Mobile learning has always been about using the tools of learning wherever one finds themselves. In this blog, I have discussed a range of techniques for learning on the go from reading texts or listening to audiobooks on a mobile device to using built in cell phone tools such as a camera and access to web 2.0 services to document learning both within and outside of the classroom. Augmented Reality apps take this just-in-time, on-location learning to a new level.
For those new to the concept of Augmented Reality, take a look at my July 25th, 2009 post on Augmented Reality.
While I have experimented with a number of apps that incorporate Augmented Reality, one that I find really interesting right now is a service called Wikitude. The service uses GPS positioning on one’s phone (as of this writing, the Wikitude app is only available on Android phones and the iPhone) to find landmarks and other points of interesting that are located within one’s physical proximity. The service shows where the nearby landmarks are and provides links to both articles and user generated content about that landmark or particular point of interest. Of note for education is the indirect collaboration as the service allows users to build a knowledge base with others about a landmark or point of interest and then allowing anyone to access it directly on one’s mobile device at the moment one requires it.
Having this type of Augmented Reality app on one’s mobile device will begin to change the nature of field trips. Using a mobile device with Augmented Reality apps could mean that instead of reading information posting beside exhibits or beside landmarks, or simply experiencing a point of interest by reading about it in a book in a classroom, students may soon be able to choose to read a Wikipedia article, view others’ comments or download a podcast episode with commentary from experts about points of interest – all this while the student is actually on location. These apps may also allow for more independent self discovery as the apps use a students’ positioning to highlight what is physically around them and how to get to these points of interest.
One likely critique of this blog post is that using AR apps is unrealistic given the current reality of school board policies and certain teacher attitudes concerning the use of cell phones for learning. Granted, if students are not allowed to use their cell phone to help them learn then AR apps are useless. However, I would counter that attitudes toward using mobile devices for learning is beginning to change. With the prevalence of mobile devices in our society and with the fact that more and more teaching staff are entering the profession with experience in using cell phones to do things other than to place a call, the acceptance of the use of such devices is inevitable. Besides, how long can the education system refuse to adapt when traditional methods of teaching and learning are becoming less effective in the presence of richer learning experiences though cheaper and cheaper mobile devices?