Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Four Ways to Create Your Own VR & AR Experiences

Observing and interacting with augmented reality and virtual reality content is nice, but after a while students will get bored with the pre-made commercial content. You can combat some of that boredom by putting students in charge of picking the AR and VR experiences that are of most interest to them while also being relevant to the topic at hand. You can further engage students by having them create their own AR and VR experiences to share with their classmates, with you, and with the world at large.

Here are some options for creating your own virtual reality and augmented reality experiences. These are listed in order of easiest to learn how to use to the most difficult to learn how to use.

Cardboard Camera
Cardboard Camera is a free iOS and Android app offered by Google. The app lets you take a 360 panoramic image that you can share to view in Google Cardboard viewer or similar VR headset. The app will capture any sounds including your voiceover present while capturing the image. Those who use Cardboard Camera on Android can save their VR images in Google Photos where they can be cropped and edited with basic image filters.

Cardboard Camera for Android is available here. Cardboard Camera for iOS is available here.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to use the Cardboard Camera app:



Google Street View App
The Google Street View app for Android and iOS offers more than just a way to view interesting places around the world. The free app includes a camera function that can be used to capture 360 photospheres. When you tap the camera icon in the app it will guide you through taking a series of pictures that will be automatically stitched together to form the photosphere. The completed photosphere can be shared with others in a variety of ways including direct sharing via SMS or email, posting on social media, or by contributing to the Google Maps community.

The Google Street View iOS app is available here. The Google Street View Android app is available here.

Metaverse Studio
Metaverse Studio is a free service for creating your own augmented reality learning experiences. With Metaverse you can create interactive, augmented reality games and challenges for students to complete on their phones or tablets. Metaverse Studio is a block programming (sometimes called visual programming) interface similar in concept to what you will find in the MIT App Inventor and Thunkable. This means that you don't write code. Instead of writing code you create your augmented reality experience by selecting commands and selecting pieces of media from a menu. Put the commands together in the proper sequence and your augmented reality experience can be used on any iOS or Android device.

Mastering Metaverse Studio can take quite a while. That’s not because the service is hard to use. It takes a while to master because there are so many command and logic options that you can employ to create an augmented reality application.

Metaverse does offer an extensive set of tutorial videos. The first of those can be seen below.

Patches from Vizor
Patches is a free program that you can use to develop animated virtual reality experiences. Patches offers animated characters, animals, buildings, and common objects that you can place inside a virtual reality scene. Just drag and drop objects and animations from the selection menus to the Patches design canvas. You can create and customize your VR scenes as much as you like by changing object positioning, color schemes, and even the speed at which an animation moves. You can preview your VR scenes within the Patches editor. Completed projects can be viewed in a VR viewer by just enter the link assigned to your project into your mobile phone's browser.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

A Good and Free Summer Activity for Rainy Days

This afternoon I was talking with my childcare provider about activities for kids to do on rainy summer days. One of the things that I mentioned was going bowling. Doing that reminded me of a free program that I've been sharing almost every year since 2012 and has been running for a dozen years. That program is Kids Bowl Free.

Kids Bowl Free offers two free games per day to students in the United States and Canada. Kids Bowl Free is a program funded by bowling alleys to provide students with a safe and fun activity during the summer.

To receive coupons for up to two free games of bowling per day, parents need to register on Kids Bowl Free. Each bowling center sets its own start and end date for the program so check the listings for a bowling center in your area.

7 Good Apps for Getting Started With AR & VR

One of the components of this year's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp (a few seats still available) is time to explore how augmented reality and virtual reality can be used in a variety of classroom settings. The following is by no means a comprehensive list of AR and VR apps that can be used in classrooms. Instead, the following list represents a selection of AR and VR apps that are good introductions to the concepts of using AR and VR in education.

Plum's Creaturizer
Plum's Creaturizer from PBS Kids is a free iOS and Android app that lets students create fun cartoon creatures and then place them into outdoor settings through the use of augmented reality. The purpose of the app is to have students learn and show how the characteristics of an animal help it thrive in its environment.


Google Expeditions
Google Expeditions probably has the most name recognition of the VR and AR apps that are designed for schools. The AR content in Google Expeditions lets students view and manipulate digital content in a physical world context. The AR content can be used as components in science, math, geography, history, and art lessons. Some examples of the more than 100 AR experiences that you'll find in the app include landforms, the skeletal system, dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, the brain, and the Space Race.

To use the AR content available through Google Expeditions you will need to print marker or trigger sheets that students scan with their phones or tablets. Once scanned the AR imagery appears on the screen. (You can actually preview some of the imagery without scanning a marker, but the imagery will not be interactive or 3D). Students don't need to look through a Cardboard viewer in order to see the AR imagery. You can get the Google Expeditions Android app here and the iOS version here.

My beginner’s guide to using Google Expeditions as a teacher is available in the following video.



VR Hangar
The Smithsonian has a neat VR app called VR Hangar. The app, available on iOS and Android devices, contains three virtual reality tours about landmark moments in aviation history. Those moments are the Wright Brothers' first flight, Chuck Yeager's record-breaking flight in the Bell X-1, and the Apollo 11 mission. You can use VR Hangar with or without a VR headset, but it is much better with a VR headset.

VR Math
VR Math is a virtual reality app that, as the name implies, is designed for use in mathematics lessons. Specifically, the app is intended to help students gain a better understanding of geometry concepts. When students open the app they have to choose between “I want to learn” and “I want to understand.” The “I want to understand” mode opens a library of exercises that students complete in virtual reality. Some of the exercise categories that students will find include calculating volume, sum of angles, and counting vertices. Within each of those categories students will find exercises to complete within the VR environment. VR Math can be used with or without a virtual reality headset. As with most VR apps that have a non-headset option, the app experience is much better with a headset than without one.

Sites in VR
Sites in VR is a free Android and iOS app that provides a 1700 virtual reality views of significant landmarks around the world. The app is a good one for those who would like to experience a bit of virtual reality without having to use a virtual reality headset. Sites in VR provides imagery that you can navigate by moving your phone or tablet in a manner similar to that of using a virtual reality viewer like Google Cardboard. To use the app simply open it then select a country, city, or landmark type. Then on the next screen select from a menu of landmarks to view. Once you've made a selection you will be able to view the imagery and navigate through it by moving your phone or tablet.

Wonderscope
Wonderscope is an iPad app that uses augmented reality featuring stories that students interact with through voice and touch. Students position animations and interact with story animations by moving their iPads and reading the lines that appear on their screens.

Wonderscope doesn't require students to have any kind of log-in to use the stories in the app. Students simply open the app and tap the story to begin. Once the story is open students have to move around the room to make the animations appear on the screen. If students end up pointing the camera in a direction that isn't sustainable for the entirety of the story (looking at the ceiling, for example) they can reposition the animations. Once the animations appear students read the lines on the screen to unlock each chapter of a story. The animations in the story will talk to the students too.

Merge Cube
Merge Cube offers augmented reality experiences through the use of a physical object, the Merge Cube, and free apps that interact with the cube. The is essentially a six-sided QR code. Interactive digital content is displayed on students’ phones or tablets when they scan a side of the cube with one of the Merge Cube apps. Turning the cube changes the content that is displayed on the phone or tablet.

To use Merge Cube augmented reality experiences you will need to purchase a Merge Cube. They’re typically $14.99 from your favorite online retailers. Once you have the cube you can use it with as many compatible apps as you like. A few popular apps to try include 3D Museum Viewer, Galactic Explorer, and AR Medical.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Two Online PD Courses I'm Hosting in June

The primary support for Free Technology for Teachers comes from folks like you who enroll in my Practical Ed Tech webinars and workshops. This spring and summer I'm hosting a series of professional development webinars and workshops. The next webinars are starting in June.

In June I'm hosting Teaching History With Technology and Getting Going With G Suite.

Teaching History With Technology is a popular online course that I’ve offered in the past as a series of three webinars. I’ve expanded it to five weeks in order to include more fun and engaging topics including augmented reality and virtual reality lessons, the latest Google Earth features, and making mobile apps in social studies lessons. The course starts on June 4th at 7:30pm ET. Learn more and register here.


Getting Going With G Suite sells out almost every time that I offer it. This is a five week course designed for teachers and administrators who are new to using G Suite for Education. In the course you will not only learn the nuts and bolts of using G Suite for Education, you’ll also learn how to leverage these tools to create engaging experiences for your students. This course draws on my ten years of training thousands of educators on G Suite for Education tools. This course will start in June 3rd at 7:30pm ET. Learn more and register here.

Nine Tutorials for Making Your Own Mobile App

Glide is a service that anyone can use to create a mobile app without doing any coding. Glide lets you take one of your Google Sheets and have the information become a mobile app. It's easy to use and you can get started in minutes. Last month I published this five minute tutorial on how to make your own mobile app with Glide.


Glide recently published their own official tutorial videos. Glide offers these eight tutorials that will walk you through each step of using Glide from sign-up through publication of your app.