The 8th of September marks International Literacy Day - the day declared by UNESCO to celebrate the importance of literacy. It also serves to remind everyone that access to quality education is a matter of dignity and human right. Although the right to education is recognised for all, many people of all ages and genders still find it difficult to access knowledge and improve their literacy. According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, there are still over 773 million illiterate people around the world .
Studies have shown that the development and implementation of certain emerging technologies into the learning process could solve the literacy problem experienced by a part of the population. This observation brings to the forefront many questions and leads one to wonder: to what extent do interactive pedagogy serve the educational cause?
In an increasingly digitalised world, school educators tend to feel that their teaching methods are a bit outdated. At the same time, the teaching methods are not adapted properly - either due to a lack of knowledge of the tools to use or due to budgetary concerns - to the context in which students work and interact outside of school hours. Pupils are fully engaged in the new technologies, such as smartphones or computers, so they need to get their attention and keep them motivated in a more advanced way.
Furthermore, the school community needs to rethink the organisation of classrooms in order to equip them with ICT-friendly materials and thereby be in line with the digital reality of the 21st century. As the technological revolution affects every sector, the education system must also be prepared to embrace technology as a resource in the teaching and learning process.
Interactive pedagogy - The use case of augmented reality (AR)
Augmented reality overlays sounds, videos and graphics on an existing environment. It is, therefore, an enhanced version of the real physical world, achieved using digital visuals transmitted by technology.
The implementation of augmented reality within a learning context brings many benefits, both in learning and student well-being. AR is one of the emerging technologies that has aroused the most curiosity in the education sector. It appeals because it allows learning on two levels: the real and the virtual. Although it is still in its infancy, AR is an attractive alternative for schools with a small budget, unlike virtual reality. In fact, any classroom can create its own learning environment using AR; all it takes is an internet connection, a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) and an AR application. However, in the case of virtual reality, a VR headset is mandatory to experience the technology. Although often confused, these two technologies bring two different approaches to education: AR brings educational content to life, while VR takes the user to real-time education. Virtual reality is able to "transpose" the user and fully immerse them in a new world created by the technology, while augmented reality adds virtual objects to current reality. For comparison, by using VR, students can feel like witnesses of the Battle of Trafalgar, while with AR, they can watch an animated version of the battle that pops out of the textbook after pointing a smartphone or a tablet on its page.
Nowadays, old school classrooms are giving way to the classrooms of the future. They are evolving into an active collaboration space for teachers and students where knowledge, amusement and technology are at the heart of the lesson. Augmented reality actively engages students, and unlike traditional teaching methods, it stimulates all the student's senses. Numerous studies have highlighted the positive effects of AR on student motivation. Its use facilitates the integration of course content as it allows direct interaction with the material. AR has many advantages in terms of developing student interest and engagement. The interactive aspect of this technology provides an appropriate and participatory learning environment. By involving students more actively, AR opens the door to a more in-depth and concrete understanding of the topic being taught. Many researchers have also emphasised the collaborative aspect that this technology brings, in both student-student and teacher-student perspectives. And, as the lessons are interactive, students are more likely to remember details.
ARETE Pilot 1: Using AR to Facilitate Teaching English Literacy Skills
The ARETE project was born in the wake of the revolutionary AR technology in the educational sector. Founded by the European Commission and supported by European Schoolnet, the project focuses on the development and integration of augmented reality. It aims to create a Europe-wide competitive ecosystem for the rapid dissemination of augmented learning content. The project has targeted three areas for development: English literacy, STEM, and positive behaviour intervention.
The first call aims to study the effects of implementing interactive augmented reality solutions for teaching and learning English language literacy. Therefore, Pilot 1 will redevelop an established digital programme, WordsWorthLearning (WWL), into an augmented reality (AR) application. The purpose is to use augmented reality-based teaching and learning technologies to increase the accessibility and effectiveness of English language teaching and learning for the teachers and students engaged in the process.
The Pilot 1 research, conducted by European Schoolnet, will allow the selected participants to test the AR application and the content offered, which involves an exciting journey through an educational "galaxy" to learn reading and spelling skills. In this way, AR technology will immerse the learners in a new universe in order to develop their skills.
This ambitious project aims to fulfil four objectives: to develop the effectiveness of AR interactive content, apply human-centred interaction design, evaluate the effectiveness of AR technology, and ensure the communication and dissemination of the project results.
Pilot 1 of the project will start in mid-September 2021 and has gathered over 150 applications and recruited 16 pilot teachers. Visit the ARETE website and social media profiles to keep up to date with the progress of this exciting and ground-breaking project.