A World of Difference: Augmented Reality in Education

A World of Difference: Augmented Reality in Education

There are more things in heaven and earth, wrote William Shakespeare, than are dreamt of in our philosophies (Hamlet, scene V). By altering the very structures of our experience of the world, AR, augmented reality, is reaffirming the Bard’s intuitive grasp of reality as something that exceeds far beyond the contours of human perception. The word ‘augment’ is derived from the Latin word ‘augere’, which means to add or increase. Hence, AR is an augmentation of what we perceive as reality with an overlay of digital information. In augmented reality, writes Jon Peddie, digital content, such as text, images, animation, etc., is imbricated in the user’s view of the real world. VR, on the contrary, offers a simulation of the real world with benefits of its own. For young learners in particular, augmented reality in education presents the world around them as a palimpsest, offering a richly layered experience and appealing to their voracious curiosity to learn more. By fostering imaginative play and inculcating a spirit of inquiry from an early age, while incorporating structures of the real world more actively into the learning process, AR can help actualize what we have previously only dreamt of, as a truly enriching education in all of our philosophies.

Beyond Textbooks: AR and the World

In the early 1990s, Boeing researcher, Thomas Caudell, first coined the term augmented reality to describe a digital display that superimposed virtual graphics onto a physical reality, used for training airplane pilots. AR has come a long way since then, emerging as a powerful tool that can radically transform educational practices by cultivating an experiential mode of learning from an early age. Emergent educational technologies, such as AR, which offer a seamless blend of reality and information, can help us not only raise and educate but also empower a new breed of learners in the digital age. These learners will look upon the world as a crucible of change, arising from the confluence of human imagination and creativity and the wonders of the real world. Thus, what AR in education enables is augmented learning, which Nina Strochlic opines can help increase a child’s creativity, motivation for learning, and satisfaction in the learning process, through interactions with the real world.

On that note, let’s explore the benefits of AR in education.

Rethinking learning

Augmented learning allows us to explore the dialectical relationship that is developing between our existing learning practices and new emergent forms of educational technologies. However, these new technologies are unlikely to make a lasting impression without a strong pedagogical grounding. Through the able guidance of educators, AR can usher in a new way of learning, an augmented way if you will, as learning takes place at the frontiers of reality. AR, therefore, strikes at something fundamental about the conventional learning process, how we shut out the world in restricting ourselves to the four walls of a classroom. Through AR in education, as Sheehy et. al. point out, children will learn to reinvent, continue to be curious and more responsive, and nimble in their thinking, as the virtual and the real meet, creating new learning possibilities, tools, and environments.

AR over VR for young learners

All the components in the system play an active causal role, and they jointly govern behavior in the same sort of way that cognition usually does. If we remove the external component the system’s behavioral competence will drop, just as it would if we removed part of its brain. Our thesis is that this sort of coupled process counts equally well as a cognitive process, whether or not it is wholly in the head.

Extended systems of the self

For young learners, AR stands out as a safer alternative to VR for a number of reasons. Firstly, VR headsets can be heavy for a child to wear. Secondly, the screens are too close to young, still developing eyes. More importantly, it is not clear what kind of cognitive impact VR can have on the developing minds of youngsters. AR, on the other hand, does not require the use of wearable devices or necessitate too much screen time. Although VR can greatly benefit older learners, AR combines the best of both worlds, real and virtual, for educating young, developing minds. For example, children can be outside, amidst nature, while digital content about their surroundings is superimposed through AR, thus encouraging them to learn by play.

Dulce et utile

Children today are at risk of being simultaneously cosseted and pressured, so that the learning process, which is meant to be enjoyable instead becomes a chore. Apart from its practical uses, AR has the potential to bring back an element of fun into learning. Dulce et utile, the term coined by Horace in his work Ars Poetica, led to the idea of creating a balance between education as instructive and education as enjoyable. However, more often than not, the enjoyable part is often lost in the melee of peer pressure, competitive tests and the inability to address learning gaps. As educational technology becomes a pervasive and persistent part of our daily lives, the time is ripe for transforming how students learn. Through AR, the real world can become a portal for learning, infusing joy into the process of educating young minds.

Deeply immersive and directly engaged

Augmented reality holds the potential to not only offer a deeply immersive experience of reality, but also directly engage young learners with their environment through imaginative play. As Helen Papagiannis notes, AR is a form of make-believe, and make-believe is an important part of learning, play, creativity, and invention. It ignites novel ideas. Make-believe, Papagiannis writes, is not just for children, it is an innovative approach toward problem solving and gaining a new perspective. Present in AR is the perception that virtual content is integrated into the physical environment, allowing learners to avail themselves of a multimodal way of gaining information.

Catalyst for change

In AR, text and information is overlaid on the real world, and its use underscores movement and presence. AR can have a formative influence on not only how our youngsters learn, but also on the learning process itself. Technologies like AR and VR serve as catalysts for change, in enabling more active forms of learning as it allows the whole world into a classroom ready for intellectual discoveries. AR in education will signal nothing short of a paradigmatic shift in how we blend core curriculum and emergent technologies to design and implement the best possible educational practices.


For a child, it is important to be active and engaged as they learn, with their minds and bodies working in tandem. Augmented learning, therefore, is fast coming up as one of the most suitable solutions which can enable them to do so. Through the use of AR in education, young learners will learn from an early age how to meet the challenges of an increasingly technologized world, and better avail themselves of all the opportunities that such a world has to offer. With the future possible applications of AR developing at an exponential rate, it is but certain that augmented reality will surely make a world of difference to the future of learning.


Breeze, Mez. ‘How augmented reality will change the way we live’. Insider, Aug 25, 2012.

Carmigniani, Julie and Borko Furht. ‘Augmented Reality: An Overview’. Handbook of Augmented Reality edited by Borko Furht. Springer Science & Business Media, 2011.

K. Sheehy, R. Ferguson, G. Clough. Augmented Education: Bringing Real and Virtual Learning Together. Springer, 2014.

Papagiannis, Helen. Augmented Human: How Technology Is Shaping the New Reality. O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2017.

Peddie, Jon. Augmented Reality: Where We Will All Live. Springer, 2017.

Strochlic, Nina. ‘What Augmented Reality Can Teach Our Kids’. www.nationalgeographic.com, 2017.

Augmented reality, AR, combines the best of both worlds, the wonders of the natural world and the exciting discoveries enabled by educational technologies like AR. For young learners in particular, AR appeals to their insatiable curiosity about the world around them, allowing young learners to embark on a path of learning mediated through the best of what the digital age has to offer..

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