Abstract Details

The Potential Of Augmented Reality For Education As Seen By Pre-service Teachers

The rapidly advancing development of digital technologies, which has not only changed social development, democracy and the world of work, also has a significant influence on the education system. For Hecker (2019, p. 38), “digitalization” has become the key term for schools in this decade. Digitalization will continue to have a significant influence on the school system in the coming years due to ever newer technology. Some media experts are therefore calling for digital skills to be taught in a playful way as early as kindergarten (Welzer 2016, p. 212), although this view is not uncontroversial (Hecker 2019, p. 38). For Irion (2018, p. 3), at any rate, it would be fatal from the point of view of educational theory if the topic surrounding digitalization were not dealt with in the school system from primary school at the latest. In the sense of the general education concept, this is the task of the school system to prepare children “for the world of life and future topics” (Irion 2018, p. 3).

It is difficult to answer which technological developments will have a lasting impact on the school system in the future. Nevertheless, the EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2019 (Alexander et al. 2019) assesses the impact of technology on the education system. They conclude that augmented reality (AR), among other developments, will increasingly find its way into the school system in the next two to three years. AR for education will hereby follow the definition by Klopfer & Squire (2008) meaning a situation in which real world contexts are dynamically overlaid by context sensitive virtual information. The meta-study by Bacca et al (2014) analyses 32 studies regarding several factors concerning the use of AR. The authors come to the following assessment: “AR has been effective for: a better learning performance, learning motivation, student engagement and positive attitudes. The main advantages for AR are learning gains, motivation, interaction and collaboration.” (ibid. p. 146).

Augmented reality is also increasingly found in many games – one of the most prominent examples is Pokemon Go, which has triggered a real hype, not least thanks to AR technology. Various motivational potentials have been identified here in particular (Zsila et al. 2018). Since more and more teaching materials are also offered in a playful way or as a game in connection with AR, the question therefore arises as to how much these new developments can be used, especially in the younger target group (primary level). For this purpose, however, it is also necessary to take a closer look at how in-service teachers and pre-service teachers see the potential of AR for education.

Whether the use of AR technology is regarded as positive by students at universities of teacher education in the context of university teaching and how its potential is assessed has not yet been adequately answered. The fact that pre-service teachers assess teaching and learning in virtual environments basically positively was confirmed in the context of the “Teach AR” project. However, the results of this study are limited because it included only a small number of participants (N=8) (Sonntag et al. 2019, pp. 75-81). Nevertheless, the authors of the study point out that empirical research in this field has just started (Sonntag et al. 2019, p. 80). The question of whether students want to learn in virtual learning environments was also explored by Eckart, Jankowiak and Robra-Bissantz (2019, pp. 89-94): The authors summarize that students have a positive attitude towards learning with VR glasses. At the same time, they call for the increased design of learning goal-oriented applications and their testing in the university context in practice.

The research question for the project described in this contribution is as follows: Which potential do students at teacher training colleges see in the use of AR applications in higher education teaching? The study authors decided to concentrate on AR only because the technical requirements are lower than for VR and more material for use in primary school is available. To answer the research question a qualitative study using half-structured interviews was used. Although according to a Statista survey in Switzerland (Schultz 2018) 59% of 14 -29-year-old state that they have already had experience with AR functions, it cannot be assumed that students are familiar with AR applications for learning (Hutthaler 2020, p.12-13). For this reason, this topic was discussed in courses at KPH Vienna/Krems prior to the interviews and the pre-service teachers were familiarized with a wide range of possibilities for using AR technology in an educational context. In total, 103 students were first taught basic theoretical knowledge about AR as well as the potential and challenges of the technology in different seminars in the first, fifth and seventh semesters of Bachelor education for becoming primary school teachers in the period from October to November 2020. The students then tested a wide variety of applications of AR for the educational sector. An attempt was made to provide as wide a range of different tools and materials as possible, so that insights could be gained from both the students’ and the teachers’ perspective. Specifically, the students were given space to test both free (Quivervision, Merge Cube) and paid (Areeka) materials for compulsory schooling as well as AR games (Fake Escape) and tools for creating their own AR content (Metaverse). Due to the Distance Learning at KPH at that time, this intervention took place online. After having been familiarized with AR and various materials, these students were interviewed. The data from 36 interviews was collected and analyzed qualitatively using content analysis according to Mayring.

Initial results of the 36 interviews with pre-service teachers from different semesters show that the potential in AR technology is acknowledged by the participants. Especially when it comes to visualizing objects or processes the benefits for both, higher education and later for teaching in primary school, are mentioned. Another great potential is seen in the fact that this technology can create more variety and motivation as well as fun in learning. These potentials are mentioned by almost all students, regardless of which semester of their studies they are. Most of them see AR applications for mathematics or science as very useful. Although the advantages of AR technology outweigh the disadvantages, many of the students themselves do not yet see themselves in a position to use games or applications based on AR in the classroom, let alone create such applications themselves. According to their own statements, they lack the necessary basics or practical experience. They also stated that they had never worked with AR in university context before the treatment which was part of this project.

From these initial results, it can be deduced that AR technology is definitely of interest for the future of higher education and school education due to the game-like experiences that are conveyed through it and the close connection to games in most cases. However, the results also make clear that media literacy competences need to be taught to pre-service teachers and the technical infrastructure at (Austrian) primary schools has to be improved. Moreover, AR-materials, apps and games that support the curriculum (at university and primary school) need to be developed, making sure that these materials are high quality and easy to use.

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