As we begin a new year, it is always fun to explore new ideas in our classroom. Finding ideas that work, whether in-person, hybrid, or fully online, can sometimes be challenging. However, I have found that by using some of the Augmented and Virtual Reality tools, we can provide engaging learning experiences for our students. Student engagement is one area that I have continued to work on over the past few years, especially in our virtual learning environment.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of resources to choose from for AR/VR; however, it can be overwhelming to sort through all of the options or know where to start. The first thing I consider is the purpose of using them. I try to find tools that have benefits beyond their educational use that will help students prepare for the future. I also look for options that give students a chance to create more with the content and which do not have a steep learning curve or require a significant time commitment for teachers to get started.

As we look for activities and new ideas to keep students engaged, especially as we work through our transitioning learning environments, I think this presents the perfect opportunity to explore emerging technologies like Augmented and Virtual Reality. With possibilities for traveling around the world or exploring objects up close now limited, we can implement a few AR and VR tools as a means to explore and for having students become the creators. Providing students with a chance to more meaningfully engage with the content by moving from consumers to creators leads to increased student engagement and higher student achievement.

7 Ways to explore and create with Augmented and Virtual Reality

Through these AR/VR tools, students can connect more closely with what they are studying and build upon their knowledge by creating authentic representations of what they have learned. With more choices for using these tools, we are better able to meet specific student interests and needs.

Here are seven options to get started with that can be used in STEM/STEAM courses or any content area!

  1. CoSpaces EDU

    This is a Virtual Reality platform that I have used for the past four years and has become a favorite of my eighth-grade students this year. Virtually teaching my STEAM course has been a little more challenging; however, using tools like this, students can learn more about emerging technologies and collaborate regardless of where they are! Whether they create a space in 360, design their own parkour game, collaborate on writing an interactive story, or build a fun space to explore, students will enjoy creating in VR while also developing coding skills.


    Read more: 5 Benefits of including VR in classroom activities


  2. Devar

    This is a fun app that enables the user to select one of the lively characters to bring into the classroom or home environment. It is easy to get started with Devar, and it can be another fun way for students and teachers to learn more about Augmented Reality and how it can be used for storytelling. Get started by selecting a character and then add music or your narration to it and record. Teachers can create and then share the video with students or have students create their own stories.


    Read more: 3 Benefits of using Augmented Reality in education


  3. Figment AR

    For something fun to get started quickly with AR, Figment AR has been one of my favorite apps over the years. Not only is it for AR, but it also includes VR through the use of portals that can be added to your experience. My students have used it for creating short stories that have animated characters and special effects. A fun element is when they move from AR to VR and get trapped inside of the portals that they create! Use Figment for digital storytelling in any class.


    Read more: 6 Digital storytelling tools for hybrid learning environments


  4. Google AR/VR

    Google offers a website that is full of resources for learning about Augmented and Virtual Reality. The site offers experiences that include more immersive ways to learn about math, science, the human body, and more in Augmented Reality. For science or history, bring prehistoric creatures or other animals into your environment. You can even create your own AR experience by downloading the software development kit (SDK) to create with Google ARCore.

  5. Merge EDU

    Imagine holding the layers of the earth, a frog, a volcano, and more for close explorations right in your hands! Merge EDU is an AR/VR platform that provides more interactive learning for students to explore science-related topics in augmented reality through Merge Explorer. There is a free lesson to try called “Terraforming Earth” to learn more about the lesson components and see the layers of the earth. Merge’s ​Object Viewer can also be used for creating your own 3D content to upload onto the Merge Cube to bring into the real world. Print your own cube at home and try it out!


    Read more: Shaping young minds: 3D printing solutions for education


  6. Nearpod

    Nearpod offers many options for promoting student engagement through its interactive multimedia platform. My first virtual reality experiences were with Nearpod. There are thousands of ready to run lessons to choose from, including 3D objects to explore and VR field trips. Using Nearpod is great for immersing students in different learning experiences or traveling, especially during hybrid or distance learning. Also great for assessing students and creating more interactive and engaging lessons that spark curiosity!


    Read more: The pivotal role of edtech in the hybrid classroom


  7. Thyng App

    This app is a personal favorite for creating fun AR experiences that include animated characters, GIFS, text, and more. You can also upload your own 3D objects or videos into the Thyng App and submit your “Thyngs” to be included in their library. Thyng can also be used to scan a target image and record up to a 10-second video to go with your target image. (iOS and Android).

Augmented and Virtual Reality are here to stay

It is important to offer students multiple options that lead to more meaningful experiences that promote the development of essential skills for the future and empower them through self-driven learning. Wanting to take students on field trips or imagine what a place or a thing might look like up close is now possible with so many new technologies, and in particular, the immersive tools for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

When we offer these options, we create more interactive learning experiences for our students and add extra fun to the learning experience. We can use these immersive tools to create new learning experiences for our students and empower them to create their own, moving from consumers to creators!

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