When you think about how Mixed Reality improves learning, you think about interactive visual trainings. You imagine students fully immersed in an environment where teachings are brought to life. You envision students engaging with a digital twin hologram of a human body or other different simulations. The last thing you would imagine Mixed Reality being used for is to read regular text off a book or a piece of paper. Why would such a high-tech piece of equipment be used help with reading?
East Carolina University is currently working on a proof of concept with Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headset the HoloLens, to help 5th graders who struggle with reading. A common problem researcher found was that when kids were asked to read out loud, they struggled with the text. Students develop a reading anxiety in addition to overall general anxiety. This affects student motivation and affects their desire to improved, resulting in low proficiency reading level. In short once young students reading level fall behind, they are likely to remain behind using common instructional methods.
The project serves as an aid to help students who have low reading proficiency levels and struggle to keep up with their grade level. How this project works is students put the headset on and read like they normally would. A powerful eye tracking camera on the HoloLens will notice whenever a student is stuck on a word or phrase. An animation and audio recording will come to life to explain the word or phrase they are stuck with. For example, let’s say a student does not know what photosynthesis is or means. An animation will demonstrate and explain the process. The program has started off with a focus on science or what they like to call it “read-to-learn science.” As you can imagine that this could be used in history, English, and just about any subject you can think about.
Why is this method using Mixed Reality better than traditional reading? During the project researchers found that with all the audio-visual technology students read better from paper than screens. The HoloLens and Mixed Reality allows students to continue reading normally and enhances the experience. Like mentioned before the HoloLens provide an aid but also keeps the user experience individualized. This allows students to learn at their own pace and with the comfort knowing that no one can judge them. The project has been a success with anxiety levels decreasing and reading levels increasing.