Inspiring students through AR technology

Dr Vladimir Teif (University of Essex) and Dr Mari Chikvaidze (Claremont High School Academy), believe Augmented Reality (AR) is even more valuable for education than static pictures. They have joined forces to use AR and deliver cutting-edge, university-style sessions to students of Claremont High School Academy.

Dr Vladimir Teif – We are transforming learning experience using AR technology and we’re so excited by the response of the students as they discover and interact with computer-generated objects within their real-life classrooms.

Claremont High School Academy is a mixed, comprehensive state school and a sixth form which serves a diverse community with a deprivation indicator higher than the national average. There are limited opportunities for students to get engaged with STEM professionals and academics and to use appropriate equipment.

To address this issue, we applied for a Royal Society Partnership Grant which allowed us to purchase high-quality iPads for the school. This then allowed us to use novel AR applications to redesign the content of the Academy’s extra-curricular course in computational biophysics. The course enriches their learning by linking different aspects of their A-Level biology, physics, mathematics and computing courses and now harnesses AR to help them see the intricate relationships between these subjects.

Transforming the classroom

AR applications transform the classroom as students can use them to view three-dimensional images through their iPads which they can then move around and investigate almost as if they can touch them. Suddenly the scientific ideas that we are talking about in the classroom are there for the students to see and experiment with, making it easier for them to understand and investigate the concepts.

Discovery in real-world settings

We teach the Year 12 students at Claremont to use AR applications on iPads and discover their applications in a real-world setting. For example, computational tools are essential for visualising disease-related biological molecules and building computational models of medicinal drugs that interact with these molecules. This means the students can actually see the scientific processes which are at the heart of medical breakthroughs including the research response to COVID-19.

As lecturers on this project, we felt quite excited that we managed to bring state-of-the-art university-level expertise to a regular state school, at the critical stage of these students when they are choosing about their future careers. The response from the year 12 students has been fantastic.

STEM education is becoming increasingly important, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can see that a growing number of students are being inspired to learn how they could use computers to design novel drugs to target diseases. This partnership between a state school and our university is a seed from which a long-lasting relationship can grow – helping students understand science in more depth and unlocking the next generation of scientists.

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