As a classroom teacher, Jullia Suhyoung Lim encountered many children like her childhood friend Eddie, a passionate, playful child. Adults called him “different”; Lim later realized he was probably on the autism spectrum.
Through her classroom experience, Lim discovered that living with autism is simply just another approach to life. Still, she found that helping autistic students was a challenge.
“People kept on talking about education technology and assistive technology, but when it came to teaching, I really needed something that would help my students understand abstract concepts and apply it directly to real life,” she said. “It’s because in reality, I really struggled to make modifications that were effective.”
While researching different types of technology, she saw potential in augmented reality in helping autistic students. Lim describes augmented reality as an added layer of virtual space in what you see. Think Pokemon Go or Snapchat. She found it could help autistic students apply abstract concepts to their actual life.
Now, as a designer of AR apps for education for her company called A. Project Lab, one of the areas she’s working on is social transition for special-needs students.
When it comes to social-emotional learning, she says, there’s usually a lack of resources for students. Needs are always different, and students are not very motivated to learn.
Her answer is a HoloLens simulation game to help special-needs students in middle school with social interaction outside of the classroom.
“As students move from elementary to middle school, social dynamics change, and it becomes very stressful even for the student in the general education classroom. Now, imagine how that would be for the special-needs student. And so, I wanted to create a fun way to help students like Eddie in social transformation.”
In Lim’s HoloLens game, the teacher sets up a learning quest, where students enter a virtual situation that is customized to meet their special need.
When they put on the HoloLens, they see a virtual layer with characters that look like humans. The purpose of the game is for the students to approach the characters, interpret the situation and initiate conversation that is relevant to what they are seeing. It’s all about building social interaction skills.
“Experimenting with augmented reality has really allowed me to realize the untapped potential technology has in helping students like Eddie. I know my journey has only started, but I’m absolutely excited where this technology will take me in education.”
Watch the video below to learn more about how augmented reality can support autistic students with social emotional learning.
Jerry Fingal is a freelance writer specializing in education.