The Immersive Classroom
eBook - ePub

The Immersive Classroom

Create Customized Learning Experiences with AR/VR

Jaime Donally

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eBook - ePub

The Immersive Classroom

Create Customized Learning Experiences with AR/VR

Jaime Donally

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About This Book

Discover the possibilities of immersive technology to deepen student engagement; activate learning through hunts, breakouts and labs; and explore global collaboration. Our classrooms are full of individuals who learn in diverse ways, and educators need creative teaching approaches to enrich learning for struggling students. When applied effectively, immersive technology in teaching can target students' interests, provide flexibility for a range of skill levels and empower students' choice in their learning. The Immersive Classroom highlights the possibilities of immersive technology to make a greater impact and reach all student populations.The book:

  • Provides step-by step instructions for how to mix individual tools to create an ecosystem of immersive technology.
  • Offers examples from leading educators who have implemented the tools and techniques discussed, giving readers easy-to-implement takeaways they can incorporate in their classrooms right away.
  • Includes interactive content, with more than 30 images that can be scanned in order to experience AR/VR tools for yourself!
  • Contains a robust index of more than 100 AR/VR tools along with device specifics and requirements.

With this book, readers gain insights into customizing tools through app hacking and app smashing, and discover how pushing the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) tools beyond their intended purpose can maximize their benefits, helping meet the needs of all students.

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1 Benefits of Immersive Technology in Education

For those unfamiliar with the term, “immersive technology” refers to tools that incorporate augmented, virtual, and mixed reality. If you aren’t quite sure what those terms mean, or if you’re having trouble telling them apart, here are brief descriptions of each.
In augmented reaily (AR), students can explore the real world while adding a digital layer on top that gives the illusion that they have a 3D object—like the solar system, a zebra, or a human cadaver—in their classroom.
In virtual reality (VR), your classroom can teleport anywhere—to the Great Barrier Reef or ancient Rome—using a VR headset or mobile device to create an all-digital view. VR features such as a 360-degree view and surround sound provide a truly immersive experience.
In mixed reality (MR), the AR experience goes beyond an overlay to allow virtual objects to interact with real ones, such as placing a virtual apple or skull on top of your real desk.
For the purposes of this book, I will use the terms “immersive technology” or “AR/VR.” Some of the tools we will explore cross over into MR but as AR and VR are more commonly used, I will refer to all as “AR/VR.”
Since one of the benefits of immersive technology is engagement, it’s better to show than tell. Figure 1.1. shows examples of three different immersive technology experiences.
Figure 1.1. Examples of AR, MR, and VR experiences learners might encounter. Watch this image come to life to see how it works. View in the EyeJack app after scanning the QR code.
Now that you have a better picture of what these various technologies are, it’s helpful to understand the kinds of opportunities they present and the benefits of using them with students before incorporating them into your classroom. This chapter explores the some of the advantages of using immersive technology in education, including:
  • engagement
  • investment
  • flexibility
  • challenge
Being aware of these benefits can help with planning as well as making the case for using the technology with administrators, parents, and others.

Student Engagement

The most obvious benefit of immersive technology is building student engagement. Most students are enthusiastic about trying this new technology; they’ve probably already been exposed to it through entertainment and gameplay. The “wow” factor of AR/VR will likely attract many students to classroom activities that they might normally dread. Suddenly, science content from lectures or reading assignments can come to life in a memorable way (see Figure 1.2). Using AR/VR tools, you are appealing to your students’ desire to learn in a way that captures their attention and is more aligned with their time outside of school. When students don’t think of learning as boring, you are more likely to fully engage them.
Figure 1.2. Use the AugmentifyIt app and scan each of these images. Capture the “wow” and share on social media using #ARVRinEDU.
The best engagement comes when the potential is unlimited. Our students need to encounter learning in multiple content areas and in many lessons. If the tool is limited to a single use, it may not be worth the time, cost, or resources. Spending an enormous amount of time preparing for an experience that is limited to just a single lesson may not be the best choice for you or your students.
Presenting on this topic has shown me that not only is it exciting for students, but educators widely accept it. Immersive technology offers a new way to present learning beyond our prior limitations. Educators across the globe are having just as much fun as their students and are reaping the many benefits, from increased engagment to deeper learning encounters. It’s possible that immersive technology can spark a new enthusiasm for teaching as educators experience the fun with their students.
Not all people respond to various AR/VR experiences with enthusiasm. Some individuals are more comfortable with this technology than others. You may encounter situations that require some guidance or time to get buy-in for participation, especially when students are unsure how they might feel during the virtual experience. There are occasions when the experience of movement in VR can make students feel ill, uncomfortably claustrophobic, or vulnerable. Consider these possibilities before pressuring students into participating. One way to help students choose to join the experience is by preparing the class for the experience with a discussion in advance. You should also list the expectations for classroom behavior. Most students become willing to take the leap once they see other students enjoying the learning experience.
The following are a few ways to prepare for successful student participation when using immersive technology:
  • Set specific objectives for the experience.
  • List classroom behavior expectations.
  • Provide detailed directions for device use.
  • Prepare a safe place to explore learning, free of trip hazards or potential collisions with furniture.
  • Balance student responsibility with interactions, responses, and assessments.
  • Keep students active with age-appropriate transition times.
If you find that students are resisting the experience, try to provide alternative options until your students are comfortable with the activities. Some of the ways to supplement immersive technology lessons could include having students do a virtual scavenger hunt on the computer, use a mobile app that doesn’t require a headset, or read related content online or in a physical book.

Student Investment

Providing the best learning experience for each student begins with knowing them. When we want the best for our students, we find ways to support their struggles and magnify their strengths. We understand the different ways our students enjoy learning. We discard activities when our students don’t improve, and research how to offer a better lesson next time. Adapting to this mindset isn’t driven by recognition, approval, or gratitude. We continuously adapt because we care about our students.
Finding the right resources can be challenging, especially when some publishers and companies are pushing products that are mainly driven by profit rather than educational value. Because of the popularity of immersive technology, new tools and updates are being released constantly, which can be both beneficial and problematic for educators.
On the benefit side, resources covering almost every educational topic are already available to bring into your classroom. I often receive requests for tools that fit a specific need in the curriculum. I’m always amazed when I research the topic and find many resources covering specific concepts. The challenge is finding good quality and the right fit among the scores of offerings.
While any topic you search for may be available in AR/VR, the results won’t always match your or your students’ expectations for learning. Sometimes the lesson doesn’t need to be in AR/VR, and forcing the tool for the enjoyment of the activity alone is not the way to use any technology. Replacing a paragraph of text on a sheet of paper with a paragraph of text in a virtual space is unnecessary and a disappointing experience for students.
Careful evaluation of your lesson plan elements will help you select the right tools. Many lessons allow students to explore and interact with the concepts. If the lesson requires authentic audience feedback, immersive technology can provide these opportunities. AR/VR tools can provide virtual objects without spending a fortune on classroom materials. Many experiences provide connections to education standards to address student learning while expanding and improving your lesson plans with immersive technology.


While working with schools across the United States, a common trend I’ve found is district-created lesson plans and activities that must be strictly followed by educators. I’m always amazed when I’m invited to speak in a district that has such strict regulations on their teachers’ options. The lessons that my sessions include seem to reopen old wounds. The discussion around what could be is a reminder of what is impossible for their classrooms because of district restrictions.
I understand the desire to use the same lessons from one campus to another. The uniform approach seems to be the right direction for districts trying to provide a quality education that has the research and testing for proven results. Each assignment and activity is carefully crafted to cover every objective and standard perfectly. The curriculum is so good that district administrators wonder why they don’t have better scores, higher performance, and district-wide academic recognition. If we have the lessons so perfected, what’s the point of having an educator in the classroom at all?
Of course, we all know that teaching involves more than strict guidelines, scripted lessons, and rigid activities. The educator has the opportunity to serve a diverse group of individuals that will respond to various lessons differently. Educators need to have the freedom to modify a lesson that won’t fit each of our individual learners. One of the many rewards of being an educator is identifying the struggles of our students and seeing the success of finding the right approach to meet their individual needs. The challenge is gladly accepted because the teacher is hired to serve our students using effective strategies, not to follow a command that has a specific outcome every time it’s repeated.
While teaching in the classroom, I couldn’t give the exact same lesson in the same way from class to class. Delivering the same “speech” in each class was exhausting and to be honest, horribly dull. I found that I needed to be engaged in the material as much as the students needed it. Our students can see right through a phony act, and I’m a bad actress. If I wasn’t engaged, how could I expect my students to be involved? It didn’t take long to realize that I needed to add variety in my lessons that were modified from class to class. The difficulty of finding the right way to present material to each student was a challenge, but the results were what kept me excited about teaching.
Our students expect to be valued, just as educators expect to be appreciated. Our individual needs must be acknowledged and heard to feel valued. We must understand our students’ difficulties and interests to create successful lessons. By modifying our lessons to fit their needs and interests, our students will feel valued and find greater success in their learning. Lessons can only be modified if the district values the decisions of our educators to make those changes.
In addition to personal preference, lessons must be flexible to fit our diverse learners. Meeting the needs of a student with dyslexia looks different than for a student who is visually impaired. There are many options to experience learning differently as immersive technology can get our students up and moving around the classroom, listening and watching biographies in 360 degrees, or creating a space that fits their individual interests. AR/VR tools provide flexibility for students to express their knowledge in ways that holistically display their understanding of content.

Student Challenge

Many classrooms have incorporated gamification and challenge-based activities such as Breakout EDU, eSports, badging, and others. Students are often captivated by the challenge to be successful under the constraints of competition and time.
Some of the most impressive immersive technology resources push users to make quick decisions, overcome obstacles, and persist until they reach their goal. Many students prefer some amount of struggle before finishing a task because the reward is much more meaningful after having to work hard. In the same way, educators can find great pleasure in “gamifying” AR/VR using challenges.

A Success Story with AR/VR from My Own Life

The chance to make mistakes while learning can help support long term retention and a deeper understanding of the content. Many times, we learn more from our failures than we do with immediate success. I’ve personally witnessed this to be true in my own family using an app called Catchy Words AR.
One evening, my daughter Elliana was struggling with spelling words, and my traditional “drill and kill” practices were not helping her. She would say each letter of the word over and over and write it down on a sheet of paper while looking back at the correct spelling. Elliana has dyslexia, so this frustration is nothing new, but we were finding that her spelling words were becoming more demanding and difficult for her to retain.
When the Catchy Words AR app was first released, I discounted it as nothing more than Hangman in AR. I couldn’t clearly see the potential of the game, but when I noticed that Elli was struggling with these words, I thought I would have her give it a try. I typed in the letters of the word she was having the most difficulty with and gave her the device. The screen showed a 3D bubble in the middle of the room that held all of the letters of her spelling word. She had to walk up to the bubble with the device and tap it. Once she tapped the bubble with the device, all of the letters flew out and landed helter-skelter around the room. She had to collect each of these letters with the device and place it in the correct order in the boxes shown at the bottom of the room (see Figure 1.3).
Figure 1.3. Catchy Words AR experience. View this image using the Halo AR ap...

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