Augmented reality (AR) is entering the classroom with a roar! Educators and students everywhere are becoming immediately engaged and amazed by the endless possibilities these virtual worlds unlock. Now is a great time to familiarize yourself with this game-changing tech for your classroom and see what it can do for your learners.
So, What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is a technology that uses the existing environment and overlays new digital information to enhance the real world. It can be as easy and user-friendly as downloading an AR app on your device. And great apps are available. Choose a path for your lessons, download an app, and play with it!
Still can’t visualize it? I was first exposed to AR in 2015 while visiting my nephew and his family. His daughter couldn’t wait to show us her latest creation of her “dog dad.” She took a photo of her dad and, with the help of Snapchat, added a cartoon dog’s ears, nose, whiskers, and mouth over his image. Ta-da! Dog dad!
Not too long after that, the Pokémon Go craze swept the world. Kids and adults alike couldn’t wait to use their smartphones, follow the directions around town, and find the Pokémon creatures captured by their screens. Over one billion lifetime downloads occurred since its release in 2016.
EdTech companies soon realized the potential AR had for the classroom and began developing apps with pedagogical precision, consequently introducing an exciting new element to instruction and enhancing student achievement outcomes.
Which AR Apps to Try First
Two new AR apps quickly gaining popularity are TimePod Adventures and Sandbox AR from Discovery Education.
TimePod Adventures offers a narrative-driven learning experience where students immerse themselves in three-dimensional storylines that spark their curiosity and inspire them to investigate, collaborate, and solve problems. To bring the magic to life, all you need is an iPhone or iPad and you’ll find students hooked and naturally engaged.
Sandbox AR is a “maker” app that allows students and teachers to create, share, and even inhabit a virtual environment. Imagine your students immersing themselves in ancient Egypt, or exploring space without ever leaving the ground! Once again, all it takes is an iPad, a flat surface, and augmented worlds come to life as students add artifacts, buildings, and scenery to create their own virtual “sandbox.”
See Sandbox AR in action
If you have room, you can even scale up to life-size mode, letting students walk through this fascinating virtual world. What kid wouldn’t love that?! By using Sandbox AR in their work, students can create memorable moments that embed knowledge and understanding while fueling a deep desire to learn more.
To introduce this AR technology, take advantage of DE’s Sandbox Quick Start Guide and pre-made lessons that help lead augmented reality integration into classroom instruction.
Get started by choosing a template like a city and have each student add 3D objects to the landscape until the scene is built out. Let them experiment with the app and unleash their own creativity. You’ll find students eager to not only explore the pre-built worlds in Sandbox AR, but build their own sandbox to dive deeper into lesson concepts and demonstrate what they’ve learned. The possibilities with AR in the classroom are truly endless.
Unlock New Levels of Student Understanding
DE’s Senior Director of Immersive Content Phil Birchinall, FRSA, sees all kinds of educational uses for this tech. “If they’re using and experiencing an Egyptian temple, students can write more expressively because they’ve actually been there.” He explains that their knowledge of the subject matter is deeper, adding to the sophistication of their understanding.
According to Birchinall, augmented reality has a firm place in the future of education. Using AR creates an emotional response in students “that really makes them stop in their tracks and go, ‘Whoa! What’s happening here?’” That intense, emotional reaction prepares them for learning, and as students continue to immerse themselves in the material, the quality, speed, and depth of understanding become manifest.
As with all technology, the landscape is constantly changing, and more exciting iterations are on the way. DE, for example, will add green screen capabilities to the app in the near future. Imagine a student taking classmates on a Virtual Field Trip to the Grand Canyon, or explaining a math concept using fun digital objects to present the material. Creativity is front and center. Additionally, companies are working on field-of-view optical displays (glasses and goggles) that will result in a hands-free interface. Eventually, the need to hold a phone or tablet up to experience AR will fade away.
Birchinall’s advice to new users: “Always, always play with it as an individual teacher. Understand the breadth and limitations of it.” He also recommends teachers give students time to really play with it. They’re naturally curious and “will take it to levels we would never think of!” “Be brave,” he urges. “Don’t feel you have to have the answers to everything; let [your students] take you on a journey. And don’t always be a ‘teacher.’ Be a learner and learn alongside your students.” Remember the popularity of the Pokémon Go and Snapchat craze? “Their minds are so open to it—it’s their world!”
About the Author
Rose Lattanze is an educational consultant and writer helping educators blend technology with instructional growth. She trained in Dr. Robert Marzano’s research-based instructional strategies, serving schools and districts as they transformed from teacher-based to student-based instruction. Currently, she writes about all things education for various EdTech companies.