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Immersive tech is bringing new learning opportunities to classrooms

By Jaime Donally
December 15, 2017
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Can you believe the explosion of immersive technology in 2017? We saw virtual reality (VR) spike with virtual field trips taking students all around the world. And augmented reality (AR) began ramping up again. These technologies have been around for a long time, so what happened? Money happened!

When companies see an opportunity for profit, they’ll seize every chance to get in on the benefits. There were key moments when AR and VR hit the niche in the market. 

There’s no question that Pokemon Go found favor with students and adults, and provided many people a chance to see AR for the first time. The VR peak took place with the enthusiasm around Google Expeditions, free virtual field trips that can be experienced with a cardboard viewer. Students were immediately transported to places all over the world using cardboard and a mobile device. 

These popular AR and VR experiences have put a spotlight on immersive technology, and it’s been a win for our students.

Have you heard the recent buzz around the new augmented reality apps made with the ARKit? The ARKit has supercharged augmented reality and could be called mixed reality in situations where it’s used to blend real and digital environments. This technology recognizes spaces and provides boundaries for digital content to interact, such as operating with the walls of a room and finding flat surfaces where objects can be placed. Apple released the ARKit for app developers to unleash the possibilities of augmented reality. 

There are many reasons the new AR apps are growing in popularity, and the new features make the apps more relevant to our daily lives. As this technology improves, we’ll continue to see an influx of student usage that will deepen learning experiences. 

I believe we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg as these apps will become more interactive and engaging for our students to shape, mold and manipulate content within the world around them. 

The new technology behind the ARKit gives us insight into the potential for educational apps. The apps use the camera to identify walls and flat surfaces in 3D space. By knowing where the real objects in the room are, it can locate digital objects in that space, making it seem like the digital object is really in the room. 

In this way, the reality of the room is augmented with digital objects or characters. The lighting is more authentic as it changes the color of the objects to match the surrounding light, making the experiences feel more realistic. For example, if students are viewing the anatomy of the human body, the pigment of the skin will change to match the room’s lighting. 

Immersive technology is just beginning to get noticed in the classroom as a valuable learning opportunity. Rarely do I struggle to capture the attention of educators when sharing augmented and virtual reality; however, when it comes to the teachers including the resources in their lessons, many teachers don’t know where to begin. 

Here are some suggestions for successful AR and VR implementation: 

Step 1: Don’t start with the tool, start with the struggle. Rather than finding the lesson that works with a specific tool, educators should be looking for resources that aid in the struggles their students face in the lesson. We should be inspired to find the tools our students need to be successful, and there are many.

Step 2: Use the tools you have. We won’t see a major shift in education using immersive technology if we’re expecting our classrooms to make big, expensive purchases to have access to it. This is a game-changer because we have tools, such as iPads and mobile devices, that are already available and familiar in the classroom. The device is flexible to provide more resources beyond just AR and VR, and can be implemented immediately without waiting for an approval, purchase or training. 

Step 3: Move beyond experience into student-created content. We spend too much time spoon-feeding our students content. Whether we share information by video, on paper or in an augmented reality experience, the results are the same. While we all begin with experiences in technology, there should be a natural transition for our students to begin creating the content. 
Immersive technology is just beginning to get noticed as a valuable learning opportunity for our classrooms. Students live in a world where Snapchat filters and 360-degree videos are their norm, and our classrooms can be equipped with the same technology in learning. 

If you’re ready to get started, you’ll find resources on my website at, on the ISTE Blog at and by joining the weekly Twitter chat on Wednesday evenings using #ARVRinEDU. If you’d like support to put these tools into practice, I’ve created several modules in with step-by-step instructions for using immersive technology tools. 

Jaime Donally is a technology enthusiast who provides professional development on trending technology topics. Her latest adventures include the startup of #arvrinedu, #globalmakerday and the Hoonuit Learning Ambassador program. she's also the author of the upcoming ISTE book, Learning Transported: Augmented, Virtual and Mixed Reality for All Classrooms.