Augment or Oust?


Recently in a Guardian article, Simon Jenkins wrote that, “Digitisation is clearly transforming education. It is also showing what computers cannot do, and good teachers can. It cannot inspire pupils with the wonders of the scientific world. It cannot guide them through the glories and horrors of Europe’s history. It cannot unfold the human drama of literature, or the full mystery of the global environment. A computer cannot teach the life skills of speaking, listening, debating, personal presentation and confidence.”

Like Simon, I firmly believe that the single most valuable element of good education are good educators. Without them, digitisation and the bountiful promises of ed-tech fall short. At best it can save teachers some precious time (not that this is just a small benefit) and at worst risks producing a sterile, ineffective learning environment.

Machine learning and AI haven’t revolutionised education and have only really made any inroad in the field of assessment. History tells us that any hardware heavy tech is unlikely to get much penetration into classrooms, so it’s goodbye VR.

But, instead of trying to replace teachers, or encourage learners to blindly pay a subscription and plug themselves in, attempting in vain to reach some learning nirvana, perhaps there is a way that teachers in classrooms can be augmented by technology and at least affect outcomes?

Augmented reality (AR) certainly has the elements and potential to fulfil this goal. No special tech required and linked inextricably to other ‘content’, whether a textbook, object or earthworm.

Recent academic research is indicating that integrating AR into teaching practices increases student attention and satisfaction in classes. AR companies like Blippar have had some focus on education, and the potential widespread application of Apples ARKIt should bring AR to wider audience. But, it will be up to publishers and content providers to properly embrace the potential of and invest in AR before it becomes common place in the classroom.

By bringing together content providers, AR tech and teachers, Simon might just be wrong, as learners participate in the glories and horrors of Europe’s history, experience the global environment and immerse themselves in literature, all without leaving their classroom and all unleashed by their teacher.


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