Ecosystem Education with Augmented Reality: Value-Added Learning or Student Disengagement?

Authors: Nina Hewitt*, University of British Columbia
Topics: Geography Education, Higher Education, Environmental Science
Keywords: mobile app-based field trip, educational technology, augmented reality, experiential learning, ecosystem education, Douglas fir forest
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8211, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores the author’s experience developing and deploying a mobile app-based augmented reality (AR) walking tour of Pacific Spirit Forest, a Douglas fir forest remnant in Vancouver. The app delivers a field-based educational activity on forest disturbance and succession as part of a geoscience course. It is intended to enhance, not replace, the immersive experience of being in the forest. The app guides students along a specified route. At various stops along the route, GPS-derived locational cues trigger audio lessons, video clips (e.g., of the instructor extracting a tree ring core), multiple choice questions or pop-ups with information or questions related to learning goals about the topics of disturbance, succession, species composition and structure. Students are guided toward intended learning outcomes via field observation and analysis of ecological information that surrounds them. The complex and variable nature of the ecosystem studied and the open-ended character of answers to the questions it prompts reduce risks associated with AR technology such as delivering pre-packaged material directed toward lower-order thinking rather than stimulating higher-order analysis and synthesis. However, the degree to which the app adds pedagogical value compared to the same tour led by a live person is uncertain. The paper explores this question by gathering and comparing feedback from students and TAs on in-person and app-based versions of the same tour, with the goal of drawing conclusions about the conditions in which AR tools can foster active, engaged learning.

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