I have blogged previously about Google cardboard and its implications, which by the way look extremely promising. The draw factor for me is the ability to bring world experiences to students that may never travel. Teachers can direct their students in field trips to exotic places, historical landmarks, or scientific labs. 2016 has been dubbed the year of Virtual Reality (VR) and it seems to be living up to its namesake with seemingly every major tech firm diving headfirst into the VR or augmented reality (AR) space. As we witnessed earlier this year with the release of Pokemon Go, the idea of being able to merge the world around you with with digital augmentation is an enticing idea for users. People flocked outside in droves to try and capture as many rare Pokemons as they could find. Not only does VR and AR increase engagement, it also can be directly tied to learning outcomes and students can make real world connections to what they’re learning. Nearpod is another virtual field trip provider that seems like a great addition to the classroom. It allows teachers to upload, create and utilize virtual field trips with students using computers, tablets or their own devices. Teachers can then also add follow-up questions for assessment purposes.
The 360 degree Panoramas of places around the world can be navigated by clicking left or right or through the accelerometer on your device. These experiences are very immersive and allow students to use observational skills to make connections.
In the integration of any piece of edtech, the question always remains, “how can this technology be meaningfully integrated into the classroom?” Well, a good place to start is to read what others have tried already. Two Guys and Some IPads have explored the idea of VR and AR in the classroom and have provided a comprehensive list of ideas and tools to get started. With Elements 4D for example, you can interact with wooden element blocks that react with each other using the augmented reality app. What a great way to study chemistry. Of course there are also many apps like Anatomy 4D which allow an augmented image to appear on textbook pages or printouts. Then there’s Aurasma which was new to me. Bill and Logan did a great job of presenting this tool and I have to say, as a French Immersion teacher this was the tool that most appealed to me. The ability to embed translations onto images or words printed on paper is amazing and I hope to be able to utilize this tool in my classroom. I teach Health, Math and Wellness, and I could see this tool being used in all three instances. In Wellness for example, warm-up key phrases such as lunges, high knees, or even skills like, layup and wrist-shot could be placed around the gym. Students could then hover over the word to see a video of proper technique and how to perform the task. Students could even make their own gif files of themselves performing the task and link them in Aurasma to different pieces of Phys Ed equipment. I hope to give this idea a try in the next few weeks.
In Math, the images or vocabulary words could be linked to examples or problems to solve as students move around the room. They could also be linked to video examples of how to solve the problem. I think this would be especially cool in geometry, volume, and surface area problems in which you could embed 3D objects to help students visualize the object. In Health, the possibilities are endless really as students could be exploring human anatomy, effects of drugs and alcohol, or even infectious diseases.
Another neat tool that I came across this week was Splash. This is a tool that allows you to make 360 degree videos and post them to social media. You can label items in the videos, commentate and also ebed in a website as you can see below. The app is compatible with VR sets as well as Google Cardboard. I think it could be a neat presentation tool for students to use or a simple way for teachers to take students on a field trip or show them something nearby without having to book a bus and drive there. Click the link in this tweet to see an example.
There are a few problems with the app as it is still being refined. You can tell that the video isn’t stitched together very well. In addition, the audio will only record for about a minute or so. It’s neat to see apps being developed that could one day allow us to interact with the world that others are experiencing. I can’t begin to imagine what our students will be experiencing as far as tech developments in the future. As the technology improves I believe that students will be offered opportunities to make truly unique connections with the world around them. However, I still question whether a balance must be struck between AR/VR and the real world? Will we see more and more VR/AR in the classroom? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.