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Augmented reality to teach science: a winning idea

Researchers have measured an increase in interest, motivation and success in science among tweens using augmented reality.

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Researchers have measured an increase in interest, motivation and success in science among tweens using augmented reality.

Augmented reality, that is to say the addition of virtual, interactive and sound components to existing equipment, is on the rise in education. For example, recently École branchée mentioned its potential for holographic creation for educational purposes.

Finnish researchers, under the direction of Hannu Salmi, wanted to know whether the augmented reality used in an informal setting could increase student learning. To do this, they invited 146 students aged 11 to 13 to participate in a study. The students were invited to attend a scientific exhibition on two phenomena: the Doppler effect and the kinetic theory of gases.

Using augmented reality, special effects normally impossible to visualize were added to the presentation. For example, to better understand the Doppler effect, participants saw a fire engine coming towards them and away. A visual representing the movement of sound waves produced by the truck has been superimposed on this image. The pupils could thus understand why the sound differs according to their position in relation to the truck. The formulas for calculating the Doppler effect were also projected virtually. As part of the gas activity, similar virtual additions allowed students to see changes in temperature and velocity.

The researchers then wanted to know the impact on students of augmented reality in this activity. They were interested in the learning achieved, in the motivation to learn as well as in the interest in science.

Particularly beneficial for so-called "weak" students

The results show that augmented reality was particularly beneficial for weaker students. It would have enabled them to develop their interest and perform better at a subsequent examination. In their article in theInternational Journal of Science Education (available in full here), the researchers even claim that augmented reality is one of the few educational technologies that is directly useful for weaker students.

Improved results for girls too

Another research finding is that augmented reality increases the performance of girls. In fact, in the test which was administered before the exposure, the boys on the whole performed significantly better than the girls. After exposure, there was no longer a significant difference between the two groups. This suggests that augmented reality may be a way to increase girls' interest in science.

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About the Author

Dominic Leblanc
Dominic leblanc
A graduate in sociology, Dominic Leblanc is an educational advisor in the Programs and Educational Development Department of the Cégep régional de Lanaudière in L'Assomption.

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