Mixed reality

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’.

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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):

Benefits of AR

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):

AR presence

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…

Karen Second Life

2 Replies to “Mixed reality”

  1. Hello Helen,

    Sounds like you’ve done some fantastic things with your students in AR. Apart from enhancing students’ engagement with their studies, did this have other benefits? Did you feel the students’ conceptual understanding was enhanced?

    Yes I’ve heard of a few folk having uncomfortable experiences in SL, in part because it does seem to evoke a very strong sense of identification and presence. You should feel free to extract yourself from anything you encounter that doesn’t feel comfortable for you.



  2. Hello Velda,

    With regard to the benefits, I certainly observed that the students’ writing could be significantly improved using immersive environments. We used the 3D rainforest as a stimulus for sensory writing activities and the quality of the work they produced showed a sensitivity to the detail of the virtual space within which they had ‘roamed’; they were able to convey a sense of ‘being present’ within the environment. Might they have produced work which was just as good if we had used an image of a rainforest or watched a documentary about a rainforest? Perhaps. But the students reacted positively to a new and exciting medium and I feel that had impact on their creative response.

    With regard to conceptual understanding, our science teachers asserted that the 3D models were invaluable in their teaching. They could show students inside the body, inside atoms and inside planets and the students could look at objects from different angles and explore processes at different speeds. They were able to ‘get’ difficult concepts through the judicious and targeted use of 3D content.

    All anecdotal and observational evidence here I’m afraid; I have no data to support these perceptions of the value of our move into 3D and AR. If I were to approach such a project again, I’d certainly engage in a more rigorous process of base-lining.



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