Virtual and Augmented Reality
By Nick Acton
5 Meaningful and Educational Digital Reality Experiences
Just when you thought Education couldn’t possibly have room for more Acronyms, AR and VR have reared its digital head. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality has been around for a long time but it’s only just started to make meaningful and accessible steps into the world of learning. Before we go any further, it’s important to establish the difference between the two ‘realities’. Augmented Reality places a digital object in the real world through the screen of a device. Apps like ‘Pokemon Go’ utilise this technology to plonk a digital creature in the middle of the street or in a park.
Virtual Reality is a bit more involved. The aim of VR is to surround someone in a virtual setting. In a similar way to AR, VR will use the motion sensor in your device to react to a users movement. In other words, within a Virtual Reality, you can move your device to see around you and explore the setting you’re in.
A headset can provide a truly immersive experience in line with a AR or VR application. There’s nothing really technical about Virtual Reality Headsets. They literally just bring your device of choice closer to your eyes. Plugging in headphones can further the immersive experience.
So, as these realities begin to encroach on ours, which ones are best? Which applications provide educational experiences? How do you find the best digital realities for your pupils? Below are five applications that I would whole heartedly recommend. I’ve gone for a mixture of AR and VR resources that have a baring in a range of subjects / year groups. Whats more, many of the applications I explore can be used on a number of different devices.
1) Google Expeditions
2) Flashcards - AR Alphabet
3) Maze Walk VR
Nearpod is a long-time favourite of mine. One of the things I like about the application is that it seems to expand it’s horizons when the ‘next big thing’ appears. Allow me to explain… Nearpod is not a VR or AR app per say. It is an interactive presentation and assessment tool that allows you to make engaging learning resources quickly and easily (please read ‘All New Nearpod’ for further clarification). Although it isn’t specifically a Virtual or Augmented Reality app, you can embed some VR into your presentations. These are known as ‘Field Trips’. The Field Trips are essentially a bank of 360-degree locations around the world. Slotting one of them into a Nearpod presentation will enable children to see places that they would not normally see through their screens. Again, the motion sensor in your chosen device enables children to look around them in real-time and have the 360-degree image adapt accordingly. The key difference of this VR experience is the context that you can build around it. Using some of the other tools within the app, you can build a quiz that questions children about the location they have just explored. The ‘Field Trip’ could come after a series of related images within the Nearpod presentation. It’s a very involved application. However, using it simply for its Virtual Reality opportunities is a very exciting way of embedding the app into your teaching.
Now is the time. AR and VR still have a great deal of awe and wonder attached to it. The Virtual Reality advancements of late will no doubt impact our lives more and more soon enough. It is only a matter of time before the first VR feature film comes out. VR and AR Gaming is becoming very popular. These digitally enhanced experiences will be the norm in no time. My advice would be to seize the moment. It’s important that children understand that Educational Virtual and Augmented experiences exist. You can enjoy the digital world and learn things at the same time. Nothing will beat actual reality. Providing children will real experiences is, of course, far more important than any of the applications I have discussed. However, the best use of VR and AR is to provide unattainable educational experiences. It is an enhancement and not a replacement. It’s an additional tool at your disposal. It’s a hot topic! Use it while it’s still hot.