Hopping into VR and AR
This can be a hot item right now and it seems to be a polarizing one. You either love it or hate it, are willing to try or think it’s absolutely unnecessary. It gets even more polarized when you venture into the tech spec side of things. One day recently I found myself in the middle of what seemed to be the twitter war of the century about what VR tech was even worth any time using and with what age groups, and yadda, yadda, yadda. I was literally sinking into my chair as I read the never ending thread and even began feeling ashamed that I am on board to give it a go and find out the benefits and uses of it in the classroom; that’s how intense the arguments were. Have you ever witnessed a conversation online or in person that affected you so? It made me question myself, my use of VR and AR, and why I would even consider it in the first place. Whew.
Despite that conversation I stumbled upon, I kept on with VR and AR in the classroom. What I really want to do is share with you what I am up to and see what you have been working on!
Let’s start with AR (augmented reality) although you will see overlap here between AR and VR (virtual reality).
Augmented reality that I am toying with is all premade resources out there. I want to move into creating our own and have a little, but I just haven’t had the time to really invest here yet. I have been using Google Expeditions for AR and VR, but on the AR front, I most recently had my first graders “go to space” with premade resources on the app itself. They were able to manipulate comets, moons, planets, galaxies and stars. We even dabbled in taking photos of each other “holding” planets. We had one person with the iPad and another in front of the camera until we perfectly placed planets and moons “in their hands” and quickly snapped pictures. They absolutely loved this aspect of AR. A few groups played around with placing planets and moons inside the fish tank which definitely garnered a few giggles. Not only did they enjoy it, they were excited to read and learn more about these components of space.
Another AR resource we have been dabbling with is HP Reveal which was formerly named Aurasma. With this application, you can layer hidden messages, videos, and photos in everyday items and pictures. For example, take a typical trifold poster display. Each picture or component on the poster board can have an augmented reality layer, where when scanned with the HP Reveal app, unveils the hidden layer. Picture this (pun partially intended), a poster all about a famous scientist. It contains pictures and text all around. You take an iPad with the HP Reveal app and scan over the poster to a picture of Einstein in the laboratory. As you scan the screen over the picture, a video pops up of a student demonstrating a lab that Einstein used in the laboratory or the student is telling you some bonus facts! This is an augmented reality layer! Here is an example one of my classes worked on for a recent project.
Working with Virtual Reality has really been where I have concentrated most of my own content creation and energy as well as my students. For ready-made resources, I also used Google Expeditions for students to be immersed in the solar system, human body systems, and expeditions that I completed to the Amazon and Galapagos. While on expedition, I used a 360 degree camera to take footage which I then used in VR Tour Creator. Within this platform, I was able to import my 360 images and then call attention to certain details I wanted students to see within those scenes. Using Google StreeView, I actually made a Galapagos Preview tour for students about where I was going and what I anticipated experiencing. You can view it here. Since returning from Galapagos, I began (and am still editing!) this VR tour of my actual expedition. Even though it’s a work in progress still, students LOVE being able to be “in” my pictures and feel like there were there with me. Couple this with my stories from each day and they are in heaven! Imagery and storytelling are so incredibly powerful and engaging!
My students have even created their own VR tours with tour creator. They used images from streetview to create virtual tours of European countries which was a piggyback lesson I made to help reinforce their general classroom curriculum along with architecture and geographical feature study in my class. They loved being the experts, scoping the perfect pictures, and pointing out details within them for peers to experience.
I must be clear — I do not have VR goggles in my classroom. Your students do not need them, the magic is not lost, I promise. We use their chromebooks and they scroll through the images or iPads, but we do not have fancy equipment. I know that even iPads and chromebooks might be more than some classrooms have, but I do not want you to imagine that you need a lot or even any fancy equipment to make this a reality. (pun partially intended)
I now purchase a merge cube and have been jumping into exploration with it, not with students just yet, but hopefully soon.
I do have 4 Virtuali-tee shirts that I splurged on last year to complement my unit on anatomy. You just need a smart device and the shirt which is great, too.
I know there is a lot out there, and I am only scratching the surface here. I would love to hear from YOU — what are you doing, what do you want to do, what have you experienced?