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Analysis of AR Pedagogy: Empowering Students as Content Creators and Curators

Listen and learn

Listen and learn : Research paper
Roundtable presentation

Tuesday, December 1, 12:30–1:15 pm PST (Pacific Standard Time)
Presentation 2 of 3
Other presentations:
Preservice Teachers and Challenges to Mobile Phone Integration
Storytelling as Design Metaphor for K-12 Augmented Reality (AR) Science Applications

Dr. Paula MacDowell  
Quincy Wang  

We report on a novel way for educators to guide and inspire learners to create, curate and code meaningful AR experiences. Not only is our AR pedagogical approach flexible and easily-adaptable, but it also enriches curriculum and builds community by bringing people, art, story, knowledge, media and technology together.

Audience: Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Please download the Zappar Augmented Reality app. Thank you.
Topic: Augmented, mixed & virtual reality
Grade level: Community college/university
Subject area: STEM/STEAM, Preservice teacher education
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning.
For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
For Education Leaders:
Empowering Leader
  • Inspire a culture of innovation and collaboration that allows the time and space to explore and experiment with digital tools.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand, Graduate student

Proposal summary



Unlike virtual reality (VR), which replaces the user's surroundings with an entirely simulated setting, AR refers to an enhanced version of reality made available by the integration of digital information with the user's real environment in real-time (Dunleavy, 2014; Saltan & Arslan, 2017). The AR keyword assignment is based on constructionism, an approach to learning that maximizes student agency and emphasizes designing, building, coding, and inventing as ways of knowing. Knowledge is actively constructed by learners experimenting with diverse ideas, tools, codes, materials, and perspectives; and further developed through reflections, observations, and interactions with others (Kafai, 2006; Masked Reference). Constructionism is a hands-on approach for generating collaboration diversity and a sense of belonging in the class. As critical friends, students thoughtfully critique each other’s work; hence, they are inspired by and learn from the team.

Foundational to this research is the perspective that learners of all ages benefit from opportunities to be the coders, creators, and inventors of the media and technologies that make our world; thereby taking an active role in understanding who controls, owns, and shapes our technological futures (Masked Reference). Building on the theoretical perspectives of Akçayır & Akçayır (2017), Dunleavy (2014), Dunleavy & Dede (2014), and Saltan & Arslan (2017), recognized leaders in the use of augmented reality in formal education, this research addresses two primary questions:

1) How can AR design and production enrich a course curriculum and foster a better student learning experience (e.g., supporting creative thinking, distributed cognition, experiential learning, psychological immersion, and visualization techniques)?

2) What are the affordances and constraints of using AR as a tool for improving teaching and learning effectiveness (e.g., what does student-generated content contribute to the course goals)?



The research setting for this study included one graduate-level course and four undergraduate courses (n = 122 students) held in a contemporary lab within the Faculty of Education at a public university in Canada. The research team collected a range of data that focused on how the students learn and interact as they are researching, collaborating, and designing their personalized AR experiences (within the context of the lab where the classes are scheduled). Using a mixed-methods approach, we conducted post-pre surveys and recorded field notes during the AR modules to collect evidence of students’ unique expressions and experiences of learning. Additionally, we compared and analyzed the student-created AR experiences to discern qualitative and quantitative findings that are grounded in the realities of students’ artifacts and AR experiences. Each code has a comprehensive data dashboard to view all activity and monitor performance (e.g., total scans, average scan duration, time, location, and device platform). See the following Table for a high-level view of the AR design assignment.

1) Summary: Exploring and defining course key terms through interactive AR experiences

2) Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to program AR scenes that demonstrate knowledge of user interface and user experience design

3) Audience: Scalable from undergraduate, first graphics class to advanced graduate courses

4) Dependencies: Introductory programming knowledge

5) Prerequisites: Build on prior lessons and labs that focus on designing experiences for learning

6) Strengths: Students enjoy presenting their work to peers; significant mentorship opportunities occur as learners support each other to solve design and technical challenges

7) Weaknesses: Students with weak design skills may find it difficult to get beyond the basics of making immersive content with educational value

8) Variants: Unlimited design options for the AR scenes

9. Assessment
a) Technical Capabilities: Programming is logical, efficient, and debugged
b) Educational Value: Definitions are relevant, thought-provoking, and inspirational
c) UX/UI Design: Visual design principles, usability testing, satisfying user experiences
d) Teamwork: All members are respectful of team roles and supportive of shared goals
e) Overall Impact: Level of effort, ingenuity, creative risk-taking, and technical challenge

Our initial plan was to display an eclectic collection of the student AR codes on a floor-standing oversized AR Globe, highlighting the theme, “Sense of Place.” We searched online and successfully tested numerous ideas and templates for globe making. We decided that we would build the project using recycled materials, thereby emphasizing sustainability education in a digitally connected world. One of the enabling design constraints was the art installation needed to be accessible and transportable for rotating the display in high-traffic student areas, including the libraries, Learning Hub, and Research Hub, in addition to classroom demonstrations and presentations at conferences. Our goal was to increase public visibility and invite students and faculty members to engage with the innovative curriculum in education courses. We wanted to open up possibilities for the students’ design work to inspire others and become part of something greater, similar to a series of nested contexts in an AR experience.

At this stage in our design process, we realized the AR Globe concept was not an effective solution to achieve our research goals: it involved labour intensive photoshopping to create a permanent art exhibit that was not easy to update and had limited space to showcase student designs. Hence, we imagined a new vision to build an oversized AR Abacus that would allow us to highlight the project findings more comprehensively. The beautiful wooden framework of the abacus has hinges and is designed to be taken apart and reassembled with ease. The students’ AR images are printed onto heavy card stock and then re-designed into playful prisms of various shapes and sizes, thereby inviting experiential learning and symbolizing the uniqueness and diversity of all learners. The flexible construction of the paper prisms allows the AR Abacus to be continually updated and transformed, and thereby emerge anew with immersive experiences that engage audiences of all ages in mindful play.



While there are many innovative technological and pedagogical options to engage our students and build community, there are also considerable challenges with integrating technology in meaningful and inclusive ways in university classroom settings. This flexible and open-ended AR assignment has effectively addressed these issues in university courses and lab settings that are suitable for interdisciplinary learners and scalable for varying levels of experience and technical expertise. Collectively, our project findings evidence that the student learning process was empowering, inspirational, unexpectedly fun, useful for making meaningful connections with peers, and valuable for generating a collaborative spirit and a sense of belonging in each of the five courses. 100% of the students surveyed agreed that this course assignment was relevant for enhancing their design and technical skill sets. As Alex reported, “I was encouraged to use my imagination and intelligence which does not often happen in my courses. I enjoyed the process of playing with ideas and interpreting knowledge in a new medium.” Jane summarized her learning experiences: “Great opportunity to define the course keywords through visual explanations.”

Furthermore, valuable team-building and mentorship opportunities resulted as learners supported each other to solve design and technical challenges. As Navroop reflected on the transformation of his thinking: “The AR design process deepened my understanding of the course material, and I learned by collaborating with colleagues and having a shared purpose.” Danielle reported, “In retrospect, I like that I was respected by the people in my class because I could help them with tech support.” While the AR tools contributed to the instructor’s innovative pedagogy and ability to empower student learning, some students struggled with the social and technical aspects of creating immersive content in a collaborative learning environment.

Overall, this project contributes to a university’s goals for enhancing the student learning experience and transforming how we view each other and the world. We involved five classes in co-creating knowledge and shared our innovative coursework to help create a more connected and vibrant campus. The AR abacus (on rotating display scheduled in learning hub spaces and libraries) serves to increase public visibility and invite students and faculty members to engage with the innovative curriculum in education courses. Additionally, this project offers an opportunity for students’ design work to be recognized and acknowledged by peers and the university community.

Long-term goals include building on the findings of this project to develop a new AR/VR project that focuses on environmental literacy and engaged citizenship; student teams will be challenged to design immersive digital experiences related to understanding and taking action on making the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) a reality. The SDGs are global priorities that are important for humanity and the planet, but concepts that are difficult to teach in traditional university classroom settings.



Integrating AR with curriculum opens-up novel possibilities for developing course assignments that invite diversity of thought, differences in worldviews, and creative explorations with media and technology. This ISTE session will be useful for educators and researchers interested in experimenting with AR technologies for curriculum enrichment and in energizing their lab or classroom learning environments. The research team will discuss how to enhance student engagement, inclusion, and ingenuity by utilizing AR as a tool to build community through making and sharing personalized digital experiences with peers, thereby enabling powerful forms of learning beyond traditional barriers of classroom walls and screens. As we live in an increasingly visual and digital society, the results of this study will help instructional designers to develop engaging student learning environments and offer unique curricular experiences that integrate powerful content creation tools for interdisciplinary learners with diverse technical skills. ISTE participants will have an opportunity to learn about and explore AR technologies, as well as discuss their questions with the research team. The presentation format will be conversational and demonstrative, beginning with a series of exemplars to provide a depth of understanding. Increasing interest in AR/VR for education reinforces the need for new pedagogical approaches and makes this session relevant and timely.



Akçayır, M., & Akçayır, G. (2017). Advantages and challenges associated with augmented reality for education: A systematic review of the literature. Educational Research Review, 20, 1–11.

Antonioli, M., Blake, C., & Sparks, K. (2014). Augmented reality applications in education. The Journal of Technology Studies, 40(1), 96–107.

Bacca, J., Baldiris, S., Fabregat, R., Graf, S., & Kinshuk. (2014). Augmented reality trends in education: A systematic review of research and applications. Educational Technology & Society, 17(4), 133–149.

Cuendet, S., Bonnard, Q., Do-Lenh, S., & Dillenbourg, P. (2013). Designing augmented reality for the classroom. Computers & Education, 68, 557–569.

Di Serio, A., Ibanez, M., Kloos, C. (2012). Impact of an augmented reality system on students’ motivation for a visual art course. Computers & Education, 68, 586–596.

Dunleavy, M. (2014). Design principles for augmented reality learning. TechTrends, 58(1), 28–34.

Dunleavy, M., & Dede, C. (2014). Augmented reality teaching and learning. In J. Spector, M. Merrill, J. Elen, & M. Bishop (Eds.), The handbook of research for educational communications and technology (pp. 735–745). New York, NY: Springer.

Kafai, Y. (2006). Constructionism. In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (pp. 35–46). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Masked References

Saltan, F., & Arslan, Ö. (2017). The use of augmented reality in formal education: A scoping review. Eurasia Journal of Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 13(2), 503–520.

Tillander, M. (2011). Creativity, technology, art, and pedagogical practices. Art Education, 64(1), 40–46.

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Dr. Paula MacDowell, University of Saskatchewan

Paula MacDowell is an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology and Design at the University of Saskatchewan. She is a researcher and developer of tools, communities, and methods that support innovation in addressing humanity’s challenges and opportunities, to achieve sustainable change with and for our communities. Paula studies the design of constructionist learning environments and works closely with teachers to integrate media and technology in the classroom for meaningful learning.

Quincy Wang, Simon Fraser University
Graduate student

Quincy Wang is a web & multimedia designer and master’s student in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on VR implementation in education and how it impacts teaching and learning. Combining 16 years of professional experience with web and multimedia design, digital technologies, and research knowledge in instructional design, she has accomplished award-winning digital portfolios in Canada.

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