“Augmented Reality” sounds like a pilot for a Syfy Channel movie of the week. But while the technology behind what is known in scientific circles as AR is certainly state of the art, its mission is far from science fiction.
In Brenda Bannan’s  EDIT 732  and EDIT 752  graduate-level classes, students are learning and developing new teaching aids that incorporate computer and smartphone technology to layer information over views of the real world. The concept is known as augmented reality .
“It’s a fascinating technology,” says Bannan, an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development’s Instructional Technology  program. “And it’s very new to education and training.”
Last fall, one team of her students worked with a seventh-grade history class in Richmond to design a prototype for a smartphone app that would allow users to point their phone at an historical structure in order to prompt a tutorial about the place.
“This gets students out of the classroom,” Bannan says.
Another team designed a similar prototype for visitors to Mount Vernon to use as they tour that historical setting.
Meanwhile, two other groups designed AR teaching aids for science students. One uses “digital markers” to allow geometry students to view 3-D geometric images on a computer monitor. The other, which was designed with homeschoolers in mind, employs cameras and markers to mimic chemical experiments on a computer.
All four AR prototypes, according to Bannan, were designed to give students “a new way to learn.”
“The idea is to leverage the technology for the benefit of education and training,” she points out. “This has an amazing potential to promote different views for education.”
While much of the design work was done in the fall, this spring students will be testing the practicality of their prototypes by getting feedback on their creations from students and teachers.
Widely used in other industries, like gaming and health care, AR as a teaching and training tool, according to Bannan, is now only scratching the surface.
“I think we are in the midst of an interface revolution,” she says.
This June, Mason will host the seventh annual Innovations in e-Learning Symposium , which will include lectures on AR technology.