Posted on March 27, 2019 by staff

‘Amazing’ AR is new frontier in education


Augmented reality is making great strides in boosting the learning experience for children, according to the CTO of growing technology firm Twinkl.

The educational publisher, which has over four million members worldwide, creates online teaching and learning materials for educators and schools.

Founded in 2010, it employs around 500 people around the world, with a head office in Sheffield, a tech hub in Manchester and a base in Wollongong, Australia.

The company recently unveiled augmented reality game ARchitect at Bett, which has been developed for Apple devices and challenges children to build a structure using a range of textures while battling against real world physics.

Its tech can also help children gauge the size of animals by displaying 3D images of them in a real space when viewed through the iPhone or iPad camera app.

“The ability to see an elephant or dinosaur full-size in your garden or local park is amazing,” CTO Pete Casson told BusinessCloud at Sheffield Digital’s showcase event.

“Giving them that technology in their hands is a new way of learning that really does increase engagement in children. It inspires them.

“Once they are involved in a subject, children are the best at asking questions and going off on a fantastic tangent. If they’ve got a Roman in front of them, they’ll start asking: ‘What’s that shield for? Why are they dressed like that?’ That is all stimulated by the visual inputs that AR can give you.

“It’s a fun learning experience where the kids don’t even realise they’re learning. They’re just enjoying playing the game and the learning is the icing on the cake in the whole experience.”

Every month around 8.1 million resources are downloaded from the Twinkl website. One popular story is Little Red, which is aimed at five-year-olds.

“They’re just learning to read and write so you can’t have long text – you’re very much visually driven,” explained Casson. “We’ve developed the application so English isn’t required to use it.

“As a result we’ve seen very large adoption by non-English native speaking countries: eight of the top 10 countries that use Little Red have English as a secondary language. That just happened naturally.

“AR is a universal language.”

AR can bring elements of a story to life, allowing children to interact with them. This reinforces learning, says Casson, who highlights a story about recycling where they can pick up virtual litter and place it in the bin.

“AR needs to be used alongside existing teaching methods in the classroom, and in a responsible fashion – it isn’t about shoehorning tech in for the sake of it,” he said.

“It’s about using it with the right children at the right time in the right subjects. We’re worked hard to educate teachers around the world on where it should be used.”

Twinkl, which today announces a nationwide schools campaign challenging children to use AR to build a robot that can move through the terrain on Mars, is working with Google to bring its AR tech to Android devices.

The company has grown from 150 staff in 2014 to 500 today and Casson says “that rate of growth is not slowing down”.