Home > Research > Project 7

Using Augmented Reality Applications to Foster Learning and Engagement of History



  • Kevin Kee (Brock U., Theme 1)
  • Eric Poitras (U. of Utah, Theme 1)
  • Susanne P. Lajoie (McGill U., Theme 1)

Research Assistants:

  • Dr. Jason Harley (McGill U./U. de Montréal)
  • Amanda Jarrell (McGill U.)
  • Melissa Duffy (McGill U.)
  • Thimothy Compeau (Brock U.)
  • Hillary Guigan (Brock U.)


Recent advances in computational techniques (e.g., text mining, machine learning, social network analysis, and dynamic visualization) and tools (e.g., databases, web crawlers, search platforms, and geographic information systems) have fundamentaly changed humanities research, and led to the creation of a new field called digital humanities, to capitalize on these new forms of digital media (Kee & Darbyson, 2011; Turkel, Roberts, & Kee, in press). Augmented reality is one such technology that enables to add virtual objects to real scenes, thereby enriching our understanding of the past by adding missing information (Kee, under review; Squire & Klopfer, 2007; Sayed, Zayed, & Sharawy, 2011). The existing research in ubiquitous computing has yet to address the assessment and appraisal of learning and engagement in the context of augmented reality applications on mobile platforms. As such, there is a pressing need to create principled and replicable methodologies that are appropriate in terms of evaluating mobile applications with the goals of assessing, adapting, as well as enhancing learning and engagment.

This proposal builds on and extends our funded research in the use and creation of mobile augmented reality applications with the goal of promoting learning and instruction about history. In particular, the proposed program of research focuses on the development, evaluation, and improvement of Niagara 1812: Return of the Fenian Shadow (set in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake) and Queenston 1812: The Bomber’s Plot (set in the town of Queenston), an augmented reality application for the iPhone (see Figure 1; www.ihistorytours.com). The mobile applications were designed and developed by Dr. Kevin Kee and his team in collaboration with nGen-Niagara Interactive Media Generator, and funded by the Ontario Media Development Corporation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. The applications were designed as a historical and interactive tour in order to provide interesting facts and stories in relation to pivotal moments in shaping our nations’ history. For instance, the quest mode allows users – tourists and tour guides, students, and historians – to navigate important landmarks through a guided walking tour of these historical towns and solve a century-old mistery. In doing so, users are immersed in the past, and try, for instance, to uncover the wrongdoers that were responsible for the bombing of Brock’s Monument in 1840.

The objective of this research proposal is two-fold. First, we aim to evaluate mobile augmented reality applications in terms of fostering learning and engagement in relation to both the people who create them, and those who use them. Second, we aim to further promote learning and engagement by embedding dynamic assessment mechanisms within the application as a means to adaptively modify the content that is provided to the users and improve their experience. In doing so, we address several questions: (1) What are the impacts of the principles and elements of design of mobile augmented reality applications towards the learning and engagement of their creators and end-users?; (2) What are the antecedents of particular cognitive and affective processes?; (3) What are the functions of these processes in the context of learning and instruction about history?; (4) How can we best assess learning and engagement in authentic and realistic environments? This proposal explains how we plan to address each question by (1) outlining the theories that define learning and engagement, (2) the instructional approaches that underlies, responds, and affects these experiences, and (3) the methodologies and analyses that guides the evaluation of learning with mobile augmented reality applications, both in terms of the processes involved in how they are created and used.