UCD Professor Bringing Augmented Reality to Classrooms
Technology has presented educators everywhere with new opportunities to impart knowledge and help students to learn. In the last couple of decades alone, it has enabled teachers to make huge strides in the classroom.
Augmented reality has become one of the biggest drivers in the tech economy, but until recently, it didn’t get much of a look-in within the education system. This is something that Professor Eleni Mangina is trying to change. She is a professor in UCD School of Computer Science and recently secured €3.9 million for a project that aims to bring augmented reality learning content to students across Europe.
The project is called ARETE (Augmented Reality Interactive Educational System) and is funded by the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 framework programme. It follows on from Professor Mangina’s previous project, AHA (ADHD Augmented) which focused on augmented reality educational tools for children aged 9-11 with a diagnosis of ADHD. Now, ARETE will build on the work completed in that project and will design and pilot augmented reality educational tools for classrooms in countries across Europe. The new project will focus on improving literacy, STEM subjects and behaviour in the classroom.
The funding of the project represents a major achievement for Professor Mangina. Applications to the funding scheme have a success rate of less than 10%, so getting to this point was the culmination of years of hard work and dedication. To her delight, her application for funding got a perfect score of 15/15 from Horizon 2020 assessors.
Professor Eleni Mangina … recently secured €3.9 million for a project that aims to bring augmented reality learning content to students across Europe.
The UCD professor believes passionately in the potential for augmented reality to revolutionise the way children learn, and she has tried out these methods in her personal life too. Her own children learned the alphabet through augmented reality before they started school. She believes that we have not sufficiently explored ways to use all of our senses in the learning process, and this is something she wants to change with the dawn of augmented reality educational tools.
She first came up with the idea for the ARETE project around five years ago. She had two earlier applications for funding rejected, but rather than be discouraged by these, she chose to learn from them. “Technology is growing at speed, but at the same time society is not accepting the technology at as fast a pace as it’s growing,” she explains. “I think it was the right time where technology and society had adapted, and the European Commission realised that this was worth investing into.”
The…project will focus on improving literacy, STEM subjects and behaviour in the classroom.
ARETE came at the tail end of Mangina’s earlier project, which focused on augmented reality educational tools for children diagnosed with ADHD. That project had “fantastic results,” she says. “We had students diagnosed with ADHD that were nine years old who had a reading age of five,” she explains. “After the intervention, within the year, their reading age actually increased by 3-6 years, which is amazing.” She also says that using augmented reality in the classroom helped those children to improve their confidence and self-esteem. ARETE’s first pilot will take what they learned from the previous project and apply the findings to all students. More than 100 students took part in this pilot project.
The second pilot of ARETE will evaluate the impact of augmented reality in STEM subjects and English literacy skills. This section will be rolled out to more than 3,500 students. Researchers will examine the use of augmented reality in the teaching of maths, physics, chemistry and geography in countries across Europe. The project’s third section will look at whether augmented reality can help students to focus better while also encouraging better behaviour.
Mangina’s earlier project…had “fantastic results”… augmented reality in the classroom helped those children to improve their confidence and self-esteem.
The ARETE project has the potential to change the way students learn. In this sense, the project’s success in funding is unsurprising. But getting a project of this scale successfully funded is no small feat, and Professor Mangina says she knew the application would have to be perfect.
“I had the proposal ready three months before the deadline and I started it a year before,” she says. “Once the call was out, I started to prepare. The last three months before the deadline, I just read it again and again.”
Mangina is now helping a number of other researchers with their applications to the Horizon 2020 programme. She recommends that those applying make sure their work is flawless. “Read the call in detail,” she says. “Address all the issues and spend a lot of time to cherry pick the right partners.” She also recommends that applicants find consultants to read over their finished applications before submitting to “find any flaws and any issues that haven’t been addressed”. Enterprise Ireland has been a great support for H2020 co-ordinators.
“For these calls, your proposal has to be “perfect”; a “good” proposal is not good enough” she says.
This is the beginning of an incredibly exciting time for Professor Mangina and for her partners across Europe – but also for the capacity of education to grow and evolve. “It’s all about science for good,” she says. “The bigger vision is ‘Education for all’. It might sound a little bit bold, but it’s about education outside the norm and outside the standardised tests. Because not everybody learns in the same way. How do we learn? We learn by doing things, by using all our senses. It’s time we bring this into our classrooms.”
It’s all about science for good,” she says. “The bigger vision is ‘Education for all’. It might sound a little bit bold, but it’s about education outside the norm and outside the standardised tests.
Professor Eleni Mangina was in conversation with Patrick Kelleher (BA 2015, MA 2017), a freelance journalist.
Image 1: Arete Project © CleverBooks