Augmented reality (AR) presents us with so many opportunities for language teaching and learning. If you are not familiar with this concept, perhaps the best example is Pokémon Go! This cultural phenomenon continues to be so compelling that it has inspired news events such as this one, just yesterday: “After causing mayhem, Pokemon Go shut down at Minnesota State Fair.”
This viral AR game captured the world’s imagination a few years ago, and I believe the engagement that this technology promotes can be harnessed for similar effect in the language classroom. AR allows us to interact with the physical world around us while our understanding is enhanced through the addition of digital content that is layered on that physical world. This additional content can include any information that might be helpful for a particular experience, such as video, directional guidance, historical content, or a virtual personal guide.
The ability to interact with others while also making sense of this information can result in a variety of meaningful interactive experiences. It can also be done quite easily for those who are willing to experiment a bit. Those who are willing to go a little further can engage students in the creation of compelling, interactive, immersive experiences that support extensive language practice.
One of the easiest ways to get started with AR is to use one of the many commercial applications that are freely available as a means of promotion or advertising. So many companies have created interesting approaches to marketing using AR that it is now referred to as augmented retail. These applications tend to be designed to allow customers to interact with their physical space in a way that allows them to envision how potential products would fit in these spaces. There are numerous ways that these can be repurposed for instructional experiences.
IKEA was one of the first companies to embrace this technology in a really interesting way. Learners could use their app, IKEA Place, to imagine different layouts for a room with various furniture placements. Using this as a collaborative activity could really support conditional, hypothetical, and future language structures that are often otherwise difficult to conceive. For a better sense of how this works, you can watch this video of the IKEA app in use.
Houzz offers a very similar experience to IKEA with a collection of 500,000 furniture and home décor objects that can be virtually experienced. Such a large collection of material could create opportunities for learners to recognize and describe an extensive variety of descriptive characteristics associated with such objects, allowing them to engage in extensive vocabulary practice through speaking or writing.
On a more sophisticated level, yet still very accessible, instructors and learners can use tools like TaleBlazer or ARIS. These are both location-based mobile game engines that allow users to create their own AR-driven mobile-based games. Taleblazer offers numerous ready-to-play games that users can try out on their own, but the real power lies in the ability to create your own, customized games around course content.
I have taught a class on AR and VR (virtual reality) in which my students created interactive games for students at a local elementary school. These games are extremely interactive and guide learners through scavenger hunts or interpretive guided tours with each step of the process relying upon understanding information and negotiating that information with teammates as a collaborative activity. For a better idea of how you can use Taleblazer, watch these interesting videos, which highlight how different users have used it in very different ways:
You may also be interested in ARIS, which is very similar to TaleBlazer, but currently works only with iOS (Apple) devices.
Creating Augmented Content
If you want to get even more sophisticated, you can create commercial-grade augmented content that is layered upon the physical world, using tools like Augment. With this platform, you can create entire virtual libraries, museums, or worlds to layer upon the physical world around us.
For more about the rapidly advancing world of AR, see these links:
- Augmented Reality: The Future of Medicine
- The Future of Augmented Reality & 5G — Wireless Marketing for AR Is Right Message Aimed at Wrong Audience
- Augmented Reality for Education – Showcase
How have you been using AR in your language classroom? What are your favorite AR applications or activities? Please share with us in the comments.