Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in the Classroom

As expectations change in our classrooms today, one aspect of education that is expanding along with it is the application of Alternate Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) in education.  Covid-19 has presented educators with many challenges and adapting to online classes has opened doors to resources that have previously been untapped.  Educators have also had to adapt to the restrictions placed on schools related to field trips, guest speakers, and cooperative learning.  Alternate Reality and Virtual Reality are systems that have assisted educators in overcoming restrictions, adapting lessons, and reaching more students.  For more information on AR and VR in the classroom, visit the article AR and VR in the Classroom .  It is a great article with details about why AR and VR in education is so important.

There are two concepts to consider related to AR and VR in education.  First is the hardware and systems needed to access and run the programs.  Second is the software and applications that will be accessed using the hardware.  In this article I will discuss each of these and several examples that have proven to be high quality resources for the average  classroom.

AR and VR Systems or Hardware

AR VR hardwareBefore a student can access quality AR or VR software in education, they must have the appropriate hardware.  Two items that the average classroom has regular access to is a basic desktop computer or a tablet.  Since Covid-19, the federal government has given schools funds to update or increase their technology through the CARES Act.  Many schools have taken this opportunity to update the basic technology in the classrooms.  This new technology may also include laptops or Chromebooks.

Additionally, funds could be used to purchase other types of technology like AR and VR systems or hardware.  Listed below are 5 systems or hardware that have proven to be of high quality and readily available to an average classroom.

Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality 

Microsoft offers tablets and computers that are compatible with all of the available apps on the market right now.  Microsoft also offers an abundance of professional learning opportunities.  This aspect of their site is extremely beneficial and discusses not only their hardware and software, but also how to apply it in the classroom.  This professional development includes Using Office 365 apps in the classroom, Self-Paced Professional Development, and live professional development sessions.

Google Cardboard

Google Cardboard is a product that can be used in conjunction with a smartphone to experience virtual reality.  Google Cardboard is the most cost-effective product for viewing the many apps available.  There are a variety of sizes of Google Cardboard to better match the size of the smartphone that will be used to view the apps.  Although Google Cardboard is only a viewer, it allows a school to purchase viewers for students to use with phones that are owned by the students.  Another possibility is to purchase more affordable smartphones that can be connected to the school’s WiFi to experience Virtual Reality.

Apple AR

Apple® products are designed for Augmented Reality experiences and include high quality cameras, advanced displays, motion sensors, and graphics processors.  Support for AR is built directly into iOS and iPadOS®, so you can experience AR not only from an app, but also within Safari, Mail, Messages, Files, and more using AR Quick Look.  Purchasing hardware from Apple is done directly through their Apple Education Department.  These products are developed to be able to access the many apps that are also Apple® products that can be downloaded from the App Store®.  Additional teacher resources can be accessed here.

RobotLAB

RobotLAB sells classroom VR headsets and teacher tablets.  The headsets are preloaded with Google Expeditions and Cardboard Camera Apps.  Using the content of the classroom kits, teachers can expose their students to virtual field trips on Google Expeditions, Google Street View Content, or with Tour Creator, virtual reality tours can be created using footage from 360º cameras. Each Google Expeditions kit includes a 360º camera for creating your own personalized virtual reality tours.  Complete kits include the following: Student headsets, rapid charger, WiFi Router, charging case or cart, and onboarding sessions.

Redbox VR

Redbox VR sells classroom AR and VR kits.  The kits can include teaching devices, student devices, and charging stations.  The teaching device is a Full HD Android tablet that allows the teacher to guide the experience for the students.  The student device comes in two parts, the headset and the viewer.  The viewer is a 5” Full HD Android tablet.  The kits are customizable and come pre-configured.  The student devices allow for access to thousands of apps and can come preloaded with Google Expeditions.  Redbox VR kits could be useful to teachers by using preloaded apps or loading apps that the teacher finds on her own.

VR Sync

VR Sync can be used by educators to present their own content or content from a second party to Virtual Reality headsets that are already owned by the school.  This product allows a user to upload content through their dashboard to the wireless device.  This system supports Stereoscopic & Monoscopic 360 videos, Equiangular (YouTube format) 360 videos, standard resolution photos, 3840×1920, and spatial audio (.tbe).  A system like this is great for educators who have content that has been found from independent systems rather than only the content that came with the hardware.  It expands the possibilities for the educator and allows more freedom in planning.

Apps / Sites / Curriculum

AR VR HeadsetAR and VR in education is achieved through quality apps or online sites.  Once a teacher has the necessary hardware, finding the best quality apps or curricula is another challenge.  The different hardware I mentioned above sometimes comes loaded with specific apps, but the ability to personalize the virtual reality experience is extremely important.  Listed below are portals to such curricula.

Kai’s Clan

Kai’s Clan is a platform where the physical and the virtual worlds merge to become an interactive learning playground, with the goal to nurture an interest for coding in students. Through design, coding and collaboration students can see their code come to life in augmented and virtual reality.  Students can interact with all the other robots and objects in their environment in a true multiplayer gaming experience. Kai’s Clan brings Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to the next level and completely submerges the student in their environment.

Nearpod

Nearpod is a site that allows access to Virtual Reality experiences in many content areas such as Social Studies, Fine Arts, Math, Science, Life Skills, English Language Arts, and more.  With access to Nearpod, teachers also have access to activities that are not VR.  Nearpod provides a dashboard to allow for interactive lessons.  It can be used with apps that are already being used by the teacher like PowerPoints, Google Slides, and any videos.  As an all-inclusive platform Nearpod can be a teacher’s access to 8500+ premade lessons that can be searched by subject or grade level and the ability to create their own lessons.

Tinkercad

Tinkercad is a free online resource for lessons and software tools to teach students to think and create.  Through Tinkercad, teachers can access quality lesson plans on Art, Design, Engineering, Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, and Technology.  Virtual Reality lessons do not have to be accessed through a headset, a desktop computer is sufficient for Tinkercad to teach students to create 3D toys, prototypes, objects, and even Minecraft worlds.  By downloading MCEdit, you can get your Tinkercad designs into Minecraft.  Using Tinkercad students can print 3D designs using their software and a 3D printer; thereby, making their virtual object reality.

Google Arts & Culture and Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions / Google Arts & Culture are apps that bring the world into the classroom.  They allow teachers to present 360° scenes from all over the world, tour famous sites, important landmarks, and famous works of art, all in amazing detail.  The information from Google Expeditions will be migrated to Google Arts & Culture app and Google Expeditions will no longer be accessible after June 30, 2021.

YouTube

YouTube is a website that has multiple videos on a variety of topics.  YouTube can be searched by topic in their search bar or you can access the YouTube 360 channel that has different videos sorted by topic.  These videos can be viewed through headsets or on a basic desktop.  When using a desktop computer, the viewer will use on-screen controls.  If viewed with a headset, the gyro controls of the headset will assist in navigating the video.  YouTube is free, but it is not specifically an educational site; therefore, educators should take extra precautions to view the content before presenting it to students.

Final Thoughts

As I researched the different AR and VR education resources, I focused on apps that included multiple subjects or topics rather than apps that allowed for a singular experience. When choosing the apps that are best for you, keep in mind the cost of the app and the possible applications of the content.  One app may allow you to visit a zoo, while the other may allow you to visit every major zoo in the United States.  One app may allow you to visit Anne Frank’s house, while the other one visits all of the major sites of World War II.  If these apps are all free then one with singular content may be great, but if they cost money then make sure you get the most bang for your buck.