How To Use Augmented Reality In Education

augmented reality

When you were a kid, did you watch RoboCop and totally love the heads-up display? What about the fascinating visuals in Minority Report or Iron Man? They’re basically a form of augmented reality (AR for short). Augmented reality is not something limited to just Hollywood blockbusters though. There are a bunch of ways people are using augmented reality in education, believe it or not.

Before you get your feathers all ruffled, though, let’s clear something up. Augmented reality is not exactly stuff like Google Glass or Iron Man. Instead, it’s an array of apps, web tools, and games designed to enhance learning through interactive experiences. That’s my definition at least.

In an effort to shed some light on the current tools and teachers using AR, I thought it might be useful to assemble a list of what we’re seeing these days. Since Edudemic is based in Cambridge, MA we see a lot of innovative startups and other AR-related organizations coming out of MIT and Harvard on a regular basis. It’s pretty crazy.

In any case, here are just a handful of interesting AR use cases that you should check out. Know of another one? Feel free to mention it down in the comments!

Project Glass

google glass official

The most famous AR project is being, of course, led by the folks at Google. We’ve been seeing a lot of new ways to integrate Google Glass into the classroom over the past few months. We’ve even showcased a few of them. One of the biggest ways that we’re seeing, however, is the idea that students can use Glass whilst on field trips and outside the classroom. They can do digital scavenger hunts, find classmates, or simply learn more about their surroundings using their handy pair of AR glasses.


mit dome

The MIT Teacher Education Program, in conjunction with The Education Arcade, has been working on creating “Augmented Reality” simulations to engage people in simulation games that combine real world experiences with additional information supplied to them by handheld computers. The first of these games, Environmental Detectives (ED), is an outdoor game in which players using GPS guided handheld computers try to uncover the source of a toxic spill by interviewing virtual characters and conducting large scale simulated environmental measurements and analyzing data. This game has been run at three sites, including MIT, a nearby nature center, and a local high school. Early research has shown that this mode of learning is successful in engaging university and secondary school students in large scale environmental engineering studies, and providing an authentic mode of scientific investigation.

Star Walk

star walk

This was one of the earlier iPhone apps that really caught the attention of the world. Along with hits like Angry Birds and Starbucks, Star Walk was one of those must-try apps. It’s only gotten better since then. Basically, you can hold your phone up to the sky at night and see more than 200,000 celestial bodies. You can then view detailed information about those stars, constellations, and more. Definitely worth a try!

Second Life


Second Life is actually a pretty old school AR game nowadays. They do, however, have a fabulous education area that will answer all the questions you, as a teacher, will have. Essentially, you get an avatar that you use to walk / fly around the Second Life world. It was far more popular a few years ago but there is still quite a large group of folks using the tool. I have taken a graduate-level course that relied on Second Life for group meetups, believe it or not. It wasn’t the most elegant solution but it was quite fun. I didn’t actually hate having group meetups!

AR Development Lab


The ARDL is a revolutionary concept that makes virtual, 3D objects appear in the real world, attached to real objects. Users look through a Virtual Reality POV Viewing Device or at a monitor to see virtual objects like planets, volcanoes, the human heart or dinosaurs. These can be attached to cards, the pages of a book, interactive white board or even on the floor or wall to provide a 3D animated replica that fills the room. Virtual objects excel at conveying spatial, temporal and contextual concepts-especially when the real objects (or real replicas) are too expensive, dangerous, or fragile. They can also be highly interactive, letting users erupt a volcano, build a human heart or pull planets out of the solar system for closer inspection.


  1. J Swan

    September 27, 2013 at 1:25 am

    I was hoping you would have included a take on Aurasma when you wrote this. I am interested in the app extending learning connections to students through AR :0) and wondered what you thought of it.

  2. Kendra Grant

    October 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    To really focus on AR in education I’d suggest exploring both AR creation apps and AR embedded apps. The Creation Apps such as Aurasma and Layar let you create Augmented Reality in the classroom. Consider both teacher created and student created AR for learning. An interesting site to check out is for excellent ideas that use AR for more than just the “cool” factor. The Embed apps such as Star Walk mentioned above, embed AR into the experience of using the app. This includes apps for local exhibits, museums and zoos, “out and about” app such as Acrossair and Google Goggles as well apps created for specific purposes such as ZooBurst (AR book creation), WordLens (translation) and FETCH! Lunch Rush (math). IMHO I’d avoid the AR drill apps or have students create “dancing gorilla” AR samples, instead think of ways to encourage students to use the apps to demonstrate creativity, and higher order thinking.