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AR & VR are all around us

Written by Gina Keenan, a Tierney PD team member since 2018. Gina spend years as an English Language Teacher as well as an Technology Integration Specialist before joining Tierney.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are technologies that are all around us; for example, I can shop online for household items like a lamp or rug and use my phone’s camera to place them right in my space. Or recently, while visiting Las Vegas, there were opportunities all over the city to pay to get into a virtual reality pod with a headset and go on a virtual adventure. Integrating VR can be as simple as getting a router, headsets and BYO devices or purchasing a kit such as Google Expeditions, ClassVR, or stations such as zSpace or ByteSpeed. So what benefits can VR and AR bring to the classroom?

Top 4 Reasons to Integrate VR/AR Technology into your Classroom

VR/AR can provide visualizations of concepts that may be hard to explain or describe a beating human heart, an atom, or a galaxy far far away. Using a merge cube allows students to interact with an AR object in a tactile way by rotating the object in their hand. Visualizations can also include virtual field trips where students can immerse themselves in an environment such as the Great Wall of China or a market in Ethiopia and expand their thinking in a way that a picture in a textbook cannot.

VR/AR can provide much needed background knowledge to students before a unit of study. Most of my career has involved teaching English Language Learners the necessary background knowledge to access the curriculum in the US and in English. Using VR prior to the lesson, allows my students to understand the context of a novel, an unfamiliar time period in Social Studies, or a concept like ‘habitats’ in Science. This levels the playing field for our students and allows them all to be successful.

AR/VR can be used to formatively or summatively assess students' knowledge of a topic. By using VR/AR in the middle or at the end of a unit of study, you can assess students’ learning. One example of this is a lesson I did in a 3rd-grade class on sound. Students learned about the parts of the inner ear and how they related to hearing and sound and we ended the unit with “The Auditory System”. Students were able to name the bones as we traveled through the outer ear, inner ear, canals and cochlea and it was such a great opportunity for them to demonstrate their learning.

Engagement, engagement, engagement! If you want to see what pure joy looks like, take Kindergartners on a virtual tour under the sea -- trust me, I’ve done it! Your classroom will be filled with squeals of excitement and all kinds of discussion about the content! And it’s not just elementary students either. I was recently delivering a professional development on VR in a high school with both teachers and student leaders in attendance. I always begin by having attendees brainstorm why we should use VR in the classroom and the students’ number one answer was it is interesting and different and gets them excited about learning! How can we pass up an opportunity to get students of all ages engaged in learning!

Integrate AR/VR into your lesson

Now that you know the why you should integrate AR/VR in the classroom, here are a few tips to help you integrate VR/AR successfully into your lesson:

  • Where in the lesson or unit of study will the VR/AR take place? The beginning as an introduction, the middle to check understanding or the end to wrap up a unit. Or throughout the whole lesson!
  • How will students respond? Turn and talk with a partner, graphic organizer, jot down notes to write a ‘postcard’ to someone about their trip, a worksheet or SeeSaw activity.
  • How will you group students for the activity? Whole group, partners, learning stations, small group
As with any technology, my biggest tip is to just try it! Happy exploring!