AR: Bringing Social Studies to Life

Put a camera in front and it looks like new, pre-WWII
A few weeks ago, I was wandering the Colosseum  in Rome with headphones listening to a really bad (and expensive) tour.  I kept thinking how augmented reality could have brought this experience to life.  It would have been great if a rich self guided tour could have been augmented by point-n-click data on what I was looking at.  Layers of history could be revealed in successive laps around the Colosseum.  Alternative tours could feature art, architecture, culture, sports, food–discrete aspects of life through history.
ReadWriteWeb summarizes a good early example of augmented reality in education, “One of the world’s largest museums, the American Museum of Natural History, has introducedExplorer, an iPhone app that uses augmented reality to give its visitors more control of their experience.”  Earlier this year the Guardian carried this overview of Augment Reality  developments.
Field trips can be great but pose logistical challenges.  I’ve had chats with the local transit authority about making it really easy for teachers to set up trips and having a suitcase full of iTouch for a little early AR in support of a field trip.
The alternative to AR is VR–virtual reality–especially massively multi-player online role playing games.  MMORPGs, or their cousins MMOs, like MuzzyLane’s Making History II and Evoke, created in part by the World Bank, are another strategy for bringing history alive.  Simulations can be a great way to promote critical thinking around current events.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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