Are you curious about using augmented or virtual reality in your classroom? If you’ve already tried it out, are you looking for more app and lesson plan ideas? Either way, we’ve got you covered. Start with the Google Cardboard headset (it’s only $15), and whether you’re using iOS, Android, Chromebooks, or iPads, we’ve curated an assortment of apps and lesson plans to try out with your students.
Keep in mind there are ongoing debates around using virtual reality with kids. Skeptics argue that VR experiences can’t create genuine empathy, that VR simulations make females sick at higher rates than males, and that ethical considerations–from psychological implications to privacy concerns — are urgent issues.
That said, many educators use virtual and augmented reality in their classrooms with positive results. Considering these ongoing debates, you’ll probably want to try it out and decide for yourself. We’ve collected the best lesson plans, apps, and teaching strategies below. Don’t forget to check out our Top Picks list for even more tool ideas.
1. Build Global Awareness with Virtual Reality Field Trips
Teachers are using virtual reality apps like Expeditions and Discovery VR to teach cultural understanding, global awareness, and historical perspective. Paired with Google Cardboard, these tools can transport students to other countries or immerse them in historical civilizations. But the key for creating deeper learning lies with the underlying lesson plan. How do you integrate a virtual field trip into your instruction?
It’s important for students to demonstrate learning after a virtual experience: One teacher recommends students give a short presentation after exploring the pyramids of Giza. Have students interact with ancient Egyptian artifacts, listen to experts, and record their findings. Then they can share their learnings with the whole class. Or try a virtual expedition to Africa followed by an activity around ecotourism. Students can use Discovery VR to explore Africa’s unique geography, then create short skits to investigate various perspectives on conservation and tourism.
Nearpod also offers VR lessons that leverage virtual travel along with related activities, like a visit to La Sagrada Familia in Spain to learn about symbolism in architecture, followed by a drawing exercise. In partnership with Google Expeditions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt offers curriculum-based virtual reality field trips, like a journey through prehistoric caves during the Age of Dinosaurs and a visit to the Everglades to experience the lives of the ancient Seminole tribe.
2. Use Augmented Reality Apps to Enhance STEM Lessons
Just as teachers can thoughtfully integrate VR field trips into their social studies lessons, apps like LifeLiQe and Elements 4D by DAQRI can enhance STEM education. One fifth-grade teacher raves about using LifeLiQe to examine 3D models of plants, animals, and geographic features with her students. They can study each model by rotating, swiping, and zooming in and out; the augmented reality feature lets students take photos or videos of the model with themselves or their surroundings. The platform is aligned to Next Generation Science Standards and includes hundreds of lesson plans, covering topics like the circulatory system and the water cycle.
Teachers can integrate Elements 4D by DAQRI into lesson plans focused on exploring elements and chemical reactions. This chemistry app uses augmented reality, paired with six DIY paper blocks, to bring chemical equations to life. Each side of each block template is printed with the symbol for one of 36 elements. Once the blocks are assembled, students can work in pairs or small groups to bring element blocks together and use an iPad to see if they react — if they do, students will see an augmented version of the compound that’s created and its chemical equation. Visit the developer’s website to find chemistry lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms, all for free.