Talking Texts: Making Textbooks and Instructional Materials Interactive with Augmented Reality

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Providing an innovative way to connect abstract ideas with real world examples can make learning more successful. Watch how students used Aurasma, an augmented reality program, to activate interactive videos by scanning images in their textbooks (or instructional materials) with mobile devices to explore difficult concepts further.


I work for Lafayette College and am the shared, Teagle Blended Learning instructional designer for the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges in Pennsylvania. I am also an adjunct assistant professor of sociology and instructional design. I completed my Ph.D. at Lehigh University in Teaching, Learning, and Technology, where my dissertation study tested the effectiveness of a fully STEM-integrated, technology-driven, project-based agricultural literacy curriculum module administered to upper-elementary students. I have been presenting on curricular and instructional design, mobile technology and augmented reality, and project-based learning for several years and I love every second of it.

Extended Abstract

My students often complain that classical sociological theory is not the most exciting venture into the realm of sociology; some have even called it “dry”, or worse, “boring”. Certain concepts and ideas are more difficult for students to fully grasp than others – particularly the three large-scale sociological paradigms (i.e., structural functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism) and the sociological theorists’ motivations behind their development. These concepts lay the foundation for each and every sociology course that follows, and students’ understandings of them are critical to their success in future courses. Understanding where students’ misconceptions and difficulties with topics lie provides an opportunity to create something students can connect with as digital learners searching for relevant (and trustworthy) information. Further, providing an innovative way to connect abstract ideas with real world examples can make learning far more successful than rote memorization and traditional didactic instruction alone. 

Creating situations where students are immersed in their learning, by having them “virtually” travel to the past to discuss sociological theory with prominent figures, such as Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Comte, and Simmel may increase their interest and motivate them to be more engaged with the subject matter to dig deeper into the materials. By presenting each of the three sociological paradigms with video, images, and sounds that tell a story to supplement lectures or assigned readings may also impact students’ knowledge and understanding of these important and complex ideas. Using augmented reality is the next step in providing students with interactive, novel experiences that promote deep understanding and engagement in learning.

Augmented reality (AR) is a media platform that activates virtual information on top of real-world objects, such as images or quick response (QR) codes. It can provide myriad forms of stimulation to keep students engaged by incorporating video, audio, and the ability to control their choices. In this project, I created several videos students activated by scanning images in their textbooks with their mobile devices. Some videos were "talking" theorists describing their lives and studies, while others provided explanations and analogies for the three sociological paradigms.

The videos were created using ScreenFlow software and the Blabberize website (for the talking theorists). Audio was altered using the Audacity program. Videos were then built into the Aurasma application so that when students hovered their mobile devices (Android or iOS) over the static “trigger images” in their course textbooks, the videos began playing. The videos were triggered by scanning images in their textbooks using their devices’ cameras and ran between one and three minutes each. Trigger images can be easily altered if textbook selections change or different images are available. I set out to answer the following research questions in my study:

  • Can a supplemental AR program improve students’ understandings of the three sociological paradigms?
  • Will a supplemental AR program help students retain what they learned about the three sociological paradigms?

In the spring 2015 semester, 34 students at a mid-sized, suburban community college located in the eastern United States were selected into either treatment or control classes and assessed following the implementation of a module with the supplemental augmented reality videos. I compared two classes using a posttest only design following the experimental intervention. The treatment group (N=17) was given instructions as to how to load the augmented reality application and a driving question to consider throughout their journeys. They received regular classroom instruction and watched the AR videos before being asked to complete the open-ended posttest survey. The control group (N = 17) received regular classroom instruction and was then asked to complete the open-ended posttest survey. Both groups completed a quiz with two related questions following the completion of the theory and research unit one week later. Students also took a midterm with three related questions in the middle of the semester.

A rubric was designed to gather posttest data from both groups following the implementation of the AR videos in the treatment group’s class. The rubric assessed students’ performance as either: exemplary (3 points), proficient (2 points), needs improvement (1 point), or with insufficient responses (0 points) on each of the three paradigms’ definitions, allowing for a total score range of 0-9. To determine if students retained the knowledge and information they gained from the video module, students’ scores were also compared on two multiple choice questions from a quiz that followed the theory and research unit one week later and three multiple choice questions on the midterm examination. Each question was worth one point for a correct answer and zero points for an incorrect answer, allowing for a range on the quiz of 0-2 and a range of 0-3 on the midterm.

Evidence of Success

Using Augmented Reality videos embedded in textbooks increased students’ understandings of the paradigms and I found statistical significance when answering both of my research questions. Not only were treatment students’ scores higher on the posttest, but those students also retained their understandings of the three paradigms on two other measurements that occurred later in the semester – the quiz one week later and the midterm at the semester’s halfway point. Students’ answers were more thoughtful, detailed, and provocative, and treatment students mentioned how much they enjoyed accessing the videos. 

This session will provide participants the opportunity to see how project-based learning and innovative mobile technology motivated my students to grasp and retain complex, abstract concepts. They will learn about the instructional design components used to take a dry and boring topic and turn it into an adventure. By the end of the session, participants will see how easy it is to create their own augmented reality videos and embed them in their own textbooks and instructional materials.