college uses a variety of commercially available iPad apps. All learners at Portland have a disability and apps increase inclusion via added engagement. For example, using the iPad screen as a shutter button in Camera Awesome increases the ability to participate and Chooseit! Maker3 facilitates accessible feedback/evaluation on activities.
Learners are motivated to use iPads in sessions because the devices give them parity with their non-disabled peers. QR codes trigger audio versions of text on a notice board and apps such as Aurasma and QR Code Reader push the most relevant content direct to the learners. Socrative and Nearpod, in addition to being engaging apps in their own right, allow for the generation of detailed, formal reports. These are ideal for evidencing progress and are generated with one or two taps making it more attractive to the teachers too.
Apps such as Fluidity ensure learners at all levels can engage with technology and participate fully in sessions. Practitioners using camera apps can also video this interaction a) to show to the learners and b) as evidence.
Further examples of app use include SpokenPhoto and Pictello to create 'about me' books or person-centred plans.
Watch the video of how learners use the Grid Player app to aid communication:
South Staffordshire College - using AR in teaching and learning
Following the introduction of augmented reality in teaching and learning, coupled with more widespread use of mobile devices, South Staffordshire College is reaping the benefits of more engaged and interested learners. Although in the early stages of development, the technology is having a significant impact particularly in practical subjects.
Steve Wileman, e-learning manager says,
By having AR enabled posters around the hairdressing salon or in the construction workshop for example, learners could point a smartphone, iPod or tablet device at a poster and instantly see a video demonstration of how to achieve a particular hair style or how to cut a brick. This could help learners who needed a reminder or for those who missed the demonstration..”
For those learners who don’t have a smartphone or tablet device, they are encouraged to ‘buddy up’ with another learner who has one. Additionally a number of iPads are available for learners to borrow during lessons. Content is also uploaded to the VLE so that learners don’t have to rely on the posters. They can simply point their device at the trigger image on screen and access the content outside the college.
The benefits of using AR include:
- It is more accessible and inclusive
- No need to log onto a PC to access materials
- More efficient for the teacher – avoids delivering the same tutorial repeatedly
- Content can be updated quickly and easily.
Read the full case study about South Staffordshire College’s AR activities.
Swansea Lifelong Learning Service - using apps in essential skills
Essential skills teachers use a variety of apps to help even low level literacy students carry out research, planning and presentation findings in an exciting and professional way. The inclusion in the digital world through mobile technology and learning boosts confidence and skills of the students exponentially.
University of Hull
200 students on PGCE courses have iPads (with a range of apps such as Nearpod, iMovie, Keynote, Safari, Socrative and Creative Book Builder) to encourage a move from lecture-seminar based learning to a more enquiry-based learning approach. Using iPads also encourages them to think about the possibilities for content creation and curation.
City of Glasgow College - enhancing the learning experience with assistive technology
The Personal and Social Development (Access 1) New Challenge Project class includes students with varying additional support needs including no spoken language and cognitive difficulties arising from for example Downs Syndrome. A number of students are on the autistic spectrum.
Christine Mailley, educational supported programmes lecturer and Elaine Argue, assistive technologist, discussed how assistive technology could enhance the learning experience and in particular, help students who can't communicate verbally within the cookery class.
Students are required to prepare food and tell Christine what ingredients are needed for each dish. For those who couldn't communicate verbally, Christine used paper based notes with images of different ingredients for students to point out what was needed. As a result they looked at different solutions which could be put in place.
Christine and Elaine tried a piece of software called Grid 2. It combines the different styles of communication aids into one program which works for both text and symbol users.
Introducing the Grid 2 software and Grid Player app into the class has been a positive addition to the already great methods of teaching that Christine has in place. Students find it enjoyable and it has made the class an inclusive learning environment for students who can't communicate verbally.
City of Glasgow College - removing barriers to learning
The college used mobile technology with the NQ Personal and Social Development 1 class. Elaine Argue, assistive technologist from the learning support department worked in collaboration with Gillian Devine (educational supported programmes lecturer) to trial different types of technology with students to enhance and remove barriers to their learning.
As part of the drama class, students had to complete different outcomes to pass the module. One outcome is that students have to pick an activity and plan how they are going to perform it, and then give feedback afterwards.
After the planning stage, students perform their chosen activity. At this point Elaine and Gillian introduced the use of iPads into the class.
Using the camera function on the iPads they recorded each of the students' performance. As part of this process the students each had the chance to record one of their peer’s performances. Not only was this good interaction for the students using technology, but also it was used for gathering assessment evidence.