For years I’ve shied away from it. Today, I’m breaking my silence.

Ignorance was–and sometimes still is–bliss.

What is augmented reality? What is virtual reality? What is the difference?

The world of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) can really light up your eyes. Literally. With a pair of goggles, you can find yourself walking thru the rain forest, swimming thru the Great Barrier Reef, or even grasping the rings of Saturn. You can manipulate or transform a two-dimensional picture into a three-dimensional hologram. It’s almost like you’re living in an enhanced–or a whole new–world.

Blogger’s Warning: This next part may upset some readers, and I’m sharing, because I sincerely want to be proven wrong. I want you to change my mind. #ARVRinEDU is cool, and I think it has genuine potential for substantial learning. Someday.

Especially as a fourteen-year, former fifth grade classroom teacher, I’ve really wrestled with integrating AR/VR for these reasons:

  • Learning Value: AR/VR is flashy and fun, but do kids learn anything?
  • Learning Potential: Can I prove that AR/VR enhances standards-based learning?
  • Cost: If I’m questioning the learning value, how can I beg my PTA, Donor’s Choose, or grant opportunities that 3D is worth the cost compared to other requests?
  • Time: Is the setup time worth the potential student learning experienced?
  • Technology: Are accounts licensed, paid or free, requiring email?
  • Legalities: Is it age-appropriate, school-appropriate, district-approved?
  • Longevity: Will I use it more than once a year?
  • Flexibility: Can I use it for more than one lesson or subject?

These are just a few criteria educators consider when selecting resources to facilitate meaningful learning experiences.

When evaluating resources for any learning experience, I think educators far too often choose one OR the other. Either something is really fun, but doesn’t instill a meaningful sense of learning, or something is grounded in standards and fails to connect with kids.

But why is that? Why does standards-based learning imply little fun, while having fun implies minimal, substantial learning?

I’m not settling. I refuse to choose between the two. I want BOTH. I want both fun AND learning. And I want it now!

One of the biggest challenges in education today is facilitating learning experiences that are meaningful, memorable, relevant, engaging, fun, and student-centered, while still learning curriculum and standards.

I guess my personal conflict with AR/VR began long ago. I saw little to no learning value or potential with coloring a picture on a paper, scanning it, and looking at a 3D hologram that popped up in your face–which was really cool–albeit with few interactive options, student ownership, or creation opportunities.

And I tried. HARD. So, so badly, I wanted this really cool-looking gadget to inspire learning and empower students. A huge part of me also wanted to wow my students with something they hadn’t seen before. I wanted to be the first of my colleagues to do this. I wanted to see students’ eyes light up. I wanted to be that teacher that was techy and cool.

But I just couldn’t do it.

I couldn’t settle. I saw fun and engaging, but I saw little learning value in the coloring activities brought to life by this very popular augmented reality app.

Still, AR/VR plays a huge role in the world beyond our public education settings. Doctors, engineers, and even lawyers use AR/VR to enhance their work through simulation. Therefore, there must be some considerable, real world value in AR/VR, but we just haven’t seen it come into fruition in a meaningful way in our learning spaces. Yet. Right?

But then again, I really don’t know that much about AR/VR. Do I have it all wrong? Is AR/VR more about the experience, and not specific learning targets?

Am I on the right track here? Please provide feedback and comment below.

(End Blogger’s Warning)

Recently, I attended Edcamp Beach. Eager to learn, I participated in a session on #ARVRinEDU. An instructional technology facilitator (who I had followed on twitter for a long time) had Merge Cubes. As a result, I finally tried VR. I bought in to Merge Cubes and the Dig! for Merge Cubes app. Here’s why:

  • I had a chance to try it out at an edcamp first.
  • I had advice from a specialist in the field.
  • Merge Cubes cost $1.00 each.
  • I spent my own money.
  • Many Merge Cube apps are free.
  • Dig! for Merge Cubes app is for 3D creation (not consumption).
  • Merge Cubes are both screens AND hands-on learning.
  • I envisioned fun AND learning thru real-world challenges.
  • I proved standards-based learning waaay before investment.

My Journey So Far: