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.