Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

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:

3 Replies to “Hesitant to #ARVRinEDU”

  • Kyle, I teach 3rd over at Underwood, and we recently hosted Google to demo their AR Expeditions. We are studying the skeletal system, and I used this experience for students to dig deeper into the standards. They were able to identify ball and socket, hinge, gliding, and pivot joints. They were able to tell me that of the 22 bones in the skull, 8 were cranial bones and 14 were facial bones. I was able to highlight the five types of bones and students identified them and could see that flat bones like the ribs and sternum provide protection, long bones like the femur provide support, and short bones like phalanges are helpful for movement. Don’t get me wrong, they could do this with a simple diagram, as well. But, their level of engagement was through the roof. They were taking notes, exploring, and asking and answering questions. Yes, it was loud. Yes, I had to use a lot of call and response to make sure everyone was focused on the questions I was asking. But, overall I was able to teach the standards with AR in an engaging and meaningful way! I’d say give it another try!

    • Hi, Megan. First of all, thanks for taking time to read and comment, I really appreciate that. And what an exciting way to teach #sci3L11.

      Sounds like the 3D experience greatly inspired and enhanced their learning. Thanks for the encouragement to give it another try.

      My only question though–Is it sustainable? Do you still have access to Google AR Expeditions? Can you do it again next week, or what is the cost to purchase? I’ve heard so much about those in recent months, but I’ve always been scared to ask exactly these kinds of questions. Then again, if it’s to enliven student learning, then I guess these are exactly the kinds of questions we should be asking.

      Hope all is well, and thanks for stopping by!

  • Hi Kyle and Megan,

    I am here for the discussion! The answer to your question you posed to Megan are no…the AR experience was a beta test. We benefited from their study. With the year’s worth of feedback they collected, they will create the Pioneer AR program for a later release. It, like expeditions (VR), will be free and AR will be even more accessible to do over and over more so than the VR. With VR, you do need to acquire goggles and devices to fit inside them. But from there, it is a free app with over 700 expeditions to embark on. The feedback I gave our Google Pioneer rep was that I liked the AR better than the VR because 1) there is more face to face interaction being outside the goggles…you are still in the room with each other and 2) you can do it on ANY device able to run the app…phone, iPods, iPads….way more accessible. But there is absolutely genuine standards based learning from both if you take the lead and be a stong facilitator, guiding the discussions, asking the inquire questions….and why not model enough to let the KIDS create their own scripts and inquiries as time goes by?!

    As for your experience that turned you off years ago with the coloring a picture and seeing it pop up into 3D that lacked SCOS….and with the so far inaccessible AR program, I think it is extremely important to expose kids to the potential of the future. You have heard as many times as I have that we are preparing kids for a future we can’t even predict yet. I think there is sincere value in exposing kids to “potential” of technology in order for them to set their sights on creative applications of other opportunities you might provide them. I think it is BETTER to expose them to such “non SCOS” opportunities in our presence (at school) where we can suggest useful applications of these things more so than letting them explore ONLY at home where they may waste the connection to real learning.

    So, not everything has to be SCOS every single moment. Sometimes critical thinking alone is a good thing. And planting a seed may lead to unimaginable outcomes down the road. Go ahead and make sure you are teaching your curriculum with fidelity, but why not plant a seed by itself from time to time? The 4Cs are a separate piece of the Strategic Plan…often able to be interwoven with standards, but they, too, can stand alone and that is still ok!

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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