When I was still teaching, we introduced augmented reality (AR) into our Academy. The physical fabric of our learning spaces was overlaid with digital information: if you scanned parts of the French classroom, you could experience audio and visual French overlays; our Yearbook came to ‘life’ with a range of multimedia content which was generated, edited and embedded by the students; we had school knowledge hunts where we searched for the hidden AR content; Year 11s worked to make year 8 text books interactive using AR.
The students loved working with AR; it was a technology which still excited them. One Year 7 referred to it as ‘Harry Potter magic’.
With regard to the presence which was effected by AR, we were creating presence as ‘it is here’: bringing the virtual into the real; yoking it to the physical.
We also used 3D – we worked with Gaia Technologies – and our students could ‘walk through’ a range of 3D immersive environments, from the rainforest to the trenches, from a slave ship to a submarine. They could also see inside the body, witness and replay complex chemical reactions and explode and reconstruct the mechanics of a tractor. 3D offered a different type of presence, a presence as immersion, what Lombard and Ditton refer to as ‘perceptual and psychological immersion’ (1997)*.
WuH.-KWu, H.-K., Lee, S. W.-Y., Chang, H.-Y., & Liang, J.-C. (2013), explore the status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education. In outlining and summarising some of the key educational benefits which AR affords, they note four principle possibilities (p.2):
Defining AR, they use Klopfer’s definition (2008) ‘any technology that blends real and virtual information in a meaningful way’, what they term a ‘mixed reality’ (ibid p.4).
Citing Brosnak (2011), WuH.-KWu, H.-K., Lee, S. W.-Y., Chang, H.-Y., & Liang, J.-C. highlight that AR as a mediated experience affords learners a sense of presence, immediacy and immersion (p.8):
They posit that AR ‘could provide a mediated space that gives learners a sense of being in place with others’ (ibid, p.8) what Lombard-Ditton would define as ‘we are together’.
Milgram et al (1994) proposed a ‘Reality-Virtuality’ continuum, ranging from a completely ‘real’ environment to a completely ‘virtual’ one. AR and AV (augmented virtuality) are the two elements which comprise the mixed realities which form this continuum. In a few weeks, we will, via Second Life, be inhabiting a virtual world with our peers on the course. It will be fascinating to experience how ‘present’ we feel within this virtual world. Karen has already got me worried…