XR in Education

Junichi Nakamura explores the benefits of incorporating XR in education and how Reality Composer, Swift UI and Xcode can be used to create XR models.

XR in Education

XR is a collective term that stands for Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. I am very interested in utilizing XR technologies in education. 

Many people already understand the meaning of AR. We are aware that augmented reality is a method of expression and an environment in which a viewpoint can be altered. Apple introduced a program called Everyone Can Create at an event in Chicago in 2018, which has four categories: music, sketches, photos, and videos. In my opinion, AR has the potential to be a fifth category within Everyone Can Create. It has tremendous power that can be used to freely change one’s viewpoint to see the world from a different perspective.  It enables a coexistence between both the real and digital worlds and allows users to think and guess from different viewpoints.  The other four elements are incapable of this. Furthermore, it is becoming one of the new methods of expression in modern learning activities.

In fact, various applications that can be used to create AR models have already been released and their usage in educational settings is diverse and growing. Rather than using it throughout a lesson, teachers can incorporate AR at different times, such as during a lesson introduction or as part of a plenary.  With AR there are many practices which are not limited to specific subjects.  Teachers can use XR to help students gain a better understanding when presenting teaching material. Additionally, it may be used as a teaching material that visually supports storytelling and language learning or it may be used for disaster prevention education, such as projecting a disaster scene that is difficult to imagine within a normal environment. 

In order to “augment” the possibilities of AR in such educational settings, we believe that teachers need experience in creating objects and coding them into applications. In early September, a session was held online to kick-start this process.  Every Saturday night, about ten ADEs (Apple Distinguished Educators) gather online to learn about Swift UI. We call it “Saturday Night Coder.”

Since January, Mr. Mori, the host of the group has led great sessions providing all participants with the opportunity to become acquainted with how to use SwiftUI and how to code using Xcode.  During September, a session was delivered which focused on creating an AR object using Reality Composer and a follow-up session was held on implementing this AR object in code using Xcode.

Reality Composer is an application that develops AR objects and the scenes in which they are used, however it can also be regarded as a very simple 3D object creation tool. Rich creativity is required to create new shapes by combining parts such as cubes, spheres, cylinders and arrows. The theme of the session was to create a model of a house. The following week we created an application that projected this AR object into a real space by slightly rewriting the code within Xcode. Whilst it was possible to project the model within Reality Composer, it was important to understand the benefit of incorporating models into Xcode.

Saturday Night Coder
Using Spatial.io to discuss the use of XR in medicine
Learning to create XR
XR Modelling

Most of the sessions during “Saturday Night Coder” are focused on introducing Xcode. I actually thought Xcode was a very difficult language to learn but I was pleasantly surprised.  Rather than having to write everything from scratch, we actually learned how to combine snippets of code, how to rewrite and modify existing code and how to read the necessary files. That’s why the meaning of writing code is changing. This trend is expected to accelerate in the future as one of the methods of expression for students will be to easily create AR objects, read them into code and output what they have learned.

I am also very interested in incorporating VR goggles into teaching and learning. Just the other day, Maki Sugimoto, a friend and great doctor, took to the stage at an online seminar in our school. Mr. Sugimoto is one of Japan’s leading medical practitioners and he incorporates cutting-edge technologies such as XR, image analysis, 3D modelling and printing technology into medical care. Now that we are in the ‘new normal’ era, he talked to our students about the role that technology plays in society from a medical perspective and about the importance of social values. Finally, using http://Spatial.io, we shared screens and had a conversation in a VR space.

In present education, it is important to feel the significance of learning whilst also predicting what the future will look like and what it should be.  I think there are various ways to support that learning.   EdTech should be actively introduced.  XR technologies are not special technologies that can be used in the future. XR can be adopted and used regularly within education now.   As educators we need to have conversations about how to utilize them and how they can contribute to the improvement of society. We must start to use them now!

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