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Accessibility through Augmented Reality

 

I’ve devoted some time to organising my thoughts on a deeply personal level relating to my journey as a lifelong learner, and have compiled them into an article (attached below) about my relationship with AR and how it came to be.

Accessibility through Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality Escape Rooms

During the summer of 2020 I spent a significant amount of time talking with and learning from other educators, regarding the stressful situation of conducting distance learning and even hybrid learning during the final months of the 2019-2020 school year. The comments were the same:

“The kids are so bored of doing the same thing.”

“They are getting Zoom fatigue.”

“I can’t keep them engaged.”

This got me thinking. There had to be a simple and easy way of ensuring that students no matter where they were in the world were able to engage with the curriculum in a way that was fun and different. Immediately I jumped back to the last 6 months I had spent exploring and learning more about Augmented Reality. I would never have known when I began my AR Journey in December of 2019 that I would ever end up doing with it what I am currently doing. 

Following the ADE Festival of Learning 2020 when I spoke in a showcase about how AR was MY accessibility to education (click here to view), it dawned on me. Teachers were not able to provide those custom, hands-on learning experiences when students were removed from the classroom. They couldn’t do those engaging and immersive experiences such as escape rooms when the students were all over the place…but could they do it digitally? What if a teacher, with the powerful tool of the iPad and their own limitless imagination combined with creativity could do it? Build an Augmented Reality Escape Room! It was the perfect solution that didn’t require teachers to have to buy any resources (like you do with a traditional escape room or themed items and locks and keys and so on). Everything could be created on iPad and even shared to students so they could access and launch the escape room with their own device.

If you follow me on social media, in particular Twitter, you will know what a tremendous advocate I am for the purposeful use of Augmented Reality in Education. I began exploring what was possible and how I could begin making AR Escape Rooms. I am currently working on a tutorial how to guide for other educators that I aim to release at the end of October 2020, but in the meantime below are two videos I have made that showcase the use of Augmented Reality with regards to creating Escape Rooms.

From 2016-2019 I had been working as a Digital Learning Coach Coordinator and Coding teacher for an International School, which uses the International Baccalaureate program as its curriculum. I mainly work in the Primary Years Programme or PYP. This ranges from Early Years (starting at 3 years old) and extends to Year 5 (11-12 years old). As Digital Learning Coach Coordinator, I not only managed a team of Digital Learning Coaches across 3 campuses but also spend most of my time working with the teaching staff on their digital use and technology integration. This means looking at the learning outcomes of the Units of Inquiry that are taught throughout the year and identifying natural links between the content and what technology can be integrated. For those that are not familiar with the PYP curriculum, it is made up of 6 transdisciplinary themes that are taught throughout the whole year. Within those themes, the regular subjects are integrated. Below are the explanation of the 6 transdisciplinary themes.
Sometimes my coaching sessions with teachers might be to plan out a digital project that culminates at the end of the Unit. This will be the focus of this blog post today. When planning out a digital project there are several questions I run through with the teacher.

What do we want the students to learn in the end?

What resources will they need?

Where might problems occur during this project?

How much time will be devoted to the project?

 

In this post, I am going to do my best to address and answer all these questions for you. If you take the time to read this post and peruse the resources provided then by the end you should have a stronger understanding of how I plan a digital project and hopefully, you will be excited to try yourself.

The first question I want to look at it is:

What do we want the students to learn in the end?

The teachers spend the summer developing their curriculum for the Units of Inquiry, after reflecting on how it has gone from the previous year. During this time they make adjustments or we have to move things around into other units. During the school year, the teachers meet weekly with myself and the PYP Coordinator (who is responsible for making sure that each Unit taught is covering the correct content while also guiding the teachers to think about the learning outcomes). During these sessions, we also look at the subject I teach which is Coding.

For a lengthier post about Coding and how I teach it, please click the link HERE

If after looking at the Unit being covered and we see that there are no natural links to Coding, then I use my Coding lesson to pursue a digital project in other subject areas, such as digital photography, ebook creation, video making, animation, 3D design, graphic design, etc… At the end of the first session for a new Unit, everyone walks away knowing what I will be working on with the students, and what we want them to be able to learn by the end.

The second question I want to look at it is:

What resources will they need?

This is a crucial element that needs addressing before a digital project can be undertaken. When I say “resources” I am referring to several types:
 
1. Digital tools
This can include your iPads, apps, Chromebooks, computers, robotics, Lego kits, etc… and even additional resources such as tripods, iPad stands, and green screens.
 
2. Planning templates
I love using planning templates with students. One of the key elements of the PYP is that we teach the students how to be organized. I am amazed at how many teachers skip over this step, assuming that the students are just going to be technology literate and will know exactly what to do with their projects. The truth is they won’t. They will be more excited about getting their hands on the tools rather than actually creating something. Below is an example of a planning template I am going to be using for an upcoming digital project in Year 2 (7-8-year-olds) where they must work in groups to create an ebook, but they must write one page each independently. The planning template is made based on the idea of a Flow Map Thinking Map and includes little checks and X’s at the bottom of each step. Students will conference with me every day that we work on the project and we will mark either a check or an X for each step, to be sure that they have met all the requirements.
 
 
Sometimes I do make planning documents for other teachers to use in their classes that are NOT completely digital related. In the coming weeks, I will be working with our Year 5 teachers as the Digital Consultant in regards to the PYP Exhibition. This is the end of year culmination project that allows students to demonstrate everything they have learned about the PYP and put it into practice through a personal project. To accomplish this there is a lot of planning that goes into the Exhibition and requires and an immense amount of organization, which is always a hard thing for students, especially on a project of this scale. Below is my planning template for the Year 5 students to use when thinking about the subject of their Exhibition.
 
I have used this planning template below when having students use the app Pic Collage when creating a poster. This helps them to focus on what they are using the app for, as well as making sure they are including the correct content. Again I have a more visual version for younger students and a text version for older students.

 

3. Checklists and rubrics
Since the PYP does not have formal assessments as part of the curriculum, a lot of the assessment of student’s learning and work comes from observations and documentation. However, the IB does encourage the use of checklists and rubrics. I have used them in the past for many digital projects, which I have shared below. For younger students, I do try to make the checklists more visual owing to differentiated reading abilities, whereas at the upper primary grades there will be more text.
 
Below is a more comprehensive project packet, where students were to use Scratch to make an animated video about an alien having an energy problem on their planet and needing to come to Earth to learn about renewable energy sources that they could use on their home planet. Below is the packet that each student used for this project.

 

 

 

 

 

 
4. Additional supplemental resources from the class teacher
A lot of the time additional resources can come in the form of ebooks, videos, or websites that support the content being learned during a digital project. This is something that I support my teachers with, by researching and trialing things for them.
Digital projects are much more effective when all the resources and other elements are gathered ahead of time to ensure that there won’t be any moments of chaos or panic. I always recommend trialing every digital tool ahead of time to ensure that it will work effectively. 
 
 
The third question I want to look at it is:

Where might problems occur during this project?

This is a crucial one. A lot of the time when teachers are trialing new technology resources, they may not always be able to anticipate what potential problems could arise. This could be anything from a software update being needed in the midst of using an app to not knowing how to organise the resources from LEGO We Do kits. Some of these problems if not most of them can be averted upon reverse thinking a project. If you think about the end point, what you want the students to learn and create, and work your way back then you can begin to identify where problems could come up. By using the style of planning templates and checklists above, we have been able to anticipate problems for students.
 
I want to be clear when I say “problems”. These problems relate specifically to technology use, troubleshooting, and the flow of work. Problems to me are things that inhibit or slow down the progress of a project that is by no means fault of the student. Proper planning and thinking about a digital project ensures that the teacher is aware of all steps and all areas of exploration that can occur so that the teacher is constantly aware of each step the students are undertaking. We absolutely want problems to occur that students are able and should be able to solve on their own, but what we don’t want are technicalities that affect how a student is able to work.
 
 
The final question I want to look at is:

How much time will be devoted to the project?

This one should be answered during that first planning session with the teachers. We look at the scope of the Unit, determine the length of time the Unit will cover, and plan accordingly. Sometimes the digital projects that are undertaken can be done solely by myself during the once a week Coding time slot that I have. Other times digital projects might be completely aligned with a Unit, and therefore are affected by the progress of content acquisition during the regular class lessons with the PYP teacher. For these projects, we plan on what elements the regular class teacher is capable of covering, and what elements I need to cover when I meet with students.

For example, recently there was a big Imagination Unit for our Year 1 students. The teachers wanted the students at the end of the Unit to learn about story elements such as beginning, middle, end, characters, and setting. We decided in our planning meeting that the teachers would cover these elements for their English Language outcomes, and I would work on character design, creation, and animation during my lessons. This type of planning ensured that we were teaching the same type of content simultaneously but in different ways. I really wanted the students to use Play-Doh to physically create a character and then scan that character with the iPad and Play-Doh Touch app to bring their character to life. This had a great crossover for my technology outcomes in helping students to understand where digital characters (ex: video game characters) come from. In the PYP class, the teachers worked on having the students draw preliminary designs of their characters on paper. These designs were then used to make models with the Play-Doh. Once completed, the characters were then brought back to the PYP classes where the students were able to use them to inspire the creation of their stories.

May 13th, 2020

Now available is my Superheroes in our Community Keynote pack, that was developed for my son during the Covid-19 Pandemic, in an effort to learn more about the important community members that are still actively helping us during the lockdown. Click the image to get your free copy from the Lessons page in Learn to Innovate.

May 12th, 2020

Head on over now to our You Tube channel for a brand new playlist and the first in a series of videos about how to go deeper with AR Makr app for iPad. Be sure to subscribe and follow our playlists to get all the latest tutorials and videos shared!

May 4th, 2020

Head on over now to our You Tube channel for an a new addition to our Book Creator playlist, this time all about how to import content made in other apps. Be sure to subscribe and follow our playlists to get all the latest tutorials and videos shared!

#25DaysofAR

In December 2019 I took it upon myself to learn more about an area of Technology that I really had no idea about; Augmented Reality. I had seen others experimenting and was reading more about companies bringing AR into their worlds, but I was struggling to see how I could make AR relevant to primary education. This led me to challenge myself (and publically I might add) to spend 25 days learning and experimenting with Augmented Reality. I wanted to find a way to make AR reachable for primary aged students. While many are focused on VR for primary, my personal opinion is that there is not enough evidence of research to back up the benefits or to dispell the negatives of VR effects. To follow my full journey in Augmented Reality, visit Twitter and search #25DaysofAR to visit all the posts I shared.

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