Thursday, December 20, 2018

Bringing AR and VR into the Classroom; Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at why virtual reality is a good fit in today's classroom. We also talked about different types of VR set ups you could check out.  In this post, we are going to look at all the resources!  I am all about free and secure, so unless stated, these are free resources you can use in the classroom.

The first resource I want to talk about is the one most popular in my district - Google Expeditions.

Google Expeditions allows the students to explore a huge variety of VR locations all while the teacher is guiding them.  For this resource, the teacher will need a device along with the students.  The teacher selects the expedition or field trip, the students join, and then the learning and exploring begins. I have seen students from elementary to high school using Google Expeditions.  The best part is watching a student or class explore for the first time!

New expeditions are added regularly!  Teachers have also created lessons to go allow with several expeditions.  You can see the full list here. You can also learn more about Google Expeditions here.

While we are talking Google, we need to also mention Tour Creator. This allows you to create your own virtual tours using Google Maps.  I mean, how awesome is that!!

For example, after reading Patricia Polacco's book John Philip Duck, the students can explore the Peabody Hotel and other sites around Memphis using the Tour Creator that you created. You could also create a tour of your state capital, your hometown, the US capital, and so many other places!

Discovery VR brings their shows to "life" through VR.  Users can explore Shark Week, Deadliest Catch, and so much more.  This is not teacher guided, so you will want to explore before hand and have clear directions and/or expectations for students.

Discovery VR can be used on a variety of VR devices. They also add content regularly.

Do you use Nearpod in the classroom?  If so, have you checked out Nearpod's VR lessons? What is great about Nearpod VR is you don't need a headset to experience them. There are 36 free VR lessons available you can check out if you don't have a paid subscription with Nearpod.

Two other notable VR resources are NYT VR, New York Times VR and 360cities.  NYT VR would be a good resources for secondary schools.  This app brings the New York Times headlines to life. This is one where the teacher will want to explore first and select the best resource to meet the lesson or discussion in the classroom.

360cities is not an app at all, it is a website. You can explore Mars, New Years celebrations around the world, and so much more!  This is not a resource you want students to explore, but rather for you the teacher to use to enhance a lesson.

These are just a view VR resources you can use in the classroom.  If you are looking for more, these are few places to check out:

Richard Bryne's Free Tech for Teachers website

Cybrary Man's Educational Websites - Virtual Reality

Do you have a favorite VR resource? Share with us!

In the next post, we will explore AR (augmented reality).

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Bringing AR and VR into the Classroom; Part 1

When I was in school, I had to use a photo in a book to help bring to life a foreign place or time in history. Today, students can use virtual reality! Virtual reality (VR) is a computer generated environment that feels real to the user.

In the February 2017 edition of Eurasia Journal of Math, Science, and Technology Education, virtual reality was discussed in the article, Virtual Technologies Trends in Education. In the article, they discuss four advantages of using virtual technologies in the classroom. These included:

(1) increased student motivation and engagement
(2) a constructivist approach to learning
(3) more interaction than conventional learning materials
(4) accessibility and affordability

These advantages are on point!  Student engagement and the constructivist approach both help the students learn and feel more apart of the lesson.  Think Chinese proverb!

Tell me, I’ll forget
Show me, I’ll remember
Involve me, I’ll understand

In a world of devices and immediate information, interaction within a lesson is a great plus. Now don't get me wrong, there is a time and place to sit and focus as well.  My job has a lot of that! However, VR (and AR) really hit on some advantages that can benefit student learning.

On the 2017 Speak Up Survey, participants were asked which tools or strategies they felt held the greatest potential for increasing student achievement and success. Twenty-eight percent of teachers surveyed stated VR.

So, knowing that VR is affordable and a good resource to increase engagement and achievement, lets look at where to begin!

You need to decide on the hardware.  As a technology director, I encourage you to include your technology department in this decision!  When looking into a system, you want to consider your price range, network connections, if you want to have a teacher guided option, and storage/charging. You can have hardware that includes a headset and device or an all-on-one system.  For example, you can purchase Google Cardboard for roughly $15 and an iPod or Android device. You could look on the upper end of the price range and check out the Oculus Go.

Note, there are several types of head sets on the market!  Again, this is when your technology department comes in handy - ask for assistance! You don't want to purchase something that isn't compatible with your current infrastructure or AUP.

This is the VR carts we use in my district.

One cart includes 25 student use iPods, 1 teacher use iPad, 25 VR goggles, a Tech Tub cart for storage/charging, and a tub from Lowe's to store the goggles.

We went with the head set/device system because we wanted to be able to guide the students using Google Expeditions, but more about that app (and others) in another post.

We also have started making mini VR kits for our schools. These kits include iPods, Merge Cubes, and Merge AR/VR goggles. (Find out more about Merge here) These kits were designed for a small group setting. 

It really depends on what will best meet your needs and your budget!  Speaking of budget, if you are not taking advantage of Donors Choose, they make sure you check it out after reading this post!  We have teachers who receive classroom sets of books, Chromebooks, and everything in between. If you have questions about Donors Choose, ask my friend Angela Sievers! She is a Donors Choose Ambassador.

In the next post, we will look at some great VR apps you can use in the classroom.

Do you use VR already? Share your ideas and experiences with us!