Prepare To Be ‘Emaze-d’*

*I thought I was clever with this title, turns out it’s the tagline for the tech tool we used.

Augmented reality, virtual reality, immersive video – oh my!

If you’ve been following along, you know all about GREAT17, you’ve read the highlights and you have probably now seen my personal reflection (written as part of a course requirement – not the most exciting reading), but you might feel like you’re missing a step – don’t worry, you actually are. The step you are missing is the presentation itself, you have the beginning, and the end, but no middle. Well here’s the middle…

4 long weeks ago, we were asked to research trends in educational technology and choose two trends that were of interest to us. Our choices would be considered, our matches made and we would be partnered up and tasked with researching, developing and presenting on the trend we were assigned.

Here are the facts:

My partner – the amazing Sophia Salani – former preschool teacher turned educational technology integrationist.

My trend – augmented and virtual realities.

The why:

Now you may be (or may not be) wondering why a former preschool teacher and current high school English teacher are interested in presenting on augmented and virtual realities. Plain and simple, because I didn’t know anything about it.

Now pre-MAET me would have focused on the grade, and getting the best one I could, and making this the prettiest presentation out there. Post-MAET me is much more of a risk-taker than that. Yes, the grade still matters, but what matters to me more is the learning. I come to this summer experience with little to no knowledge of augmented and virtual realities, but this is a safe space for me to explore those technologies, surrounded by experts, thinkers and problem solvers. This is also very likely the only time I’ll have all of these technologies readily available to me so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity.

The first thing Sophia and I did was define what augmented and virtual reality is (we literally started at square one). Once we had these technologies defined, we began researching what’s out there, how they work, do they have benefit in schools, etc. At one point during this process, our professor threw a wrench in our plans by telling us what we thought we knew about virtual reality is actually not virtual reality, but rather an entirely different subset of technology, known as immersive video…

Ugh.

After coming to terms with the idea that we would not be able to achieve a true virtual reality experience (because it requires the virtual environment to respond to your input the same way the physical environment does aka, you need a lot of expensive equipment) we focused on what we did have – augmented reality and immersive video.

Sophia and I collected data, we gathered tools, we ‘played’ around (for strictly research purposes of course) and we finally had 2 things: knowledge and direction.

We had acquired knowledge of our topic, we acquired familiarity with the technology available and we set off to making our presentation.

Now I will not claim credit for this brilliant presentation idea we had, because it actually wasn’t really mine. One of the benefits I have of teaching International Baccalaureate students is they can often be creative and resourceful. I ask my students to make several presentations throughout the year and often threaten them against using Powerpoint, Prezi or Google Slides (there is nothing wrong with these technologies, but there are so many other options out there – branch out!). One of my student groups introduced me to a presentation tool known as Emaze.

Emaze markets itself as a ‘social hub website’ – what that is, I admittedly don’t know, but what I do know is that emaze has a gallery template that would be perfect for this presentation. For our GREAT17 presentation, Sophia and I created the “Augmented and Virtual Reality Gallery.” If you were unable to join us on July 13, feel free to explore now (headphones recommended).

Sophia and I thought this was the perfect way to present on augmented and virtual reality because this program mirrored that virtual environment we were learning about. This gallery allowed users to be partially immersed in their learning space and environment – which correlated perfectly with the content we were delivering. We even created a gallery narrator to guide participants through the gallery and share information with them.

Once participants moved through the gallery, we opened up the session to “play time.” Just as we learned about these technologies through exploration, we wanted to afford our participants the same opportunity. 

Ultimately, we walked away with a few things: we have a greater understanding of what augmented and virtual reality is, we know what is on the horizon for these technologies, we are familiar with the technology and how it functions, but lastly – and most importantly – we have ideas for how we can use these technologies in our classrooms.

Here are just a few:

  1. The Quiver augmented reality app has many interactive science concepts – from making volcanoes explode to testing your knowledge of parts of a cell.
  2. The Quiver augmented reality app supports geography and world knowledge with various globes and features for learning about different countries/places throughout that globe.
  3. Augment app can be used to design spaces or explore everyday objects up close and in a 360 degree fashion – would be great for art or design classes.
  4. Augment app is preprogrammed with many products and brands that can be used in marketing or design projects.
  5. Google cardboard can be used to go on, and lead, immersive video expeditions for virtual field trips.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface for the capabilities of augmented and virtual reality, but the benefits are there. As the world continues to grow, we can harness the power of technology to make it more accessible for our students.

Megan & Sophia

PC: Katie Dahmer

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