Augmented Reality in Education


My only real experience with augmented reality (AR) is with StarWalk on the iOS devices. I been using StarWalk off and on for about 2 years. It started out when I was teaching an astronomy unit for 7th grade science. In a word, the StarWalk app is awesome! It’s simple to use and brings astronomy to a level where anyone can appreciate and understand. Even my 5 year old loves using the app on nights we go out to star gaze. For my 7th graders, I used it in the classroom to show the different constellation and how the location of stars change depending on season, etc. Some ended up downloading it and using it on their own. That in itself shows how well this AR app works in the education setting.

Now, 2 years later, there has been more development in this new field. Just from my quick look at YouTube to create a playlist for this week’s assignment, I found that several companies have created AR apps to teach chemical bonding in Chemistry. Genius! When I was teaching Chemistry, it’s one of the harder topics to teach since it requires students to imagine the electrons moving around in the atom. Students often wonder, “how do electrons get shared?” or “why would sharing be better?”. With these AR apps, students can see how compounds are formed by putting 2 element cards together. Here’s a YouTube showing how one particular AR software works:

Here’s a YouTube video using AR tags on the iPhone:

Hopefully, these types of AR apps will be affordable enough so that all students / teachers will have access to the material.

My Coursera Experience

The Nutrition for Health Prevention Course I took ended last week. Here are my thoughts…

The video lectures were of great quality. The site was easy to navigate and materials easy to access. I like that videos and PowerPoints are downloadable. The work load was manageable, even though I ended up spending more like 4 – 6 hours instead of the 2 -4 hours stated in the course description.

Assessments are two-fold: weekly quizzes and peer-assessed assignments. The weekly quizzes are factual recall and required me to look through my notes from video lectures to answer the questions. The assignments were more applicable: track nutrition and food eaten over a 24 hour period, create a daily meal plan for some one with diabetes, and make a dish that is significant in a culture – analyze its health benefits.

It was definitely a different way to learn. However, it did remind me a bit of the large courses I took in college. Instruction was information-heavy and teacher-lead. It was hard to ask questions to the professor directly – you either have to attend office hours or see a TA. In the Coursera case, although the forum offers a way to bridge a gap between instructor and students, I found it very difficult to navigate through the plethora of forum posts. I would search for a topic that I had a question on, then peruse the comments in the thread. I did not feel comfortable or had the time to post regularly to the discussion forum.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience. I had been exposed to the content before through my undergraduate and graduate work. It was nice to hear recent research done in the field. Also, it motivates me to continue to be mindful about my eating habits and to make healthy choices.

Tablets for Learning

In your opinion, what are the three most significant ways in which a tablet device may be useful for learning? Support your answers.

Tablets, specifically, iPads have transformed the learning in my classroom. As I have mentioned in an earlier blog post, the Anatomy apps we use allow for a richness of images never before achieved in the class. The iPads and apps allow students to work on their own pace to discover the anatomical structures we’re focusing on for the day. Students can manipulate the images as they need. This ability allows for individualized learning that enables students to learn on their own at their own pace. Additionally, students are more engaged and motivated to learn with their shiny new devices. The iPads have been working out well in my class from my experience. However, I foresee that students can be more productive if we were on a 1:1 iPad program.

This summer, I’m going to be part of a team of teachers to help pilot an iPad classroom in the summer school Biology program at my school. Although I have taught summer biology for the past three summers, I’m choosing to take a step back from being the classroom teacher this year to help support the integration of iPads into the curriculum. The students will be assigned an iPad for the duration of the course. Additionally, we plan to have a laptop cart along with several desktops in the classroom.

We are just beginning to discuss the potential of individualized learning and other benefits of having an iPad classroom. In a nutshell, we already know that iPads can be used for content consumption. There are some amazing apps for Evolution and Cells that we will have students use. The next steps are ways to have students curate and create their own content using the iPads. Maybe they can create their own iMovie presenting as aspect of the Hawaiian ecosystem. Or they can create an iBook chronicling their 6-week journey through the summer biology course. We’re hoping that from our experience this summer, we will have additional ideas around the successes and challenges of the iPad classroom.


The Promise of Mobile Learning

According to TechCrunch article on Thurs, Feb 28, 2013, Apple has sold more than 8 million iPads to educational institutions. That’s a startling number. I know that many schools on Oahu either already have a 1:1 iPad program or are on the verge of implementing the program. Those not on a 1:1 iPad program, such as the school I teach at, have access to iPad carts.

In my own classroom, we use iPads about 25% of the time. There are great Anatomy apps that allow my students to visualize the body system we are covering. Just today, for introduction to the nervous system, I am having my students put together a Brain Cap, then using the 3D Brain App (free), students identify location and function of key structures in the brain such as the 4 lobes of the brain. I find that my students are more engaged and motivated with the content through using iPads than using the textbook and course management system alone.

Students working on Brain Caps and 3D Brain app Finished Brain Cap

Although we are using iPads in the classroom, we are not truly maximizing the capacity of mobile learning. In true mobile learning, content and learning should be accessible from any where at anytime. At this point, my students can’t check out the iPads to take home. If they need the iPads beyond our class meeting time, they have to make an appointment to meet with me. Some students with iPhone or iTouch end up downloading the apps we use if they are free or relatively inexpensive. In order for my classroom to realize mobile learning, we would have to move to a 1:1 iPad classroom.

Among the promise of mobile learning are more productivity and more engaged students. However, I find that there are still limits to iPads – especially when it comes to collaboration. I love the ease of collaborating in real-time on Google Docs. There isn’t an easy way to replicate this process on the iPads (yet). Thus, the best case scenario would be to have a 1:1 iPad program with access to a class set of laptops. However, in a year’s time, who knows where the technology will be and what new promises it will bring.

To Flip or Not to Flip

This week’s topic is Flipped Classroom. I’ve been toying around with the idea of flipping some of my lectures for my high school Anatomy and Physiology course.

First, a little background. Currently, each new unit is introduced via content-heavy PowerPoints on day 1. Sometimes, day 2 is a continuation of the lecture. Days 3 and 4 are devoted to reinforcing concepts introduced through hands-on activities and/or games. Day 5 is review. Day 6 is test. So far, this layout has worked out well, but as I find that I am rushing through the lectures so I can have enough time for fun activities. I also realize that repetition is key to helping students learn this material. However, there’s currently not enough class time for me to go over the materials or to check for their understanding until review day.

I believe flipping my lectures will be helpful for my students. This way, students are to watch about 15 – 30 min of video for homework. In class, we can go over questions they have from the lectures, and spend more time on the activities to reinforce their learning.

Recently, a friend introduced me to Explain Everything App for the iPad. This seems like a fairly easy tool to narrate and annotate my lectures. I’m hoping to spend time this summer to flip my lectures in preparation for my Fall courses.

Back in the Fall, YouTube added the ability to post questions/polls into videos you’ve created. It’s in Beta testing, and it looks like the feature may have been removed recently. Thus, I’m super excited about the new site. I can post my lectures on YouTube, then add questions using – awesome!

Open Education, Intellectual Property, and Fair Use

The topic of Open Education is definitely on the burner in recent months. I’m a believer that education is a right for everyone – and everyone should have access to education. Open education resources such as iTunes U, Khan Academy, and MIT OpenCourseWare definitely allow increased access to higher education. However, as increasingly more information are being posted on the Internet, the inevitable discussion of intellectual property and fair use must come into play.

As an educator, I hope that this increased access to education will result in innovation.  But how do we foster innovation while suppressing plagiarism? This is where Creative Commons come into play. As more information is free and open for users to remix and recreate, we will be able to foster more innovation while still crediting the original sources.

I realize that many textbook publishers are struggling to find a balance in this digital age where users don’t want to pay a dime for content. I believe that publishers should charge a license fee for the school for the use of eBooks, but should not restrict how students use the content. Students should be free to create their own mashups and post it online – this is a way for students to show that they’ve internalized their learning and made it their own. However, if a student starts to distribute the said content for monetary gain, that would be wrong. It’s also our job as teachers to ensure that students are aware of the ethics and etiquettes involved when posting their own work online.

Last semester, one of my students did an amazing job re-mixing a very famous pop song into an asthma public service announcement. My student re-wrote the lyrics so that the song would educate the public about asthma, how it manifests itself, and how it can be treated. She sang the newly written song herself to the tunes of this very famous song. It was one of the most touching and well-crafted project I’ve seen as a teacher. She also cited the sources for pictures and song credits. I have since passed on the video to my friend, a pediatric pulmonologist, to help educate her newly diagnosed asthma patients. This is an example of of a stellar student using her talents and gifts. I want to foster this energy in my classroom. Without open and free resources, this creative energy will be snuffed and where will our future be?

The OESIS Factor

After spending 2 full days with other independent school educators from all over the US with varying expertise in online education, I couldn’t help but observe the following:

Online learning presents itself in many different forms:

  • Individual vs. cohort programs
  • Synchronous vs. asynchronous
  • Competency-based learning vs. fixed time, variable learning
  • Discussion forums vs chats
  • 1:1 vs small groups vs lectures

With all of these options, many are asking:

  • Is blended better than fully online?
  • What’s the best LMS?
  • What’s the best collaboration tool?

And the answer… “IT DEPENDS!”

It depends on:

  • Size of schools
  • Students’ needs
  • Teachers’ needs
  • Teachers’ goals and objectives
  • … and money.

I did learn a ton of new ideas from the sessions I attended. The take home message couldn’t have been stated more simply by Michael Horn during his keynote:

Personalized learning and DIY education will disrupt the future of tradition school

And as educators, how will be leverage the technology available to use to foster learning in our students?

An Oasis in OESIS

I’m attending the Online Education Symposium for Independent Schools for a couple of days. What a day it has been with many inspirational speakers about the future of independent schools and e-learning in general. Just from today, I learned about, EdSurge.

I’ve had great discussions about computer/online assessments and the Bill of Right for the Digital Age. Other sessions touched on whether MOOCs could replace AP courses, what are the challenges and benefits for blended learning, and how some schools have embraced online learning through collaborations with various online consortiums and Center for Talented Youth. Really fascinating topics.

In all, Mark Milliron puts it best, “Education is the pathway to possibilities.” – that’s why we as educators continue to refine our trade and sharpen our tools.