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Merge Cube offers instructional AR power in the palm of your hand

By Mary Howard
October 5, 2018
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The Merge Cube is a compelling little device packed with a tremendous amount of instructional potential. It can revolutionize science curriculum by allowing students to have their hands on an actual beating heart or look inside a functioning human system. It can transport social studies students from merely exploring a map to holding a hologlobe in the palms of their hands. In writing class, it can immerse students in a literary character’s experiences. It can even allow students to hold polygons and observe how the volume changes when they manipulate the sides.  

Using the Merge Cube

The Merge Cube is a 3½-inch-by-3½-inch augmented-reality trigger. Each side has a distinct pattern that is recognized by the Merge Cube suite of apps. Simply open the Merge Cube app with a tablet or smartphone, and you can launch an interactive element that is whimsical enough to entertain, but robust enough to inspire instruction in the classroom. To date, has a suite of over 30 apps, many of which are designed to facilitate instruction in the classroom.

When I first discovered the Merge Cube, I was immediately enamored with the device. From the relatively inexpensive price (they can often be found on sale for $1) to the approachability of the platform (load an app, aim a device and you are ready), it seemed like a instructional jackpot!

But once I began to explore the Merge Cube apps, I really began to understand the instructional potential of this simple tool. While I haven’t explored the entire suite of Merge Cube apps, I have worked with four that made an immediate impact in my classroom.

Apps give up-close view covering any subject area

Galactic Explorer. Aim the app at the cube and watch as the planets revolve around the sun in their orbits, explore the texture and color of each planet’s surface, and discover interesting facts as you navigate through space. My favorite way to use this app is by creating a scavenger hunt. Give students clues about each planet and have them use the Merge Cube to find them all.  

Mr. Body. This app provides a close-up view of many of the vital organs in the human body such as the heart, brain, lungs and more. Each body part is labeled with important information, making it great for learning anatomy! Let students use the Mr. Body Merge Cube app as a resource to diagram the brain.  

THINGS! The anatomy lesson doesn’t end with Mr. Body. THINGS! is essentially a suite of interactive elements designed to familiarize students with augmented reality. In THINGS! you can interact with an octopet, play virtual jack in the box or get hypnotized by a kaleidocope of colors. These activities are fun and interesting, but the Holobody Heart is my favorite because it allows students to label and learn about the function of the heart.  

Object Viewer. I’ve saved the best and most powerful app for last. Object Viewer allows users to upload 3D designs into the Merge Cube so that they can be viewed outside of the design software in which they were created. You can upload and view professional designed 3D images from a variety of 3D model warehouses. Students can also create their own 3D designs of artifacts in social studies classes or use Merge Cubes to facilitate a 3D design gallery walk. This app truly captures the ISTE Innovative Designer standard because it allows students to use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.

All of these apps address the ISTE Knowledge Constructor standard within the ISTE Standards for Students because they help students curate information and artifacts that demonstrate meaningful learning. They also address the Empower Learner standard in that they allow students to use technology to seek feedback that informs and improves their practice and demonstrates their learning in a variety of ways.

Learn more about how to integrate the AR power of Merge Cube by watching the recording of my ISTE Expert Webinar “What Is Merge Cube and How Can I Use It?” which covers:

  • An overview of the Merge Cube as an instructional tool.

  • and the Merge Cube Resource Hub.

  • Resources and Merge Cube apps to support curriculum.

  • Fun projects with Merge Cube.

Mary Howard is a sixth grade teacher at Veronica E. Connor Middle School in Grand Island, New York. She teaches ELA and social studies and was a finalist for the 2018 New York State Teacher of the Year. Mary is an ISTE Conference presenter and is active with the ISTE’s Virtual Environments Network. In 2018 she was awarded the ISTE Virtual Pioneer of the Year award. She features many of her educational technology adventures and musings on her blog. You can follow her on Twitter @mrshoward118.

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