Critiques on social and education issues
There is one aspect in school that can incite polar-opposite reactions from teachers and students: field trips. For students, field trips are probably the best part of their school year: they get to go somewhere that isn’t in a classroom. They get to move around (although the trip on the school bus will be hard to tame), talk with their friends, see new things, and hopefully, learn new things. For teachers, it’s an organization nightmare. Problems range anywhere from kids who need to pee, but didn’t, before boarding the school bus; to forgetting to bring a lunch; to forgetting permission slips on the day of the trip; and the worse yet, forgetting a student somewhere.
But all of this can finally be avoided!
Researchers at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) suggested the use of “augmented reality” to replace school field trips.
Augmented reality may be a new concept, but essentially, the user can use the camera on his or her device, point it to a QR code (usually it is done this way), and images appear in 3D on the screen, often with information tags.
It isn’t too new a concept, as it has been used before, but it is certainly a new addition into the education sphere. Below is a picture of how augmented reality looks like on a screen.
There would be no avatars for students to interact with. Instead, as seen in the picture above, the student is his or her own avatar, and uses objects in real life to manipulate on-screen images in real-time.
Several researchers assert that augmented reality field trips improve students’ understanding of concepts by a whopping 19%, and show to be more engaged than in traditional field trips (i.e. trips in which you physically go to a place). Students get to move at their own pace, so it helps deepen their learning.
Dunleavy from Radford University in Virginia warns teachers not to let technology replace field trips completely. He recalls a zoo-based game in which teachers and students became so engrossed in seeing the skeletal structure of animals that they ignored the live ones completely.
However, my biggest concern would be, as always, funding. One of the reasons the researchers and educators of AERA have provided to support augmented reality is to reduce expenses from the school board.
In one of the education courses at York University, a guest speaker came to introduce how augmented reality can be used to teach history. It was a good lesson, and the website had detailed graphics, but the problem for us was the Internet speed. University Internet speeds are not always at their optimal, especially when the campus had over 55 000 students. Students can be downloading or streaming videos, movies, or playing games, or doing homework. Some websites use more bandwidth than others.
With 30 of us in our class logging onto the history website shown to us, our connection speed slowed down dramatically. Some people never made it to the website, and for those who were fortunate enough to be able to log on, their images were blurry and distorted due to lag.
School computers in the elementary and high school level are much slower than those at York. If my class of 30 was not able to log on and successfully have the augmented reality experience, how would elementary and high school students fare with their Internet? Is the board expected to pay for unlimited bandwidth and top-notch speeds? That would cost much more in the long run. Moreover, not all schools have laptops or computers that have cameras. What about them?
If augmented reality is meant to cut costs, then it would not make any sense if only affluent schools were able to afford the technology to run such software. The less affluent schools would continue to be left behind.
Secondly, would augmented reality really replace field trips? Dunleavy is on the contrary, and rightfully so. The experience of a field trip does not begin only when you arrive at your destination. The preparation that goes before a field trip, the bus ride conversations, the nearly unbearable heat, and that one student’s lunch that has gone bad all go into a student’s experience in a field trip. Field trips are not, and should not, be entirely about academic purposes. How about social development? After all, staying sane in a crowded, heated bus is a challenge not only to the kids, but to teachers and parent volunteers too!
So although the intention of augmented reality was to cut funding, school boards and researchers must take into consideration the resources schools have right now. Can they support augmented reality in the long run?
Furthermore, why were field trips before so “disengaging”? Was it the structure of the field trip? It sounds like the research conducted for comprehension showed that students liked working at their own pace.
Perhaps instead of leading a tour-guide type of field trip where a museum guide leads the flock of children around the building (and I know some adults who have trouble staying interested with this type of tour as well), students can seize agency and make their own field trip. In the end, groups of students can collaborate in a jig-saw type of consolidation to ensure all students received the same information.