Immersive Tech in the Classroom – 10 Tools to Explore in 2021

It’s 2021. If you work in education and have stepped inside of a school building recently, there’s a good chance that things look a bit different than they did just a few years ago.

Immersive Tech in the Classroom - 10 Tools to Explore in 2021

When I was finishing my K-12 experience as a student back in the late 1990s, my use of technology in the classroom was primarily word processing. The fun stuff happened at home when I got to play Sony Playstation. Through my undergraduate work, this classroom use and application shifted to creating static digital presentations on PowerPoint. We were still saving files to floppy discs. Through graduate school in the mid-2000s, as I pursued a degree in Educational Technology, I finally started to do some web development and graphic design using things like Adobe Flash and Dreamweaver. I even started saving things to a USB drive. The rate in which technology applications in the classroom changed between that time in 2006 through today is absolutely remarkable. And the technology our students are using today will eventually be technology we look back at and laugh at, like those old floppy disks.

I’ll never forget being at a NYSCATE Annual Conference in Rochester, NY in 2017 and making a stop at a booth called Zspace. In just a few minutes, I was immersed in a virtual reality experience where a beating heart was at my fingertips. I could rotate it, feel it beating, and even look inside of it. Mind blown. This experience got me curious as to how this tech might become more accessible in classrooms. As amazing as that immersive tech was, it wasn’t something that anyone could just bring to our classroom right away. There were cost barriers as well as special hardware and software needed. At the time, it required its own lab space where students would have to travel to it in order to use it. The 2020 global pandemic sure would have rendered that lab space unusable and irrelevant pretty quickly. Not to say that this isn’t a high quality, powerful technology. But if we’ve learned anything through the years, the power of access is certainly one of them. In my now 17 years as an educator, and last 7 of these as an instructional technologist, I have come to appreciate the power of accessible, immersive tech, namely augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications for learning. Here are some of my favorite experiences for the classroom. Pair one of these with a creative educator driving the experience for students and there can be some magic in the air!

Note: While some of these applications can be used in a browser, the augmented reality experience will require a supported device that meets the minimum requirements. If your device is on this list, there is a good chance the augmented reality features will work.

CoSpaces Edu

https://cospaces.io/edu/

*Free and paid

We’ve been creating in CoSpaces Edu for some time now and it is one of our go-to creation tools in the classroom. This browser-based VR creation sandbox is user-friendly. Students can create scenes, add a wide range of 3D models, audio, images, video, and even code objects to make the space more interactive. In addition, the pro version allows for extended coding as well as real-time collaboration. Our students have created and coded: scenes from Romeo & Juliet to create an interactive study guide, phases of the moon, chemical element models, longhouse tours, escape rooms, model businesses, argumentative writing pieces, historical timelines, virtual art shows, and more. The CoSpaces mobile app allows for any creation to be experienced in augmented reality. Example

Flipgrid AR

https://blog.flipgrid.com/news/ar

*Free

Student voice plus augmented reality sure is a fun combo. There are so many ways to use Flipgrid in the classroom and countless inspirations in their Discovery Library. In order to experience the Flipgrid AR, QR codes need to be scanned with the free Flipgrid app. One of our favorite ways to use this is to put Flipgrid video QR codes attached to student work. An art show, open house, musical, yearbook, books in the library, athletes of the week, course selection, all present opportunities to attach a Flipgrid AR to extend the experience and connection with the school community. Example

Buncee AR

https://blog.buncee.com/augmented-reality-is-now-on-buncee-ios/

*Free and paid

Creating with Buncee is fun and easy. Buncee is a canvas for multimedia creations. There are templates to make creation easier as well as a growing library of resources in their Ideas Lab. There are digital stickers, animations, drawing/inking tools, audio, video, messages, URL linking, quick QR code creation, and more. Check out a few of the ways our school has used Buncee in their recent case study. New to Buncee is augmented reality integration. This allows for certain Buncee assets to be placed in your environment. You can also record video of these creations to be embedded into any Buncee, perfect for the ISTE Student Standard of Creative Communicator. Example

3DBear

https://www.3dbear.io/

*Free and paid

An Augmented Reality digital storytelling app where students manipulate three dimensional objects to share photos or record videos to explain concepts and tell stories across the curriculum. When the students create their videos, they are applying, analyzing, and evaluating what they have learned. What’s great about 3DBear is that even the youngest students can enjoy it. The library includes numbers and letters of the alphabet to help with number recognition and literacy. We’ve used 3DBear to create prototypes of solutions to the UN Global Goals/Sustainable Development Goals, create geometry stories to help with math concepts, redesign our learning spaces, and complete Global Maker Day challenges. There is also a gallery of lesson ideas to get teachers started. Example

MERGE

https://mergeedu.com/cube

*Free and paid

MERGE really knocks it out of the park as they strictly focus on AR/VR applications. Their Miniverse houses many applications and the educational experiences are filtered out. The Moment AR app is one of my favorites for social-emotional learning and uses a MERGE Cube. We’ve done some neat science labs with MERGE applications that really increased student engagement. We’ve taken some virtual field trips, explored the solar system and even traveled through the skeletal, muscular, and circulatory systems using this example of immersive tech.

Example (Moment AR)

Example (MERGE Edu)

Example (Buncee + CoSpaces + MERGE)

Minecraft Education Edition with MERGE Object Viewer

https://educommunity.minecraft.net/hc/en-us/articles/360047117612-Exporting-in-3D-

*Free and paid

We’ve been fortunate to be able to bring Minecraft Education edition to our learners both on iPads, Windows 10 laptops and now even Chromebooks. Their lesson library and world library continue to grow. Unfortunately, our 3D printer was out of service for some time due to a broken part but thanks to a structure block, Microsoft Paint 3D and MERGE Object Viewer, we were able to get creative to hold builds in the palm of our hands. Any Minecraft fan will appreciate this immersive tech experience. While the tutorial worlds and hour of code worlds are playable without an account, to save worlds and access the full version, an Office 365 license is needed. Example (Step-by-step instructions)

Google Arts & Culture

https://artsandculture.google.com/

*Free

Google Expeditions was a great way to experience virtual field trips. I’ll never forget the sound of the classroom full of second graders who were learning about the arctic when they first held up their iPad and were transported to a virtual walk with the polar bears. They didn’t want to leave the class and were begging for more. This content has now shifted over to Google Arts & Culture and in addition, there are also augmented reality museum artifacts and paintings that you can drop in any environment. There are even some near gaming experiments that the Arts & Culture team share out. features It curates content from over 2000 leading museums and archives who have partnered with the Google Cultural Institute to bring the world’s art to you.  Example

Hologo

https://www.hologo.world/

*Free and paid

Hologo is a constantly growing library of 3D and Augmented Reality based educational experiences. It can even work without an AR supported device. What I really like about Hologo is how they have gamified the experience. We used the heart model during a lesson on body systems in Grade 7. In addition to being immersed in the 3D model, students were able to interact with elements in a quiz like format. Another powerful feature is their AR/VR immersive tech portals called Journeys. They plan to feature a new country each month.

Example

Example (Journey)

Geogebra AR

https://www.geogebra.org/m/RKYFdQJy

*Free

I taught math for 10 years and one challenge that I often had was getting students to visualize a mathematical expression or representation. Geogebra helps solve this problem. It can even integrate some of its measurement tools and calculators in combination with these experiences.

Example

Example

Example

Frame VR

https://framevr.io/

*Free and paid

Let’s face it, just about everyone can admit to some virtual meeting fatigue. What if this didn’t have to be. Frame VR creates a twist on a virtual meeting allowing for users to create a space to share content and connect with others. The best part, it works right within a browser to make access easier.

Example

Virtual Speech

https://virtualspeech.com/

*Free and paid

I remember being asked to give an Ignite talk at an international conference. I never once took a public speaking class. Years of classroom teaching certainly helped but that’s not the same as speaking to a full auditorium of adults. Virtual Speech helped me load my slides and give me a VR audience. I used a MERGE VR headset at the time. I was able to keep track of my time, advance slides, and get a feel like I was giving the actual talk. This app also has simulated interview environments and more.

I’ll also add that Flipgrid, Buncee, Minecraft Education and MERGE Edu all come with Microsoft Immersive Reader integration. While this isn’t part of the AR/VR experience, it is great to see products place a focus on accessibility. Enjoy exploring some of these applications as you and your students get immersed in some immersive tech in the classroom.

1 Comment

  1. Rob

    Great resources! Some new tools and ideas to try out!

    Reply

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