Imagine that you are a struggling reader. You dread reading… in any class. You feel like a failure and you’re starting to hate school. One day your science teacher brings a Microsoft HoloLens headset. You put on the mixed reality glasses and pick up the scientific paper the professor wants you to read. You start reading reluctantly.
After just a few sentences, you’re lost because you don’t know what “light energy” means. Because your eyes have rested on that sentence, an animation jumps off the page through the glasses demonstrating an example of the concept with a voice-over explanation. Moments later, you read the word “photosynthesis” and another animation appears with an audio explanation. Suddenly, reading in science class takes on a whole new emotion…you feel successful and are even interested in learning more about science.
Characteristics of struggling readers
Some students have trouble reading, and it’s a complicated situation. First of all, they fight against anxiety. High anxiety is often present in struggling readers, and they tend to have reading anxiety alongside general anxiety. Second, low-ability readers have a hard time motivating themselves. Essentially, struggling readers have low self-concept in reading, which is linked to lower motivation. Third, struggling readers have low scores. Given high anxiety and low motivation, struggling readers only succeed at low reading levels. For these readers in difficulty, current teaching methods are insufficient… and they fall behind.
Scientific reading in mixed reality
At East Carolina University, we wanted to create something unusual, so we created a science reading experience for 5and grade students using Microsoft HoloLens. HoloLens is mixed reality technology: it merges the real and virtual worlds to produce something entirely new. Young readers wore the mixed reality glasses and then viewed a page of science text in the real world. But we programmed HoloLens to provide additional content in the virtual world that could only be seen and heard through the glasses. Because abstract concepts can be intimidating for young learners, we focused on providing additional information for difficult science concepts. When students’ eyes rested on a particularly difficult word or phrase, the glasses delivered audio-visual information to supplement the reading.