Let's begin with augmented reality and virtual reality. Augmented reality layers computer-generated enhancements on top of an existing reality in a way that makes it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. Augmented reality requires just a few things – a smartphone or tablet with a back-facing camera, an augmented reality app, and a trigger image. An internet connection is also needed for the real-time overlaying of information. The trigger image can simply be a QR code or it might be a specialized matrix or image that is designed to be viewed through a specific app. Does this sound complicated and way out of reach for younger learners? Take a look at the Quiver app.
We have seen augmented reality in the business world for a few years now. You can layer furniture, paint, and more over the image of your living room before you buy. AR in the classroom can increase engagement and allow learners to view and manipulate an object they are learning about and gain a deeper understanding. Think about AR on a classroom word wall or book review. How much more engaged might a learner be if we included AR when studying Civil War battles? Five Ways To Use Augmented Reality In The Classroom (Keet, 2021) presents some additional great ideas.
While AR overlays objects on top of existing reality, VR puts people into a completely virtual, computer-generated environment. While almost anyone with a smartphone can access AR, VR requires a VR headset and often a set of controllers. These can range from a few dollars for a Google Cardboard to a few hundred dollars for a Sony or Meta system.
Think about the implications for teacher education if prospective teachers can actually practice in a robust virtual classroom in which the professor controls the parameters. In the K-12 classroom, VR can be used in geography to explore various parts of the globe, either in the present or in the past. Think about learners sitting in on the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in Philadelphia or talking looking over Edison's lab in Menlo Park. Teachers could also use VR in physical education classes. For example, virtual reality can be used to play tennis, volleyball, baseball, golf, etc. Here is an example of what VR can do in a high school classroom.
Coding and App Development
One of the recommendations of the ACOT2 study is to engage learners in the creation of content. They shouldn't just be consumers of knowledge but creators as well. This also aligns very well with the three frameworks we learned about in the previous chapters. One way to enable this is to teach learners to code. When learners code they quickly see that they are the ones who control their devices rather than the devices controlling them. The great thing about coding is that the tools and programs available today make coding accessible to even the youngest of learners. What this "Grow with Google" video and see the excitement coding brings to young learners. This final quote in this video is especially important.
Yes, what problems do you want to solve when you grow up?
Technology shouldn't be used just for technology's sake. As we learned in previous chapters, technology should be used intentionally and purposefully. Learning to code involves logic, problem-solving, backward planning, and other thinking skills. Teachers of all subject areas could consider making coding a part of their content area. For a deeper dive into "why coding" read the Teacher's Essential Guide to Coding in the Classroom produced by Common Sense Education.
Virtual and Flipped Classrooms
There aren't a lot of great things that COVID-19 brought to education, but one positive is that COVID literally forced schools to rapidly move to virtual learning. The road was bumpy at first, but districts took advantage of Federal relief dollars to provide devices for students and expand internet accessibility, both in their schools and in many cases, throughout their communities. Teachers learned new teaching strategies to enable them to teach virtually. While most schools have since returned to face-to-face learning, some parents and students found they actually learned better working independently and have remained virtual.
The unplanned, rapid shift to virtual learning had another positive. Blended and flipped learning became teaching strategies that many teachers learned and have added to their teaching toolbelts. Blended and flipped learning are related but different. In an article written for Educational Technology and Mobile Learning, Dr. Med Kharback articulates four models of blended learning teachers should know about. These four models are:
- the station rotation model,
- lab rotation model,
- flex model, and
- flipped learning.
Read his article and think about which model might work with your situation. Here are some things to consider before moving into blended learning:
- Not every student is a good fit for blended learning,
- Some learners won't respond well to a self-directed learning style,
- Flipped learning required more front-end work on the teacher's part,
- Blended learning requires equal and adequate bandwidth and technology for both teachers and all learners.
On the other hand, in blended and flipped learning:
- teachers can focus more on individual learners,
- learners gain better access to the content,
- learners move at their own pace and learn to be more independent and self-directed, and
- learning is more consistent because learner absences due to illness, family travel, snow days, etc. don't stop learning.
There is a fifth blended model that some elementary teachers and teachers in communities with limited access at home have used effectively. I refer to this as the faux flipped model. In this model, all of the learning takes place in the classroom. Learners begin the process by watching a teacher-created or collated video and then taking a quiz on the material. Based on their score on the quiz they either move to a center with the teacher or review the material in the video. Here is a video from the Highland Park, ISD showing the faux flipped model in action.
Moving to a blended or completely flipped teaching and learning model can seem daunting, but remember this. You don't have to make the transition all at once. Take it one step at a time. Pick one of the models that makes sense for your teaching style and your learners learning styles. Think about technology access at school and in the homes in your community. Then take one lesson and move it to a blended format. Build on that success and turn that lesson into a unit and then another and another. While there is more front loading in this style of teaching, you only have to do that once. The next year you will have a number of lessons or units in the bank and can keep building.
In this chapter, we looked at blended and flipped classrooms, but we also acknowledged that learners have different learning styles and what works well for some might not work well for others. In the next chapter, we will look at differentiation and how technology can add to a differentiated classroom.
To help deepen your understanding of the ideas presented in this chapter, create a visually appealing* infographic exploring one of the movements presented in this chapter - augmented/virtual learning, coding and app development, or flipped classrooms.
- Briefly explain the topic you chose and why.
- What did you find most beneficial from the readings?
- What would you like to know more about regarding this topic?
- How do you think you could use something you learned in your teaching or leadership role?
*In order to make an infographic visually appealing, make sure you consider organization and layout, font style/size, and image/media use.
Here are some sample Infographic creation sites: SmoreLinks, Canva, Piktochart, or Easel.ly.