Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

How Augmented Reality Enables Conceptual Understanding of Challenging Science Content

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

How Augmented Reality Enables Conceptual Understanding of Challenging Science Content

Article excerpt


Research on learning about science has revealed that students often hold robust misconceptions or naive conceptions about a number of scientific ideas (Chi, 2005; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999). For example, studies on student understanding of the Bernoulli's principle, which is the subject of our exploration, have shown that students find learning the content challenging due to, among other things, the counterintuitive experiences of pressure-related events observed in the real world (Stepans, 2003).

Digital simulation and dynamic visualization tools have helped to ameliorate these learning challenges by providing scaffolding (Honey & Hilton, 2011; Kim & Hannafin, 2011) to understand various aspects of phenomenon that may contribute to misconceptions. Related to this, a recent focus in the learning sciences has investigated how augmented reality (AR) tools can support science learning (Dunleavy, Dede, & Mitchell, 2009; Dunleavy & Dede, 2014; Klopfer & Squire, 2008). At its simplest, augmented reality describes systems that integrate computer-generated virtual elements or information (known as "digital augmentations") with the real world environment (Zhou et al., 2008). By superimposing virtual elements onto the real world environments, AR allows users to experience and perceive the newly incorporated information as part of their present world, thereby enhancing their perception of the real world (Kirkley & Kirkley, 2004; New Media Consortium, 2012). Everyday examples of AR include Google Effects in Hangouts, AR games for Nintendo 3DS, and Webcam Greeting cards from Hallmark.

Over the last 4 years, our project, Augmented Reality for Interpretive and Experiential Learning (ARIEL), has investigated optimal uses of AR in science museums (e.g., Yoon, Elinich, Wang, Steinmeier, & Tucker, 2012a; Yoon, Elinich, Wang, Van Schooneveld, & Anderson, 2013; Yoon & Wang, 2014), where misconceptions about science are rarely addressed. In this study, we hypothesized that the use of AR, because it provides a visualization of the underlying causal mechanisms, can assist students in developing a more accurate conception of Bernoulli's principle. We found that after participating in brief, informal investigations of the principle at a science museum, students who interacted with an exhibit using AR were better able to understand the science than students in a non-AR condition. Findings from our interviews and surveys suggest that the tool supported students' learning by revealing typically invisible features of the phenomenon.

Theoretical considerations

Common misconceptions and challenges associated with understanding Bernoulli's principle

Bernoulli's principle states that "when an incompressible, smoothly flowing fluid gains speed, internal pressure in the fluid decreases, and vice versa" (Hewitt, 2004). In other words, there is an inversely proportional relationship between fluid speed and pressure. When the fluid's speed increases, the pressure drops. As it turns out, this is a conceptually challenging and counterintuitive idea to understand for students, who typically believe that when speed increases, so does the pressure (Faulkner & Ytreberg, 2011). Stepans (2003) explains,

   Children learn from experience that when they blow on
   something--like a bubble or dandelion plume--it goes away. These
   experiences make it difficult to make sense of the fact that when
   you blow on a surface, it comes toward you, or that when you blow
   between things, they come together. These experiences make it
   difficult to accept the concept of Bernoulli's Principle. (p. 46)

In a test given to private and public 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Turkish students on the outcomes of discrepant events related to Bernoulli's principle, Bulunuz, Jarrett, and Bulunuz (2009) found that the majority of students held incorrect conceptions of the phenomenon. …

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