Accessing Augmented Reality Experiences

Below I give an overview of why I use an Augmented Reality approach followed by a link to three existing app-based experiences I have created for my UBC students.

Why Augmented Reality?

One of the fundamental aspects of beginning a learning journey is to start by understanding where you are—your local place and context. The undergraduate students I work with at UBC are from all over the world, have experienced various institutional learning contexts, and have diverse cultural learning preferences. I adopt experiential pedagogies (Kiili, 2005; Kolb, 1984) to help students exercise awareness of their learning process while deepening their geographical imaginations (Mills, 1959; Norton, 1989). As Sinacore & Boatwright (2005, p. 110) argue, “students know how to receive knowledge; what they lack is experience assuming prominent and active roles regarding their learning”. Experiential opportunities can create “critical citizens who are able to exercise power over their own lives and especially over the conditions of knowledge production and acquisition” (Giroux 1997, p. 218). Class field trips are one way I have cultivated students’ spatial and sociohistorically-specific awareness and hence their experiential learning. Yet field trips can be logistically challenging and costly with larger classes (Friess et al., 2016). The use of geospatial aware technology and AR is one path allowing me to address experiential learning in my courses.

Geospatial aware experiences and maps are embedded in everyday life beyond the ‘traditional’ use of directional navigation (e.g. Google Maps), and have immense potential to enhance learning Farman, 2014; Nah, Zeng, Telaprolu, Ayyappa & Eschenbrenner, 2014). Yet, geospatial experiences are underdeveloped in educational contexts. The use of public spaces or public discourse in education is an important part of experiential learning, but is challenging in larger courses. AR technologies allow educators to bring the machine out into the world through a combination of simulated objects embedded in the “real” world. In the search for ways to make social justice and public engagement more real for our students, the ability to not just manipulate the spaces of the classroom but to make actual public spaces into ‘classrooms’ is central and so the use of AR technologies is an important avenue.

Using technology provided by a startup company (, I researched disciplinary content and developed an app-based experience that students could download to their smartphones. Using their smartphones gives students independence and control over their learning process. The audio triggered as students approached relevant locations in the city and quizzes and archival images popped up at designated GPS points. Engagement through gamification and interactive elements in public spaces uses technology valued by  students and enables a seamless incorporation of experiential learning. It also facilitates the need to adapt curriculum based on the diversity of  students’ educational and cultural learning experiences.


Farman, J. (2014). Map interfaces and the production of locative media space. In Locative Media (pp. 99-109). Routledge.

Friess, D. A., Oliver, G. J., Quak, M. S., & Lau, A. Y. (2016). Incorporating “virtual” and “real world” field trips into introductory geography modules. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 40(4), 546-564.

Giroux, H. (1997). Pedagogy and the politics of hope. Boulder, CO: Westview.

Kiili, K. (2005). Digital game-based learning: Towards an experiential gaming model. The Internet and Higher Education, 8(1), 13–24.

Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Prentice.

Mills, C. Wright (1959) The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nah, F. F. H., Zeng, Q., Telaprolu, V. R., Ayyappa, A. P., & Eschenbrenner, B. (2014). Gamification of education: a review of literature. In International conference on hci in business (pp. 401-409). Springer, Cham.

Norton, W. (1989). Human geography and the geographical imagination. Journal of Geography, 88(5), 186-192.

Sinacore, A. L., & Boatwright, K. J. (2005). The Feminist Classroom: Feminist Strategies and Student Responses. In C. Z. Enns & A. L. Sinacore (Eds.), Teaching and social justice: Integrating multicultural and feminist theories in the classroom(pp. 109-124). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association.

UBC AR experiences:

  1. Political Economy History of Downtown Vancouver – location based AR experience
  2. ‘Journey with Me’ – movement based AR experience on the lives of five Syrian refugees making their way from civil war to Vancouver
  3. Congress 2019 – location and visual based AR experience providing a short tour of UBC campus for Congress 2019 participants



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