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AR and VR resources offer educators a way to construct immersive and engaging learning experiences for all students

21 great tools for AR and VR in the classroom

Top 10 of 2021: AR and VR resources offer educators a way to construct immersive and engaging learning experiences for all students

Each year, we share our 10 most-read stories. Not surprisingly, many of this year’s Top 10 focused on student engagement and online or hybrid learning strategies related to pandemic teaching. This year’s 10th most-read story focuses on engaging AR and VR tools to use in the classroom.

Nearly everyone has experienced augmented reality and virtual reality to some degree, and while they’re fun, AR and VR can also be incredibly powerful when integrated into classroom learning.

During an engaging ISTELive 21 session, Jennifer Hall, NBCT, an educational technology specialist with Atlanta Public Schools, outlined an abundance of AR and VR apps for students and educators.

Augmented reality is the idea that you’re bringing something into your real world and using your device to see something that isn’t actually there. Animation or 3D images come into your real world. Virtual reality is where a person is immersed in the experience, as if they’re actually there.

So, why bring AR and VR into classrooms?

  • Accelerate understanding: Make it possible for students to comprehend complex phenomena more efficiently by experiencing it first-hand.
  • Deepen engagement: AR and VR add the sense of touch to digital content, and being immersed in virtual worlds gives students a profound connection to the content
  • Do the impossible: Using AR and VR give students access to experiences schools don’t necessarily have a budget for. The technologies empower students to do things that would otherwise be too expensive or dangerous to do in person.
  • Support active learning: Using the hands and body to interact with 3D objects and environments stimulates natural learning pathways, allowing students to intuitively explore and absorb knowledge.
  • Spark a love for STEM: Using AR and VR to teach STEM concepts can spark student interests in pursuing STEM-related degrees.
  • Develop spatial intelligence: Spatial intelligence is a foundational ability that lets us generate and recall visual images. Students with strong spatial intelligence abilities tend to excel in STEM fields. This is important for students with special needs, too, because using AR and VR can help these students develop spatial intelligence skills.

Hall reviewed a long list of engaging AR and VR apps, touching on how educators might use them in the classroom or how students might use them for classwork or projects.

1. zSpace: This is really a powerful tool you can use to engage learners, Hall said. It’s a computer that students engage with using a stylus and wearing glasses, which allows for that VR experience. Teachers can browse by content-specific lesson plans. This tool supports knowledge construction and having students engage in content on a deeper level.

2. Merge Cube: This tool went from being a game to offering educational resources. It’s standards-aligned, and what’s powerful about the learning possibilities here is that special needs students can become more engaged in learning because of the immersive nature, Hall said.

3. Immersive Reader: It will read aloud, customize text, change voice and font for students with vision impairments. Has accommodations for special needs students and integrates with Merge Cube.

4. Merge Cube and Tinkercad: Create a 3D object and export it as an object file, add it to the Merge object viewer, and examine it using the Merge viewer. It really levels up constructing knowledge, and also offers the creativity of designing something.

5. Flipgrid: Inside the Flipgrid teacher dashboard, teachers can go into topics and print QR codes. When printed, the code is able to be placed anywhere for an interactive experience. For instance, students can create book reviews, link to their review videos through a QR code, post those codes in the school hallway, and other students can scan those QR codes to watch the book reviews. It’s great for distancing, interactive art exhibits, student spotlights, etc.

6. Nearpod: If you have a Nearpod account, you can search for VR options. This is helpful if a classroom has limited devices–students can go to a station and use Nearpod for a VR activity while they wait for other immersive or interactive stations to open up.

7. CoSpaces: The opportunity to create your own VR experience or world. You can use Oculus Rift or your Merge Cube to export your file. One teacher had students recreate a city and use the Oculus Rift to experience that creation, Hall said. Now they’re not just consuming as students, they’re creating.

8. Big Bang AR: This tool is free and can bring science concepts to life. On Android or iOS.

9. Georgia Public Broadcasting AR/VR: This app lets students conduct tours of various sites and is tied to Georgia standards, but students around the country can benefit from tours of civil rights sites.

10. Adobe Aero: This is Adobe’s iOS-only app that lets users create content. It has great potential for storytelling–for instance, students could create an AR experience that goes with a story they or the class has just read. Or, students could create scenes from a book or story as part of a presentation.

11. Thyng: This offers two options to use content to create an AR experience. Users can animate everyday options or add “things” to their everyday world and bring them to life through AR.

12. QuiverVision: Coloring comes to life using 3D augmented reality. Younger students are particularly engaged with this app.

13. JigSpace: This tool lets students create AR presentations. For example, an engineering teacher might pull up a relevant object and use it to explain an engineering concept to students via AR.

14. Civilisations AR: This brings in actual artifacts into your real world so that students can explore different time periods. Social studies and art history teachers in particular might find this app helpful. On iOS and Google Play.

15. JFK Moonshot: On iOS and Google Play. This lets students explore space and concepts related to aeronautics in a powerful way.

16. 3D Bear: This tool offers another opportunity to create scenes. Instead of doing a traditional storyboard or comic strip, students can recreate the scenes to represent their learning.

17. Wonderscope: This iOS app uses AR to immerse kids in stories, bringing them to life for an interactive and immersive experience as students go beyond reading to explore the story.

18. Thinglink: This takes the idea of a 360-degree image and turns it into an interactive experience.

19. Oculus Rift: This is a truly immersive experience in which users wear a headset and hold controllers. It’s an expensive option but offers a powerful experience. More education content is being created for students and teachers.

20. Reality Composer: Users can quickly prototype and produce content for AR experiences that are ready to integrate into apps.

21. 3D This: This is more for entertainment, but users can create 3D versions of their faces and avatars. It could be fun when used in icebreaker activities.

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