Getting Started with AR and VR in Education: An Instructional Technologist Approach

Speaker: Jaime Donally, Author, Speaker and EdTech Consultant

Date: 27th February 2024

On 27th February we were joined by Jaime Donally, Author, Speaker, and Edtech Consultant who explored how to get started with AR and VR in education.

Jaime is renowned for her expertise in leveraging technology to enhance educational experiences. With a background as a math teacher and a subsequent transition into Instructional Technology, Jaime's passion for innovation drives her to empower educators globally.

Through her work as an author, Jaime shares insightful perspectives on incorporating augmented and virtual reality into the classroom. As a dynamic speaker, she captivates audiences with practical strategies and inspiring narratives. Additionally, Jaime serves as an EdTech consultant, providing invaluable guidance and training to educators seeking to integrate immersive technology into their teaching practices.

Key takeaways:

  • Exploring Favorite Classroom apps: Co Spaces, Merge, Verizon Innovative Learning and VirtualSpeech are essential tools in Jaime's toolkit, offering versatile and immersive learning experiences for students.
  • Overcoming Implementation Hurdles: Successful integration of AR and VR requires strategic planning, cross-departmental collaboration, and thorough preparation.
  • Fostering Collaboration Across Departments: Collaboration with curriculum departments and school administrators is crucial for garnering support and ensuring alignment with educational objectives.
  • Approaching Integration of AR and VR in Education: Setting clear objectives, selecting appropriate tools, and assessing classroom setup and resources are essential considerations for successful integration.
  • Unveiling the Power of Immersive Experiences: VR fosters engagement and imagination among students while highlighting the importance of age-appropriate usage and thoughtful guidance for students' safety and well-being.
  • The Future of Education with AI integration: Jaime expresses enthusiasm for innovative strides in AI technology, envisioning a future where generative AI enhances communication and lesson planning.
  • Devices vs Innovation: Jaime advocates for a dynamic approach that prioritizes innovation and flexibility over fixating on specific tools.
  • Choosing the right VR headset: Jaime advises against a one-size-fits-all approach, emphasizing the importance of aligning choices with specific educational objectives and favoring the Apple Vision Pro for its flexibility, compatibility, and superior management capabilities.

1. Jaime’s journey to getting started into the VR/AR world

Jaime recalled her first encounter with AR through an app called Asma, which left her awe-inspired and eager to explore the potential it held for education. "I remember thinking, my gosh, what is happening right now?" she recalled. The ability to create augmented reality experiences seemed limitless, sparking her imagination about its applicability across subjects and grade levels.

Driven by curiosity, Jaime delved deeper into the realm of VR, particularly mobile-based VR, discovering resources like VirtualSpeech and an array of evolving tools tailored for educational settings. Despite the disappearance of Asma, Jaime emphasized the continuous evolution and adaptation of AR and VR tools, fueling her passion to equip teachers with the latest educational technologies.

"I was out there training my teachers the next day," Jaime shared enthusiastically, highlighting her immediate efforts to share the transformative potential of AR and VR with fellow educators. The journey began around 2014, with Jaime immersing herself in augmented reality, presenting at conferences, and connecting with like-minded professionals through platforms like Twitter.

2. Exploring Favorite Classroom Apps

One app that Jaime has consistently relied on is Co Spaces, praised for its versatility and user-friendly interface. With Co Spaces, students can create immersive virtual environments, fostering creativity and collaboration within the classroom. Jaime emphasized the importance of tools like Co Spaces in empowering students to become creators of their own digital content.

Merge, another standout app in Jaime's toolkit, has played a significant role in providing immersive learning experiences. Jaime recounted her early encounters with Merge, including her collaboration with the company to explore the possibilities of their VR viewer. What began as a simple viewer evolved into a comprehensive educational tool, with innovations like the Merge Cube captivating students' imaginations.

Jaime's enthusiasm for Merge's progress was evident as she showcased the evolution of the Merge Cube, from its inception to its current iteration. Despite encountering some technical challenges along the way, Jaime praised Merge for its commitment to improving accessibility and functionality for educators and students alike.

In addition to Co Spaces and Merge, Jaime highlighted the recent advancements in immersive learning platforms, such as Verizon Innovative Learning. Through platforms like these, educators gain access to a wealth of immersive experiences, enriching classroom instruction across various subjects and content areas.

3. Navigating the Implementation Maze: Overcoming Hurdles in Educational Technology Integration

Jaime acknowledged that integrating AR and VR into education is not without its challenges. She highlighted common pitfalls, such as the impulse to adopt new technologies without a clear plan for their application. "Unfortunately, that's not the right plan," Jaime cautioned, emphasizing the importance of strategic planning and cross-departmental collaboration.

Jaime underscored the need to align objectives, address student needs, and maximize existing resources before investing in new technologies. From managing VR headsets to navigating privacy concerns and logistical hurdles, Jaime stressed the importance of thorough preparation to ensure successful implementation.

Drawing from her extensive experience working with schools and educators, Jaime emphasized the value of proactive discussions and strategic planning to overcome implementation barriers. 

4. Fostering Collaboration Across Departments

Drawing from her wealth of experience, Jaime emphasized the critical role of collaboration across different departments within educational organizations during the early stages of integrating AR and VR technologies. Recognizing the complexity of educational ecosystems, Jaime underscored the importance of engaging stakeholders beyond just the instructional technology realm.

  1. Engaging the Curriculum Department: Jaime stressed the significance of involving the curriculum department early in the process. "You don't want to be a teacher on your own doing something like this," she emphasized. Collaboration with the curriculum team is essential to ensure alignment with educational objectives and to secure the necessary support for budgeting time within the tightly scripted curriculum schedules.
  2. Gaining Administrative Support: Equally crucial is garnering support from school administrators. Jaime highlighted the need to ensure that administrators are onboard with the integration of AR and VR technologies, as their endorsement can facilitate the allocation of resources and support for implementation efforts.
  3. Empowering Teacher Collaboration: In addition to engaging with administrative and curriculum teams, Jaime emphasized the importance of fostering collaboration among teachers. She shared an inspiring example of a teacher in Texas who actively collaborates with her peers, sharing innovative practices and supporting each other in implementing new technologies. Encouraging a culture of sharing and collaboration among educators can lead to a cascading effect of enthusiasm and empowerment, enabling the widespread adoption of AR and VR technologies across classrooms.

5. Approaching Integration of AR and VR in Education

Focusing on the importance of setting clear objectives and aligning instructional goals with immersive experiences, Jaime outlined key considerations for educators at both the curriculum planning and classroom implementation stages.

  1. Setting Clear Objectives: Jaime mentioned the need to define clear objectives for integrating AR and VR into classroom instruction. Each lesson presents a unique opportunity to leverage immersive technologies to enhance learning outcomes. Whether bridging gaps in understanding or exploring complex concepts, educators must align immersive experiences with specific instructional objectives to ensure meaningful engagement and evaluation of student learning.
  2. Selecting Appropriate Tools: Evaluating the suitability of AR and VR tools for specific content areas is paramount to successful integration. Jaime highlighted the importance of selecting tools that align with the instructional objectives and cater to diverse student preferences and learning styles. Beyond immersive experiences, educators can incorporate maker concepts, multimedia resources, and hands-on activities to create a dynamic and inclusive learning environment.
  3. Assessing Classroom Setup and Resources: Practical considerations, such as classroom setup and resource availability, play a crucial role in implementing AR and VR technologies effectively. Jaime encouraged educators to evaluate factors like space, network bandwidth, and device allocation to optimize the learning environment. Grouping students thoughtfully and allocating sufficient time for immersive experiences alongside other instructional activities ensures a balanced and engaging classroom experience.
  4. Highlighting Continuous Evaluation and Improvement: Central to Jaime's approach is the emphasis on continuous evaluation and improvement. Educators should regularly assess the efficacy of AR and VR integration, gathering feedback from students and reflecting on instructional practices. By embracing a cycle of evaluation and refinement, educators can maximize the potential of immersive technologies to enhance learning outcomes and student engagement.

6. Unveiling the Power of Immersive Experiences: The boy who wanted to ride a dinosaur

Jaime recounted her experience working with a kindergarten classroom immersed in a dinosaur-themed exploration. Equipped with mobile VR devices and viewers, students embarked on a journey to discover the wonders of the prehistoric world.

Among the students was a young boy captivated by the VR experience, eagerly navigating the virtual landscape teeming with dinosaurs. His excitement was palpable as he interacted with the digital creatures, his imagination running wild with possibilities.

The immersive nature of VR enabled the young boy to perceive the virtual environment as tangible and real. In his mind, he wasn't merely observing dinosaurs from a distance; he was petting them, befriending them, and even envisioning himself riding them.

“I was talking to him and I asked him: What did you think? Did you like the experience?" And he said, “Wow, Yes”. “So anyways, I want to pet the dinosaur. I want to ride that dinosaur.”

And I was like, “Ride the dinosaur? Okay. Like, that's pretty intense. Good thing they're extinct, right?”

And then kind of chuckled because goes, “Yeah. So anyways, I want to ride that dinosaur spike.”

“Okay, hold on. What makes you think that that dinosaur is going to let you ride him?”

And sure enough, he came back and said, “Well, that dinosaur was a good dinosaur. He was letting me pet him.”

Jaime reflected on the profound impact of VR technology in blurring the lines between reality and virtuality. Despite knowing the digital nature of the experience, the young boy's genuine connection with the virtual world underscored the immersive power of VR in fostering engagement and imagination.

While celebrating the transformative potential of immersive technologies, Jaime also highlighted the need for cautious consideration. She highlighted the importance of age-appropriate usage and thoughtful guidance to ensure students' safety and well-being.

7. The Future of Education with AI Integration

Jaime expressed her enthusiasm for the innovative strides made in AI technology, particularly in the realm of virtual communication. She lauded the groundbreaking capabilities showcased by VirtualSpeech's AI avatar, Hugh, in fostering immersive and authentic learning experiences.

Drawing parallels to the concept of the metaverse, Jaime underscored the pivotal role of generative AI in shaping digital landscapes and creating dynamic learning environments. She envisioned a future where AI-driven content creation transcends traditional limitations, revolutionizing the educational landscape.

Jaime emphasized the transformative potential of generative AI in enhancing communication, image creation, and lesson planning, offering educators unprecedented opportunities to cultivate engaging and authentic learning experiences for students.

Looking ahead, Jaime expressed her anticipation for future advancements in wearable technology, envisioning seamlessly integrated devices that facilitate immersive learning experiences. She highlighted the importance of incorporating augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality concepts into educational settings, fostering collaborative and interactive learning environments.

8. Shifting Perspectives: Devices vs. Innovation

Jaime challenged the notion of fixating on specific tools, advocating instead for a dynamic approach that prioritizes innovation and flexibility. She underscored the importance of assessing individual classroom needs and leveraging a diverse array of resources to meet them effectively.

“The device isn't the important thing. I think it's the innovation, recognizing that these tools are always going to vary and change and transform.”

Highlighting the symbiotic relationship between educators and EdTech companies, Jaime emphasized the value of educator feedback in driving product development. She lauded companies like VirtualSpeech for their responsiveness to the needs of the education community, recognizing educators as crucial stakeholders in shaping the future of technology in education.

“Yeah, I would certainly echo that that any feedback that any people can give to two small companies like VirtualSpeech or others in the emerging tech space is genuinely really valuable and ready to use. We're all building this industry together and we want to know what's helpful for people.”  - Added Sophie.

9. Choosing the Right VR Headset for Education

Jaime cautions against a one-size-fits-all approach, emphasizing the importance of aligning headset choices with specific educational objectives. She underscores the need for proper preparation and management, as many educators encounter roadblocks when implementing VR in the classroom.

In discussing the best headset for large-scale education rollout, Jaime expresses reservations about certain brands' suitability for classroom settings. She favors the Apple Vision Pro over other options, citing its alignment with educational needs and superior management capabilities.

Despite the Vision Pro's higher price point, Jaime argues that its flexibility and compatibility with Apple devices justify the investment. She challenges the assumption that cost alone should dictate purchasing decisions, noting that school districts often allocate significant budgets for innovative technologies like VR.

Ultimately, Jaime advocates for a thoughtful approach to VR integration in education, prioritizing flexibility, compatibility, and effective management. By carefully selecting headsets that meet their specific needs, educators can maximize the potential of immersive technologies to enhance learning experiences for students.

About the speaker and host

Jaime Donally

Author, Speaker and Edtech Consultant


Sophie Thompson (Host)

CEO VirtualSpeech


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