DA op-ed: A digital world of learning possibilities
(This is the first of two articles on AR/VR technology in the classroom.)
One of my favorite things about the Future of Education Technology Conference is that there are so many interesting topics to explore when it comes to emerging technology. One area that I enjoy presenting on is augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). AR and VR are beginning to take their place in K-12 and higher ed classrooms, with new apps and ideas for their use coming out every day.
Using AR and VR may seem overwhelming at first, but one of the best ways to learn more is to connect with your personal learning network, and then share stories of how you use it in your classroom and follow the topic on social media.
Why should you use AR and VR?
Some wonder about the benefits of using AR and VR, and how to implement the technologies into different content areas and grade levels. In her book Learning Transported (ISTE, 2018), author Jaime Donally focuses a chapter on the reasons that we should welcome these tools into our classrooms. The possibilities for more authentic learning in innovative learning spaces are increased with these tools.
AR and VR can provide powerful opportunities for students to have more control over their learning and to engage with the content in a personalized way. For example, students can use these technologies to travel around the world, explore outer space, or have a hands-on experience with places and objects—all of which will help them make a better and more authentic connection to what they are learning.
We can also use these technologies to help students build their critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They can become creators of their own AR and VR experiences.
One concern that educators often express when using new edtech is not being able to answer a student’s question. Relax. AR and VR are new. We cannot possibly know everything about them, and we need to be comfortable with learning with and from our students. Whether you are just getting started or you are already using these tools, there will be many more opportunities to learn at FETC 2020.
Tools to help you get started
It can be difficult to figure out how to get started using AR and VR. Here are three tools to try that offer many options for classroom use as well as ready-made examples or lessons.
Nearpod is a versatile tool. I started using its VR Field Trips feature in my Spanish classes a few years ago, and even more places and 3D shapes have been added to explore.
Metaverse enables the user to create an immersive “experience” for students, giving them many ways to interact with content. Some educators have even created assessments using Metaverse, but it is a great tool to have students design their own unique experiences, too. Metaverse also has a library of helpful tutorial videos.
3DBear is great to use for creative storytelling. The best part is the number of choices available. There are so many objects that can be added to create a story, making it easy to integrate this tool into any content area. There are also short video tutorials available on the 3D Bear website to help with designing, setting up classes, and using the lesson plans and teacher dashboards.
Learn by doing
So what’s the learning curve with some of these tools? It depends. Personally, I prefer to struggle and figure things out on my own first rather than ask for help. After my trial and error efforts,, I will then look for video tutorials, request help by using website chat features, or connect with other educators in education communities found on social media. My best advice is to choose one tool, explore just enough to get the students started, and then let them begin their own learning journey. I also recommend following #ARVRinEDU on Twitter and checking out Jaime Donally’s website www.arvrinedu.com.
Rachelle Dene Poth is a foreign language and STEAM teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. She is also an attorney and serves as president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. Rachelle will be a featured speaker at DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference®.
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