Google AR and VR inspired learning

Google Expeditions allows teachers to bring lessons to life through the use of AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality). A group of STEM students have been using this awesome App to run tutor sessions for a range of students aged 11 to 14 years old. The aim of the sessions was to educate their peers about human impact on marine ecosystems.

In January 2019, the team visited the BETT conference in London which acts as a showcase for all the latest EdTech being launched. Google’s expeditions caught their eye and captured their imaginations.

Google describes expeditions as follows … ‘VR lets you explore the world virtually while AR brings abstract concepts to life—allowing teachers to guide students through collections of 360° scenes and 3D objects, pointing out interesting sites and artifacts along the way’.

You can navigate Everest basecamp, take a journey around the great barrier reef or take a stroll across an ancient river basin, it’s pretty epic.

Let’ begin by explaining the difference between AR and VR

Virtual Reality

VR stands for Virtual Reality and that’s exactly what it is … a virtual reality or using computer technology to create a simulated environment. VR appeals to the senses (vision, hearing, touch) and transports the user into a different world. Google Expeditions provide over 1,000 VR tours the teacher can take students on. There are some basics you need to get going. Firstly, you will need VR viewers. There are many on the market but the most common are Google Cardboard. If you are using iPhones, the Desket V4 works really well and has a connecting head strap which stops the device falling off.

Google Cardboard VR holder (left) RRP £6 and Desket VR V4 on the right RRP £20

You will also need a device, ideally a smartphone. I have only used iPhones so far with VR but have been assured they work with Android equally well.

Download the Google Expeditions App and browse the many expeditions on offer. You will need Wifi to run the App or you can download AR and VR files. The file sizes are pretty large so I tend to download them the day before I intend to use them.

Download the App. It’s FREE

There are two ways to use the App depending on how many phones and VR hard sets you have access to. For the STEM workshops, we only had 2 x VR headsets and 2 x smart phones so I have based this example on how to integrate this into lessons. If you had a class set of VR headsets you could run an expedition from a teacher iPad and navigate students individually around the adventures. I am guessing most schools don’t have to multiple devices and VR holders on tap so this is an alternative that still has the wow factor.

Augmented Reality

AR is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. We found ‘Corals Part 2’ which brings 5 variations of corals into the classroom so students can view them, zoom in and learn about different species.

The AR files are on the same Google Expeditions App and require the user to scan a pre-printed marker. These markers are free, colourful and available form the same App.

Just point the camera towards the marker and the images appear. If you use an iPad, the images are bigger and it makes for an immersive experience.

STEM students used CORALS 2 to educate their peers about coral bleaching and human impact on the reefs

How to combine VR and AR to create inspiring lessons

For the STEM tutor sessions the team set up 4 x stations, each with a different focus. Students spent 5 minutes on each station before rotating. This worked really well.

Station 1 featured 2 x VR holders running 360 degree tours of the Great Barrier Reef.

Station 2 was all about the VR. This was the most popular station and the one students were most reluctant to move away from

Station 3 featured a short 3 minute video on CORAL BLEACHING which students viewed and discussed

Station 4 involved a paper task based around a series of questions linked to the project theme

Station 4 was designed to collect thoughts and opinions

The feedback form the session was really positive. Students enjoyed the AR and VR technology immensely and the STEM team did a great job leading the sessions. The STEM team consisted of four STEM ambassadors currently completing their Silver CREST Award at Shaftesbury School in Dorset, UK.

This project is running alongside the up cycling of pencil cases and ghost nets STEM campaigns. All 3 projects are live on the blog and are themed around raising awareness of human impact on marine ecosystems.

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