Thing 38: Augmented & Virtual Reality

10 reasons to use virtual reality
Graphic by Sylvia Duckworth


First things first, what’s the difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) adds a “layer” of information over the real world. Have you played with Pokemon Go? When you open the app and view the world in front of you through your phone’s camera, Pokemon monsters appear on top of the view in front of you. I’ve seen them scuttling across my carpet, my lawn, on the dashboard of my car…. And you can interact with them (ie: try to capture them) by flinging things at them on your screen. Google Glass was another example of AR. The glasses could show you information about your surroundings on a tiny screen mounted on the glasses frame. They didn’t really catch on, but something like it probably will eventually.

Virtual Reality (VR) goes further and immerses you in a scene viewed through special viewers. With Google’s inexpensive Google Cardboard viewer (called Google Cardboard because it’s built out of cardboard!) you pop your smartphone into the viewer and select a scene to view. Hold it up to your eyes for a 3D view of the scene on your phone. As you turn, the scene does too. You can also view these scenes without a viewer, it’s just not as immersive.  The most realistic VR experiences are created with 360 degree/panoramic videos. Imagine yourself underwater watching fish swim by and a turtle rises up from the sand below you. Other scenes are created with a 360 degree/panoramic static image, in this case you might see the fish and the turtle, but they won’t be moving.  Still fun! There’s lots of content available for viewing from dozens of sources.

LISTEN: This 10 Minute Teacher Podcast with Vicki Davis and Steven Anderson is a nice, quick intro to this topic.

We’re only going to cover the tip of the iceberg in this lesson. There are so many people experimenting with these tools in education, it’s impossible to cover everything. A quick google search will turn up tons of stuff. And of course, so will a twitter search! Try #edtech #virtualreality for a start.



Augmented Reality

  • Quiver App – (iOS and Android, Free w in-app purchases) Print out one of their coloring sheets, color it and then view it with the app. The app shows animated 3D image and action. Within the app you can record the actions on the screen and record your voice. The full educational app ($7.99 iOS, $5.99 Android) includes tons of printable pages. (Formerly called colAR)  USES: Students can record themselves sharing facts and stories about their creations. Use the creations as story started for writing projects. Example of it used for a reading exercise.
  • Aurasma – An app that connects physical object to an online experience. (Kind of like a fancy QR code maybe?) This video shows an example of pictures of musicians on a display board in the classroom. When visitors use the Aurasma app on their smartphone or table to scan a photo,  a video of that musician appears on the phone/tablet. Tutorial on how to create them
  • NCSU Wolf Walk –  “WolfWalk is a photographic guide to the history of North Carolina State University optimized for mobile devices. The application includes a location-aware campus map and a photo viewer for browsing historical photographs by decade or theme. WolfWalk features 1000 photographs of important people, places and events in NC State history.” Interesting concept to add layers of information to your surroundings.
  • SkyMap – Wondering what that bright star is? Or is it a planet? Point your phone at the sky and the app shows you what you’re looking at. (Android, Free, there are similar apps for iOS)
  • Live Butterflies Augmented Reality Experience – An example of how the Live Butterflies app can be used with students.
  • Translate Text on the Fly Using Your Phone and the Google Translate App – Point the app at a sign in a foreign language to translate it.

Virtual Reality

  • Google Expeditions – Take your students on immersive tours of historic sites, remote landscapes, and more. Works best with VR viewers (like Google Cardboard) and smartphones. Can also be used with iPads, but without the VR viewer. The teacher selects the expedition the class will go on and each student’s device connects to the teacher’s device via wifi. The teacher then guides the experience. Don’t have devices for each student, project the expedition for the whole class. To test it out: Find a friend and download the app to your mobile devices. One of you will be the guide and the other the student. The guide opens their app and selects an expedition. The student opens their app and is be prompted to join the teacher’s expedition. (I tested it out by myself with my iPad as the guide and my Android phone as the student.)
  • Virtual Reality Gear Guide – Covers lots of options for getting the gear you need to use Google Expeditions in the classroom
  • Google Cardboard – This inexpensive viewer (around $10) can be used with many different VR content apps and provides a reasonably good VR experience. The New York Times sent these out to their subscribers in 2015 to help promote their VR content.  Other viewers include: Mattel Viewmaster ($30), Google Daydream ($70) and Samsung Gear VR ($95), among others.
  • Google Cardboard Camera App (Android and iOS, Free) – Create your own 360 degree images for viewing. These are static 360 degree images, not video. But so simple to create! Students could create their own images during field trips or vacation trips.
  • Nearpod VR – The Nearpod app includes over 100 VR based lessons. Can be used with or without VR viewers
  • ThingLink 360 – Upload a 360 degree video and add hotspots to the image that connect the user to videos, documents, audio and other online content that they can explore independently. ThingLink webinars with examples of how to use in education.
  • Some VR Content to try – View in the YouTube app on your phone or try viewing with a VR viewer like Google Cardboard.


Remember, you don’t have to explore everything on this page, there’s a lot here to make sure everyone finds something new and interesting to do.

  • Explore some of the readings and apps.
  • If you have a smartphone or tablet, download an app or two and test them out.
  • If there are other related services/tools that we haven’t been mentioned, feel free to explore them instead. As long as they’re related to this topic.
  • Consider how you can use these tools with your students.
  • Write a blog post about your experience.


  • Write & publish your blog post.
  • Copy the URL for the post.
  • Return to the lesson page on the CanvasLMS site.
  • Use the SUBMIT ASSIGNMENT button in the CanvasLMS page and paste in your URL.

*Only for students participating in the workshop for PD credit hours through the Canavas LMS system.










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