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By Allen Foster

It wasn’t that long ago when scores of kids were running around the neighborhood, holding their smartphones up, and hunting for Pokémon. They might spin around, look at their screen, and find a Dragonite standing right behind them! That’s augmented reality. A digital overlay that adds a little something extra to the real world.

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But augmented reality isn’t just for games and Snapchat’s animated Bitmoji avatars. It’s an incredible teaching tool. And, the technology is being used in the classroom to help students get excited about their education.

Remember how frustrating word problems could be? What if, while reading, a short film popped up and students could watch Suzie divide her apples up between her friends or see Jayden get paid $4.54 for each item he sold for charity? It would help the student understand why learning is important because he or she could watch a math problem play out right in front of their eyes. That’s the kind of magic augmented reality can bring to the classroom.

Natural learning takes place through a series of four incremental steps: engagement, wonder, discovery, and learning. Here’s how augmented reality functions in each of those steps.

Engagement

The way we interact has changed. Even two adults can’t hold an uninterrupted conversation once a cell phone signals that there’s a new message. Furthermore, with the constant documenting of every moment, we’ve become conditioned to experience life through a device. When a student has the opportunity to pull out his or her phone for a lesson, there’s an immediate engagement that doesn’t happen when simply listening to a lecture.

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Wonder

Augmented reality allows the impossible to happen. An educational app could transform an entire classroom into another world. Students could move their phones around and instead of hunting for Pokémon, they could find themselves deep underwater, experiencing the myriad of exotic bioluminescent creatures found at the bottom of the ocean. Augmented reality instills a sense of wonder that makes a student want to pursue knowledge.

Discovery

Browsing is addictive. Each new find draws you deeper and deeper into the web. Suddenly, you look up and realize you’ve spent an hour pursuing knowledge. That’s the thrill of discovery! Augmented reality allows a student to browse life. They can point their phone and discover something new, something they can choose to chase. It takes learning and makes it a personal adventure, something that each student can experience on their own terms.

Learning

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When a student is engaged and begins to wonder enough to want to discover more, that is when learning is happening. It may be guided by the teacher, but ultimately it is self-motivated. Once the desire to improve comes from within, it is unstoppable. Augmented reality is bringing this hunger for knowledge back to the classroom in a most remarkable way.