Case Study NBAM

I would like to give a little more context and detail on the Aurasma project as a case study in using augmented reality in the classroom.  This particular project was a partnership with the Nicholas Beazley Aviation Museum (NBAM).

Pedagogy and Project Development

It seems like the best place to begin the conversation is with the pedagogy and design that provide the context for the project.  As Walter Dick, Lou Carey, and James Carey have pointed out in their popular textbook The Systematic Design of Instruction (7th ed., 2009), over the last three decades best practices in pedagogy have shifted away from lectures based on research or personal experience toward a new paradigm. While content is still important, the emphasis has moved towards interactive instruction that takes into account new technologies, the psychology of learning, and systematic analysis and revision of the instructional materials.

For me, part of the analysis process involved examining the types of jobs our students were applying for and receiving in the area, which included a number of public history postings.  The upper-level course I was designing had primarily junior and senior students in our major enrolled, with some graduate students as well.  It was important to me to try to incorporate assignments and activities that built skills and knowledge that would be directly applicable to the students’ careers and job applications (which for some begin in a matter of months).

Project Based Learning and Skills

In particular, I like project-based learning because it creates several unique opportunities for students.  It is creative by design, requiring students to use Bloom’s high-order thinking skills to research, analyze, synthesize, and then produce a product that integrates the content in a novel way.  This also makes it more tangible and engaging for students than a typical research paper, and when students are more invested in the assignment they enjoy it and tend to perform better (even exploring additional resources or content on their own out of curiosity).  It also demonstrates for students how their skills from various disciplines and content areas can be combined and applied in new situations.  And learning to work in groups or teams, if part of the assignment, is always good preparation for the “real world.”

Finding Tech Tools and Partners

In exploring some of the new educational technologies available, the Aurasma app popped out to me as an excellent tool to use for creating supplemental and interactive museum displays at low cost.  There are numerous apps and tech tools out there, so take the time to explore several related types of tools to see which one has the features that will work for your devices and students.  For example, Layar and Augment are two other augmented reality apps that may work better for other projects and disciplines, or posting a simple QR code that links to YouTube may work too.

I was aware of an excellent museum in the area that would be ideal for the course content (History of Flight), so I approached museum staff and board members to give a demonstration of the app and begin discussing a partnership for the project.  Everyone at the Nicholas Beazley Aviation Museum (Marshall, MO) was excited about the potential and we quickly agreed on a plan.

Instructional Design

The next step at that point was to design the class to both prepared the students to create these materials (on the history content side) and taught them the skills needed to build and implement the augmented reality interactive displays for the project.  This involved providing readings and creating discussions around issues in public history and interpretation in addition to the course focus on the history of developments in aviation. Specifically, there were discussions and readings on creating documentaries, and in-class training sessions on video production and editing (conducted with the help of instructional technology experts on campus).

I also built an online assignment where students explored the National Museum of the United States Air Force via the site’s virtual tour feature.  It required students to explore a professionally designed aviation museum and evaluate the displays, videos, information, and overall patron experience.  They then collaborated to create a list of essential components for effective museum displays.

Immediately following this activity the students went on a class trip to the Nicholas Beazley Aviation Museum.  This allowed the students to see how the materials they were going to create would fit into the scope and design of materials already available in the museum.  The prior course preparation provided a basis on which students could design and create professional-quality final products, with oversight and assistance from myself and the instructional design team.

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Building the Video Documentaries

At this stage students began meeting in their groups to plan the research and the videos.  Each group had five members and was responsible for producing the short documentary video (2-3 mins.) for two separate target images (the target images and content were decided in consultation with the museum).  They planned out themes that connected with existing displays and complemented the content already available to patrons.

From here it was a matter of the students conducting research, writing scripts and outlining a plan for the video or images, and then recording the materials.  Students worked closely with me during the video editing, since they were not familiar with iMovie software, and once the videos were completed the printed target images were provided to the museum for installation.

Post-Production and Outcomes

The instructional design staff assisted with formatting the videos and condensing the files to upload onto the Aurasma server, where they were connected to digital versions of the printed target images.  This final step is quite simple with Aurasma–as easy as upload your target image, upload your video, confirm you want to link the two so that users see this video when they hold their phone or tablet over that image.

Ultimately the museum was very pleased with the effort, and students were excited to be a part of something bigger that is available to the public in a museum.  Several students expressed pride and a new sense of confidence in their abilities, and were excited to highlight their new skills on the job market later that year.

You can see a video of a student participant discussing his experiences here: