Virtual Voyages-Part II: 4 Ways To Create Your Own Extended Reality Classroom Experiences

I explored the physical and societal ramifications of extended reality experiences as well as the instructional context for its use. If you want to dive into the what and why of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (collectively XR or extended reality) as well as best practices in the classroom, you can look at Part I of this series. Here though are ways to create your own AR/VR experiences

AR Museum Walk

Of course, the ultimate goal is to have students engaging in their own creations, but you can’t always start from that point. One great way to get students and teachers accustomed to using augmented reality in the classroom is to set up a museum walk with artifacts around the room. This can include translations for Google Translate/Word Lens, historical photos for HP Reveal, paintings for Blippar, drawings from Quiver, or AR flashcards posted around the room. Then students can use their smartphones or tablets to explore those elements. I turned the District 75 building lobby into an augmented reality experience that explores the history of disability advocacy. It just demonstrates that even the most boring bulletin board can be made more meaningful by embedding augmented reality videos of the students throughout the creation process.

Creating AR & VR Experiences

This is a much longer discussion on the role of technology in classrooms which I have addressed before. Suffice it to say the success and effectiveness of technology in your classroom is determined more by how we define teaching than the equipment or software itself. It goes back to Thomas Edison who was certain movies would make books and all other learning obsolete. Over time similar things have been said about the internet, online courses, tablets, and now extended reality experiences (the all-encompassing term I will use to describe AR, VR, and mixed reality collectively).

AR Book Review

While the idea of book reviews have been happening in classrooms even before Reading Rainbow made them cool, this is a fun way to make it more engaging. Using an animation app along with AR creation you can have the books themselves tell students what they are about. You can even have each page of the book read itself to the student though that requires significantly more work. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Take a photo of the book.
  2. Import the photo into an app like ChatterPix, Blabberize, or Fotobabble. Draw a mouth and record your book review.
  3. Export the finished video to your photo library.
  4. Create an AR object. Click the + in HP Reveal to create a new aura. Take a photo of the book (green means it’s a good image). Choose device and select your video as the overlay and upload it. Name the items. Make sure it is part of your public auras so others can view it.
  5. Select the blue square on the HP Reveal home page, look at the physical book and watch it come to life.

AR Digital Storytelling

I have shared in the past how digital Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to make literacy interesting accessible not to mention how meaningfully stories impact the brain. Here is a way to take that to the next level for some of your more capable students by incorporating AR.

Apps like Toontastic are wonderful because they automatically map out a story sequence for your students. Simply choose a scene, add characters, add other elements, and start recording. Storyfab though lets you create individual characters and object animations as well. Not only that, it lets you bring it to life on your desk through AR. That means your phone now functions as a boom camera with you able to zoom in or out on any character or scenery as you tell the story. Simply shoot one scene, pause, and then shoot the next. Then share your videos out. The app is still in its early stages, but it gives a thorough walk-through upon opening it.

Creating Tours

Google Expeditions seems to be most teachers first foray into AR and VR in the classroom and there is good reason for that. Not only is it fairly easy to use and reliable, but there are now 900+ VR experiences and 100+ AR experiences that run the gamut of subject areas. There are also a variety of related lesson plans on Tes. But maybe they don’t have the exact exploration you wanted. Maybe you wanted to explore local history and architecture or, like me, show your students how to safely travel using public transportation. Well, then you have to create your own. Now that Google has Tour Creator you can do just that. FYI, don’t confuse it with Tour Builder or any of the other ways to explore with Google tools. Here’s how you can begin with Tour Creator. Check out teacher Eric Hawkinson’s full walkthrough for more details

  1. Create a Tour: Start a new tour or begin with a template.
  2. Basic Info: Give the tour a title, cover photo, description, and category.
  3. Create a Scene: Choose a Google Street View or upload your own 360° image. Those can be created with a 360 camera, photos from sites like 360Cities, or use one of the panorama apps for your phone. SIDE NOTE: You can also use Poly, TiltBrush, or Blocks to find/create 3D objects for AR experiences.
  4. Scene Details: Add a scene title, description, and audio. I usually add some ambient sounds and narration so my struggling readers can access the content.
  5. Points of Interest: Select + to add a point of interest in the scene. Drag the i icon to that point of interest. Then add a title, photo, description, and audio to enhance that point of interest. Continue to ass as many points of interest as you like though I recommend between 3 and 5. I hope soon you will be able to add videos as well.
  6. Add More: Repeat steps 3 to 5 until your exploration is complete.
  7. Publish & View: You can then publish your tour and make it available for viewing. It does work with Google Expeditions simply by choosing to Share to Expeditions.

Creating Worlds

3D World Danger House

CoSpaces Edu has done for AR and VR what TinkerCad did for 3D printing. In that, I mean, it has made it easy for creators to actualize their ideas. Some of the ways I have found the site useful are for life skills training and social-emotional learning (SEL). Students explored the dangers they might encounter living in their own apartment or practice social and workplace interactions. You can explore their series of lessons across subject areas as well. Check out their official guide for full details as well as their getting started video. There is a great deal of complexity you can add, but here is a quick walkthrough for you to create an interactive VR/AR experience to share with students.

  1. Create a Space: Login, go to my spaces and create a new space.
  2. The Camera: Take note of the camera which is how your scene will be viewed. Is the viewer able to walk or fly through the scene or is the view fixed. Right-click to change those settings.
  3. Add an Environment: Choose a preselected environment or use your own 360° image. Those can be created with a 360 camera, photos from sites like 360Cities, or use one of the panorama apps for your phone. This will function as the background
  4. Add Elements: You can add any 3D object from library or upload your own 2D or 3D images. I usually start with characters. Use the tools to rotate, move, or transform that element.
  5. Adjust Elements: Right-clicking any element lets you adjust elements by adding speech, changing colors, or adding animations like running or speaking angrily.
  6. Program Elements: Right-click an element, select Code and turn on Use in CoBlocks. Then click on Code in the top right. There you can make objects interactive so when they’re selected they disappear, speak, or move.
  7. Play the Scene: Now you can start and interact with the scene. If you’re using a mobile device you have the option to put it in AR or VR mode. You can also assign it to a class you have setup.

There are a number of other ways to explore and create with AR and VR in the classroom, but this should give you a broad starting point. Again you can look at Part I of this series to explore the what, why, and best practices of extended reality experiences further and Jaime Donally’s ARVRinEdu is filled with great resources.

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