Augmented reality (AR) classroom integration

Like many of you, I was properly introduced to augmented reality (AR) in 2016 with the wildly popular Pokémon Go. After a busy summer catching Pokémon around Europe, I reflected on this technology and even wrote a blog post about its potential. But, truth be told, I haven’t thought about AR very much since. Until now.

I recently attended a series of Apple workshops with Paul Hamilton. The workshops were highly interactive, engaging and inspiring. I learnt so much and my interest in AR is well and truly reborn.

Since those workshops, I’ve had opportunities to integrate AR into lessons. I’d like to share those experiences but I’ll start with some general information.

What is AR?

“Augmented reality is the layering of digital content in the physical world, often used to enhance or connect digital assets to real-life, physical objects/enviornments.”

Paul Hamilton

AR is often confused with VR (virtual reality). VR offers a simulated experience that completely transports users to a new environment. With VR, there is a disconnect from the real world. AR, on the other hand, adds digital layers to physical environments to enhance the real world.

To overlay digital content, the technology first needs to detect a physical surface. This is known as the anchor. Some surfaces work better for the anchor than others. Glossy classroom desks aren’t ideal. If your device struggles to detect a particular surface, put some paper down initially. The paper can be removed afterwards but it just helps to capture the anchor point.

Here are a few ideas for AR classroom integration that I have tried so far. Keep in mind, however, that I have barely scratched the surface of what’s possible and this technology is only going to get more advanced.

NASA Perseverance 3D model

My students were learning about exploration and the role that technology plays. With the successful landing of the Perseverance Rover on Mars (February 2021), it’s an exciting time for space exploration, but it’s all happening so far away! Pictures and videos are great, but this full-sized 3D model brought it to life! Students were able to take a close look at Perseverance from all angles and this sparked a lot of great questions. To download the Perseverance 3D model, click here. I’m not sure how it works on other devices, but the USDZ file saves on iPad and iPhone in the Files app. It can then be opened in AR.

AR Makr

This app is loads of fun and offers a lot of creative opportunities. It’s simple enough that it can be enjoyed by our youngest students, but don’t stop there. In AR Makr, users can create their own scenes or select one of the themed starter templates (Mythical Creatures, Space Mission, etc.). Each template comes with ready-made objects that students can place into the real world through AR. Users can also create new 2D or 3D elements from scratch, and even import images from their device. My students were just about to start a writing unit all about fairy tales. They used the Three Little Pigs starter template to recreate scenes from the story. Many students continued to create at home, adding physical elements to their scenes like LEGO houses and even pets! It was a huge hit! Be aware that AR Makr is only available on iPad.

Reality Composer

I haven’t actually used this app with my Year Three students because it’s advanced and more appropriate for upper primary and secondary students. I’ve enjoyed playing with it myself though. Reality Composer is a “creative sandbox” for users to create interactive objects and scenes in 3D. These can then be viewed in AR. The style, material and other properties of the 3D elements can be manipulated, changing how they interact. In the Behaviors pane, users can determine how objects will act in response to different triggers. In my tweet below, the rocket launches when tapped (notice how the spatial audio gets quieter as the rocket gets further away). I could easily spend hours on end creating in Reality Composer! There’s so much to learn!

Virtuali-Tee

The Virtuali-Tee by Curiscope is perfect for students who are learning about body systems. It allows them to “see” what is normally hidden. Simply download the app and point the camera at the special tee to watch the human body open up and come to life! As well as the AR capabilities, it includes interactive elements, informative narration and immersive 360 videos. Due to hygiene restrictions at the time, my students were unable to wear or share the T-shirts, but they were the perfect fit for my teaching partner and students were still so engaged! The app is free but the T-shirts aren’t cheap. They’re worth the investment though, even if you just buy a few.

MERGE Explorer

I love how Merge Cubes place challenging concepts right into students’ palms for them to move, pick up and manipulate! My students were learning about sound waves. Using the MERGE Explorer app with the cubes, they created different sound waves by adjusting the amplitude, wavelength and frequency. These simulations can be ‘stamped’ into place so that students can compare different visuals even if they only have one cube (see the left image below). In the same Explorer lesson, students also used their cube as a Morse Code machine, which they were obsessed with! This sound example is just one of many lessons in the Explorer app but it requires a paid subscription.

 

Measure

If you use an iPad or iPhone, the Measure app is probably already on it (I never noticed it either!). It comes pre-installed on iOS 12 and above. With Measure, your device becomes a surprisingly accurate tape measure, allowing you to gauge the measurement from one point to another. There’s also a level feature. This technology is particularly impressive with rectangular objects because it will automatically recognise the dimensions and display the area. My students used this app during our measurement maths unit that, unfortunately, fell during a period of remote learning. At home, most students didn’t have the measuring resources that we’d normally have at school, so this app was very useful.

HomeCourt

Our VSA House Fitness Challenge was organised by our House Coordinators using the HomeCourt app. While HomeCourt isn’t designed for education (it’s actually a highly sophisticated basketball training app), it’s certainly fun for kids and I can imagine a lot of PE teachers making good use of it, especially during periods of remote learning. There’s a paid version of the app for serious players and trainers, but the free version already includes 100+ games (the tweet below shows just one of them) and even multiplayer options. There are even drills that connect with maths and spelling.

I hope that these ideas are useful and inspire you to explore the possibilities of AR in the classroom. If you have any additional ideas, please share them in the comments section below. Once again, thanks to Paul Hamilton for taking my understanding of AR beyond Pokémon games and giving me the confidence to apply these ideas with students.


To receive blog updates, find the ‘Follow’ icon (below or in the sidebar) or connect with me using the social icons at the top of this page.

2 comments

  1. Fantastic blog as usual Adam. Thank you for sharing the apps a couple I didn’t know about but will have a play. My students Loved exploring the Perserverance Rover and the Ingenuity helicopter in AR. Lots of great discussions.

Leave a Reply to Tracey Catling Cancel reply