Augmented and virtual reality in K-12 classrooms is still predominantly in pilot implementations. Last year, Project Tomorrow released an evaluation of one such pilot in San Diego to look into how an augmented reality environment is helping high school students develop greater awareness about and interest in STEAM careers.
The opening of a high school on two floors of a new library in San Diego offered a unique opportunity to develop an augmented reality pilot program to encourage and support STEAM learning. The STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project was developed as a collaboration between the San Diego Public Library Foundation, San Diego Public Library, e3 Civic High and Qualcomm Wireless Reach. Project Tomorrow was contracted to do an evaluation of the project to examine the relationship between the augmented reality app and student outcomes.
Given that today’s students are interested in learning that is contextually relevant, the STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project was designed to take advantage of the unique architecture of the library dome to provide 9th grade students an enriched learning experience. Using Qualcomm® technology, the project focused on leveraging augmented reality content that utilized mobile, context-aware 4G technologies to allow the students to interact with digital information embedded within the library’s physical environment focusing on science, math, engineering and art related content. Similar to augmented reality used by construction teams to visualize a building prior to construction, students learned about the construction of the new library while learning the STEAM concepts associated with each structural element.
Our evaluation found:
- The majority of the students agreed that using the 4G tablet with the augmented reality content increased their engagement in learning about the Central Library Dome.
- The students ascribed many benefits to the learning experience including increased enjoyment in learning, ability to work on the content with their classmates, and being more interested in the dome structure and architecture than they first envisioned.
- Four out of 10 students said that they were more interested in exploring a STEAM career field after having this mobile learning experience.
- The teachers participating in the project believe that the mobile augmented reality environment could be used successfully to impact student learning in many other academic areas with a closer alignment with curriculum.
That work in San Diego informed new questions on Speak Up 2016 designed to learn more about the current use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) in classrooms around the country, and about how students, parents and educators are thinking of these learning tools for the future. (Some of this data was released in T.H.E. Journal this month.)
- 5 percent of teachers say they are using AR or VR in their classroom. This was the same no matter the size or type of school district and years of teacher experience. We did see a higher percentage of computer science/technology (11 percent) and science teachers (9 percent) in high schools using AR or VR.
- 9 percent of students in Grades 6-8 and 8 percent of students in Grades 9-12 say they have experienced AR or VR in a classroom setting.
AR and VR figure prominently in students’ vision for their ultimate school – more so than for parents and teachers at this time. Note there is higher interest reported among school librarians and district administrators, particularly those from small districts (those with >5,000 students).
When asked about what they need to use digital content, tools and resources more successfully in the classroom, teachers cite three key elements:
- Classroom set of devices (56 percent)
- Consistent technical support for classroom usage (49 percent)
- Professional development on effective instructional practices with that digital content (48 percent)
It makes sense therefore that in regards to using AR and VR in the classroom, teachers are starting to call for specific professional development to support their efforts. An emerging cohort of teachers (approximately 1 in 8 teachers or 13 percent) says they would like PD on how to use AR or VR in the classroom. Districts are also recognizing the importance of PD on the use of AR and VR in the classroom with 20 percent of district administrators saying that type of professional learning for teachers is a priority for this year.
Our final report on the STEAMing Ahead with Mobile Learning project concluded, “This evidence supports the idea that to stimulate and nurture STEAM career interest, the learning experiences need to replicate the inherent characteristics of STEAM content and processes. In other words, students need to be able to use advanced technologies such as 4G wireless connectivity and augmented reality, and have access to contextually relevant content to explore potential career interests.”
As Speak Up shows, the students are again ahead of most education leaders when it comes to the potential for augmented and virtual reality to spark and support learning.