What’s the Buzz: Augmented and Virtual Reality

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What's the Buzz
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What's the Buzz_ Augmented RealityAugmented reality and virtual reality might sound like geek-speak to some, but the truth is these technological advances have real implications for the classroom.  Of course, before you can make your case for new apps or equipment to supplement your instruction, you have to know what you are asking for and how it could help your students. Both augmented and virtual reality have the ability to change your day to day experience.  The biggest difference between the two is that augmented reality adds a computer generated layer to the world as we experience things, and virtual reality blocks out the world as we would regularly experience it and substitutes an immersive computer-generated experience.


Augmented Reality:
Augmented Reality (AR) is the least expensive of these two types of technology.  Augmented Reality allows you to see a computer generated layer of information that is superimposed on the real world.  There are two types of AR: marker based and location based.  For an example of marker based AR take a look at the Guinness Book of World Records.  When certain pages are scanned with the app, you’ll see additional information about the entry.  The Pokemon Go craze is the perfect example of location based AR.  As you travel around looking at your phone, you might see a Pokemon to capture.

In the classroom, AR can be a great way to increase student engagement.  Young students can learn their letters and numbers using Alive Studio’s Learning Alive suite.  Watching animals come to life from a card held under a document camera complete with sound (and a curriculum for the teacher) can amaze those learning the alphabet.  Teachers with iPads can achieve something similar with the AR Flashcards Animal Alphabet app. In elementary school teachers may want to check out two AR apps for math provided by PBS: Fetch! Lunch Rush and Cyberchase Shape Quest. A number of classroom applications exist for upper level students as well including Aurasma which allows a person to create their own AR application from everyday objects.

Virtual Reality:
Virtual Reality (VR) costs a bit more.  Virtual Reality attempts to remove you from the real world while substituting a computer generated one. Typically this requires a headset that covers the eyes and sometimes includes hand controllers which allow you to interact in the virtual world. Oculus Rift (reviewed here) is one of the more popular models. Google has made a real stab at getting this type of technology into the hands of students with their Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions.  While the classroom kits are still on the high end, it is conceivable that an interested school district might purchase a set to share among a number of schools.

There is a lot to both of these concepts and harnessing them for use in your classroom may seem a bit daunting.  Check out Kathy Schrock’s page for additional information.

About the author: Ruth Okoye

Dr. Ruth Okoye is the Director of K12 Initiatives at The Source for Learning. As a long-time technology coach, Ruth shares ideas and strategies for professional learning and thoughts on how to motivate yourself to “dig deeper” into educational technologies.

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