Augmented Reality in the Social Studies Classroom

Guest blog by Kim Murphree, Digital Learning Coach in Mansfield ISD.

Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote of “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” was made in 1973, long before what we think of as augmented reality went mainstream, yet AR is a prime example of this statement.   While it may seem obvious that a blog on augmented reality in the Social Studies classroom starts with a somewhat historical quote, the statement is no less relevant to this content. I mean, what a time to teach social studies! Taking a tour of the Palace of Versailles without leaving the classroom – no problem; 3Dimensional interactive model of an ancient artifact – child’s play; come face-to-face with a sea turtle without leaving 3rd Block – so easy!  augmented reality allows for all of those things with ease, simplicity, and accessibility that had never been available before now and it is COOL!  

Augmented reality (AR) creates an environment that brings content to life in ways teachers have never thought possible. Pair this with the content that social studies teachers have long struggled to make engaging and relevant for students – and magic! 

But the true impact and learning sustainability come when the “Cool is Connected to Content”.  I know, I know it sounds crazy, but all that coolness can become just fluff without a real deep connection to your content.  The idea of utilizing AR for engagement is becoming part of the mainstream and we have seen it in advertisements, movies, and social media, but the implications for education are so simple and the returns so valuable that it behooves us as educators to explore its possibilities.  

When we think about AR in education the first question is will it work?  Will it truly be able to bring a positive impact to the social studies content? Then when we analyze the modalities that this type of technology integrates, the answer is a resounding yes.  AR  brings together what educators know, deeper learning, and what students require for successful achievement.  The learning takes place by aligning both educational theories such as the 4C’s with an engaging, fun, and creative environment that motivates students to aim higher. augmented reality lessons impact students by giving hands-on, multiple perspective experiences that give learners of the future the personal focus that they inherently gravitate towards.  In addition, augmented reality has not only consumption type apps (applications in which students can learn content provided), but also creation applications in which students can create their own content.   Let’s endeavor to analyze what bringing this type of technology into the social studies classroom can do and explore an example of what this might look like for students.

First off, this type of technology brings a level of immersion to the content that can’t be experienced without it.  Learners are immersed in the creation.  Whether they are the creator or the consumer, the learner is able to become a part of the product of learning.  For example, Quantum ERA has great products that bring historical events to life and immerse the learner into these events in a real, engaging and historically accurate way that makes the events of the Alamo or Gettysburg come to life and become meaningful and, dare I say it, tangible to students.  

Next, augmented reality brings the review game to a new level.  Students are able to review, relearn, revisit content in a way that is engaging and not strictly repetitious. Learners are able to return to the learning product as many times as necessary and can rediscover learning as well as discover content that may have been missed.  For example, utilizing an application like Google Arts & Culture or CivilisationsAR (by the BBC) allows students to study primary source artifacts hands-on,  at their pace, and as many times as they would like until they master the content. The characteristics of this unique experience enable learners to internalize and recall their learning for the long term. 

AR also brings the engagement.  Engagement is often talked about in many a PD, and sometimes it is tough to make social studies content “engaging” especially in the social media and video game heavy world of our current students.  I mean social studies as a subject is tough due to the amount of material covered, the age of the students related to the subject matter, and sometimes the “old” style of writing. Bringing life to geographies, governments, cultures, and even politics is not for the faint of heart.  augmented reality brings it to life without a struggle for the teacher. In other words, utilizing AR in the social studies classroom lets the teacher focus on what they are the expert in – the content – and not have to “work for the wow”.  Utilizing CleverAR books or treasure hunts brings the content to life, allows students to interact with the content, as well as utilize multiple learning modalities. The unique experience afforded with AR is an exciting and innovative interaction, creating a more internalized experience.

One of the other big struggles in the social studies classroom is to aid students in making global connections to and from the content. It’s often difficult for students to make connections to historical events or even to current events that are taking place far from where they live. Applications such as Merge Object Viewer, which allows students to create, upload, and view their own 3D images, allows for learners to customize and bring their own prior knowledge to make connections to current content. The complete personalization of this learning fosters endless connections. In addition to making global connections to the content, AR has the ability to be embedded, uploaded, and shared via many outlets. This lends itself to broadening to a global audience as well as those global connections.

To end, I would just say, get out there and experience this technology.  Just start: review, refresh, or even get ideas for your own further training.  Augmented reality, and really all technology integration, is best when experienced.  Start small, figure out the systems, and slowly expand.  Oh – and have fun!


One response to “Augmented Reality in the Social Studies Classroom”

  1. […] are some links to read more about using AR in the classroom.Augmented Reality in the Social Studies Classroom – Vision in Practice ( To Use Augmented Reality in Any Subject Area – Class Tech TipsUsing Augmented Reality in […]


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