Augmented learning, smart glasses and knowing how

by Wulf Loh & Catrin Misselhorn (2020)

While recent studies suggest that augmented learning employing smart glasses (ALSG) increases overall learning performance, in this paper we are more interested in the question which repercussions ALSG will have on the type of knowledge that is acquired. Drawing from the theoretical discussion within epistemology about the differences between Knowledge-How and Knowledge-That, we will argue that ALSG furthers understanding as a series of epistemic and non-epistemic Knowing-Hows. Focusing on academic knowledge acquisition, especially with respect to early curriculum experiments in various STEM disciplines as investigated by the BmBF “Be-Greifen” project, we take the Be-Greifen holo.lab setup as an example for showing that ALSG shifts the learning focus from propositional knowledge to epistemic competencies, which can be differentiated as “grasping”, “wielding”, and “transferring”.

Higher education
Augmented reality
Smart glasses
Assistive technology

Int. Center for Ethics in the Sciences and Humanities (IZEW), University of Tuebingen, Wilhelmstr. 19, 72074, Tuebingen, Germany (Wulf Loh)
Department of Philosophy, Institute of Philosophy; Chair of the Philosophy of Science and Technology, University of Stuttgart, Seidenstr. 36, 70174, Stuttgart, Germany (Catrin Misselhorn)


Loh, Wulf / Misselhorn, Catrin
Augmented learning, smart glasses and knowing how.
In: AI & Society 35 (Mar 2020), pp. 297–308.


1. As we will see later on, this shift is nonetheless accompanied with an increase of “understanding” as an ability—a “knowledge-how”. However, the paper does not focus on this increase, but rather on the shift itself.
2. For a detailed description of the setup, the experiment and the results, see Strzys et al. (2018).
3. For a detailed account about whether Ryle should be regarded as a “moderate” or a “radical” anti-intellectualist, see Fantl 2012.
4. We are not so much concerned here with the linguistic distinction between “Hannah knows that p” or “Hannah knows how to φ” (Stanley and Williamson 2001), since framing the KT/KH debate in this way already presupposes an intellectualist conception of KH, in the sense that the locutions “p” or “φ” are merely syntactically preceded by a different illocution (“knows that”, “knows how”, “knows why”, etc.).
5. Cf. also on this the SECI model (Nonaka and Takeuchi 1995), in which knowledge creation and diffusion are modelled as going back and forth between processes of explicit (externalization, combination) and implicit (internalization, socialization) knowledge creation and transfer.
6. This even holds true for KH such as riding a bike, where the rules of the practice are in great part determined by physical laws rather than social norms. However, what counts as successfully riding a bike is still subject to the interpretation by the other participants and therefore also by practice-internal “standards of excellence” (MacIntyre 1985).
7. We stick with the term “competency” rather than “competence”, as it is the term primarily used in the literature (Jones et al. 2001; Voorhees 2001).
8. Cf. Baumberger 2014, Elgin 2017; Kvanvig 2003, Strevens 2013.
9. We do not make use of the more in-depth descriptions from Baumberger 2014, Grimm 2006, and Pritchard 2010, which spell out grasping in more detail as being able to explain why p holds, as well as being able form counterfactuals. This is because these accounts focus on explanatory understanding, i.e. where “the vehicle is an explanation that answers the why-question and the object is a phenomenon like an event” (Baumberger 2014), rather than objectual understanding, i.e. “when understanding grammatically is followed by an object, as in understanding the presidency, or the president, or politics, or the English language” (Kvanvig 2003). For the purposes of this paper, we concentrate on the objectual understanding of an academic subject matter within the STEM disciplines, e.g. thermodynamics, viscosity, or Newtonian physics in general.
10. Nothing that we say here, however, precludes the possibility to apply our findings to other academic learning contexts or any learning context for that matter.
11. We cannot go into detail here as to which design principles have to be adhered to in order to not inappropriately “railroad” the learner and undermine her autonomy. Most design principles of AREs so far are based on occlusion and attention, rather than on autonomy (Schmalstieg and Hollerer 2016).
12. In the field of game studies and videogame theory, actional involvement is described as tying the player to the game by endowing her with the capacity to intervene and manipulate gameplay (Isbister 2017; Poole 2000; Vorderer 2006). Whether this analogy actually puts AREs in general and ALSG in particular in the vicinity of “gamifying” Deterding et al. (2011) the learning experience, is a question that merits further analysis.
13. There are studies as to whether ALSG increases overall learning performance (cf. Santos et al. 2014), but not whether employing ALSG might shift the kind of knowledge that is acquired. As the shift from KT to KH facilitates access to and availability of knowledge (Seel 2003), the increase in learning performance may not only be attributed to the decrease in cognitive load, but also in part to this shift. To validate this hypothesis, however, more research would be needed.

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