Here at Ludenso, we recently organized a webinar entitled “The Future of Textbooks: Bringing Books to Life With AR From an Authoring Perspective.” On this occasion we were joined by two of our partners, biology teacher and author Sarah Dudley from Cambridge University Press & Assessment and Rob Heathcote from PG Online Publishers. Both of them are innovative leaders who have experienced using AR technology firsthand, and have generously reflected on their experience with Ludenso Studio with the hopes of helping authors who are setting out on their journey with AR.
During the webinar, we discussed the role AR could play in the authoring process of science, anatomy, history, as well as language learning titles. Using some of the ideas that have arisen from the discussion, today we will be highlighting the best practices for creating AR books as presented by Sarah Dudley – placing particular focus on what authors of educational books should consider when implementing AR technology in their materials.
Here are the most important practices to consider when working on your new AR titles:
An important starting point when considering which parts of the text to enrich with AR is giving consideration to the complexity of the material as well as whether the material may be difficult for students to grasp or imagine from text alone, in which case it may well be a good idea to visualize those aspects with AR.
Sarah gives an example of the topic of transport in animals, i.e. the movement of food, water, minerals, and oxygen to different parts of the body, pointing out that processes like these may be difficult to visualize, as they cannot be observed with the naked eye and they are difficult to consider in isolation. Where plain textual description may falter, AR makes understanding these processes more dynamic, allowing students to visualize them and connect them with other processes.
The takeaway here is that AR is best used where textual descriptions are not enough, and the topics discussed are fairly complex.
An important goal to keep in mind when incorporating AR models into your texts is that just because AR is novel, it does not mean novelty is its end goal. Enriching your text with AR is not enough, there should be an element in which you call for active engagement from the students, much like you would if you used text alone.
Just like you might ask some questions at the end of a passage or a chapter when using traditional formats such as text, AR elements also call for this sort of treatment since your goal is to encourage active learning. You could, for example, create question bubbles next to the AR model, refer to the model in relation to an idea presented in the text, or put it in relation to another AR model. This prompts the students to think actively about what’s in front of them, and raise their own questions using the model, not purely observe it.
Research shows students respond well to AR-enriched texts, and are engaging with the enhanced material more actively than plain text. That said, it’s important to note that engagement alone cannot be the benchmark for the quality of material provided, nor the deciding factor when selecting which element to render in AR.
As authors, you will need to consider whether the AR elements you incorporate into your textbooks serve an educational or entertaining purpose. Thus, as Sarah Dudley points out, it is a good idea to keep in mind that the AR element must have a purpose within the wider scope of the syllabus and present an actual opportunity for students to learn something.
Even though students will be aware the book they are using is enriched with AR models, it is important to make sure that the enriched pages are signposted correctly. In doing so, you make sure that the AR model is considered in unison with, not separate from the text which it enriches. If the AR prompt is found in the spot where the idea being represented by AR is found in the text, there will be a logical flow to build upon in the information presented, avoiding jarring dynamics of moving between text and AR.
In the classroom, teachers are able to have an overview of how engaged the students are, and use different techniques to get their attention and encourage them to keep learning if engagement drops off. However, a large portion of the learning process continues when students go home, do their homework and revise. It is then that they may find themselves less engaged than when they were in class. As Sarah points out – a student may read a full page of text while revising at home and find that they have not taken in much of the information from what they had just read.
This is where AR can come in as a useful tool to break up the text. It allows students to take in the information piecemeal, by encouraging them to consider the shorter passage of text before moving on to the next. It also provides a focus point, signaling to the students towards the important aspects of the text, allowing them to prioritize the wealth of information they are taking in.
In her presentation, Sarah Dudley highlights the potential of AR as an accessibility tool, in particular for students with learning difficulties, such as ADHD or dyslexia. By changing the approach to how an idea is presented, in particular by using visual cues rather than text alone, you create an opportunity for students to learn about the same concepts in ways that may prove to be more beneficial for them.
Students who struggle to gather information or understand concepts from the text alone may benefit from interacting with AR models that illustrate them. By manipulating the models, turning them around, and engaging with them in a 3D environment they are able to better understand the ideas you’re teaching them.
We have considered the reasons why AR can benefit students in their learning by creating a more engaging learning environment through AR-enriched textbooks. AR can help make difficult-to-grasp concepts more digestible, as well as help students continue the learning process at home. You may be left with a question, however, of how easy or difficult it is for you to work with an AR environment such as Ludenso Studio when authoring textbooks.
As an author herself and a self-professed technology novice, Sarah Dudley had similar questions. She found Ludenso Studio an intuitive tool, which allowed her to drag and drop elements as she wished, making the process of incorporating AR models into her texts enjoyable – and even fun.
Watch the webinar in full here: The Future of Textbooks: Bringing Books to Life With AR From an Authoring Perspective
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