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Education can be more fun and more effective

An initiative founded by 3 engineers developed an application that use AR technology to teach alphabets


“The only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing in education.” This is the preface Blink CEO Mohamed Ali, a young engineer living in the city of Mansoura, provided to introduce his company’s application Alphabets Planet.

Ali and two of his university colleagues started a small company called Blink three years ago. Their research focused on the potential conjunction of augmented reality technology and its use in the educational sector.

Daily News Egypt interviewed Mohamed Ali for more details about their projects.

The Alphabets Planet application has been received in several nurseries throughout Egypt and the MENA region
The Alphabets Planet application has been received in several nurseries throughout Egypt and the MENA region

What is augmented reality technology?
Augmented Reality is the fusion of digital information, mainly 3D objects, with either live streaming videos or the viewer’s real environment captured by a camera. It is a type of virtual reality that intends to copy the world’s surroundings into the software space of a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

An augmented reality framework creates a composite perspective for the user that overlays virtual information onto the physical image seen by the client, relying on a virtual marker to help the virtual orient onto reality. The virtual scene produced by PC is intended to supplement the client’s tangible view of the real world. The objective of Augmented Reality (AR) is to make a framework in which the client cannot differentiate between the present reality and the virtual augmentation of it. Today, AR is used across several sectors ranging from entertainment and military training to engineering design and robotics.

Many people may have had their first encounter with AR technology during football matches, where channels are increasingly using AR to superimpose advertisements onto the field.

In football, AR technology allows broadcasters to add information to live events, highlight, and do other things, the line that designates offside position.  Other data that does not directly interface with real time events is equally vital. Advertisements are increasingly no longer physically present in sporting arenas but are virtual superimposed.

AR is not a new technology. Its first application was in heads-up displays (HUD) in warrior planes during World War II. Game designers have also been toying around with AR since 2007. HUDs are becoming more prominent in automotive windshields where speed and navigation data can be repositioned from the dashboard. The innovation has been making progress in an assortment of different fields, including tourism and education. AR holds enormous potential, particularly when we consider the wide extent of its application.

Screenshot from the application
Screenshot from the application

AR and Education

The first application produced by Blink was meant to help children in kindergarten to learn the alphabet under the assumption that an interactive pedagogy would aid comprehension levels.

Alphabets Planet application uses AR to teach students the alphabet in sequential order, utilising a buddy booklet that including drawings of various object of which the first letter corresponds with letter they are presenting.

“The teacher only has to point the tablet’s camera on a page with letter “A” and an apple will pop up out of the book.

The Alphabet Planet application has been received in several nurseries throughout Egypt and the MENA region. It additionally has been downloaded approximately 30,000 times by parents who will use it to educate their children at home. The application’s significance lies in the way it adds a visual component to the learning process, which thus allows the student to make productive associations that encourage comprehension. As much as Alphabet Planet is a pedagogical tool, it has not neglected the fun side of education.

But what If this experiment was further developed to include not only nurseries but also the primary education?

We believe we can code education explanations to be used in explaining math, geometry, and physics.

The applications present an approach to academic subjects beyond the conventional rote methods that often dominate discussions of pedagogy.  Making education fun will encourage students to attend school and moreover to enjoy studying, while potentially reducing study hours.

It is possible that this alternative pedagogy can come to supplant the old convention;  3D models could become the next arithmetic table.

According to Ali, if the Ministry of Education adopted such a project it would help to reduce  the cost of printing traditional books.

Although AR innovation is not new, its potential in education is only starting to be investigated. Dissimilar to other registering innovations, AR interfaces offer consistent associations between the genuine and virtual universes, an unmistakable interface illustration and methods for transitioning in the middle of genuine and virtual universes. Instructors ought to work with analysts in the field to investigate how these qualities can best be connected in a school domain.

We need more educational institutions to collaborate with us; we can transform their curriculum into AR application; this will make their material more fun and easy to digest. There is also potential to develop AR technology in relation to history lessons.

Imagine the student pointing the tablet to a page with a picture of a historic character and that character popping up from the picture and starting to tell his story with illustrations.

We would welcome partnerships with governmental initiatives. We would like to work with the public education sector as a client; we can transform all of their educational materials to AR apps.

AR and Higher Education

AR’s application is not limited to primary education. In higher education, AR will probably be most used in broadening learning outside of the classroom than inside of it.

If you are reading a textbook and you suddenly came through a chemical experiment or a physics fact, you can easily point your smart phone to a word or a picture in the book and you will see it live.

Another advanced use of AR is in the field of translation or explaining difficult idioms. The student only has to point his phone camera to a word and he will see a demonstration of the explanation of the word.

The lecturer can also make interactive assignments involve moving through campus or the nearby community, helping students learn more about the academic subject through the help of everyday objects around the school.

With all the creative personalities working in graduate education, the conceivable outcomes for bringing augmented reality innovation into a student’s learning encounters are many.

Screenshot from the application
Screenshot from the application

Engage Their Minds

Terri Eichholz, a US teacher spoke to Daily News Egypt about her experience with AR in her classroom. For Eichholz, the novelty and surprise that AR interjects into the learning experience can attract student attention in a way that textbooks cannot. AR’s immersive reality can push students to better understand the reality of their subject matter, according to Eichholz.

“For example, my first graders are currently studying the continents. Once they identified them on a colouring sheet from Quiver Vision, they could scan them with the free app on the iPad to see how they actually would appear on our planet as it rotates”, she said.

Though Einhholz’s students have globes in the classroom, this activity allowed them to see the location of the continents without being distracted by other features on the globe.

She added that augmented reality allows students to go back in time, go on global field trips, and see animals they may never face in real life.

However, Eichholz believes that AR technology will not make a major difference in a student’s education unless it is a part of a deep, meaningful learning experience, guided by proper education stewardship.
The Future and the Limitation of AR and Education

The future of this technology is unlimited; imagine a virtual robot teaching physics and chemistry. This can change education as we know and forever.

Distance learning will become more effective, addressing social issues of education access in rural communities as much as in the schools of urban metropolis, where access is striated along different modes of discrimination.

However, the technology has some limitations. It needs a powerful processor in the tablets or the smart phones.

As we develop more advanced applications, we need powerful processors to render the 3D pictures or objects quickly. It will take time to market what they produce, especially in the Middle East.

Another limitation is that the developer must make the marker himself. The user of Alphabets Planet must have the book Blink printed. In the future we will try to make the user identify his own marker.

Blink’s Alphabets Planet was funded with the aid of a financial prize it received from Injaz Egypt’ start-up competition.

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https://dailynewsegypt.com/2015/12/30/education-can-be-more-fun-and-more-effective/
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