If you worked as an educator throughout the past two years, we’re betting you have quite a few digital tricks up your sleeves. You may be finding that the strategies that helped students focus during remote learning do the same in the physical classroom. If you’re on the lookout for more digital experiences for classrooms full of tech-savvy Gen Alphas, augmented reality for kids is a great place to start.
Whether or not you’ve heard the term, you are likely familiar with augmented reality, which falls under the extended reality (XR) umbrella. Many adults and kids regularly use AR in some capacity, whether through Snapchat, Pokemon Go, or another app.
For educators, this AR is a high-impact tool with little introduction time required. Since most students are familiar with AR, they can get straight to learning.
In this piece, we’ll explore AR’s specific applications for STEAM education. Read on for research, tips, and clever ways to keep students engaged.
What is Augmented Reality?
Before we start, let’s take a moment to introduce augmented reality.
Augmented reality is a type of technology that uses a device, such as a smartphone, to overlay digital images in the physical world. Have you ever used an app that changed the colors of your wall or did something cool when you blinked? Or have you ever used an app that put a filter over your face? That’s AR. So is Pokemon Go. So is Snapchat.
You can think of AR as a blend between the physical and digital realms.
This makes it a great option for younger students who may not be ready to put on a headset and dive into fully-immersive virtual reality. That’s why augmented reality games can be an amazing tool for educators, parents, and homeschool leaders looking to help develop 21st century skills for students.
Plus, augmented reality can get even the most reluctant students involved in lessons and help you provide quality STEAM education.
If you’re an educator, you are probably as familiar with STEAM education as you are with reading aloud and finding creative ways to pull a classroom’s attention back to the lesson at hand.
However, if you are new to the topic or looking for a refresher, we’re more than happy to provide.
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. It is an evolution of the STEM educational framework and recognizes the critical symbiosis between the arts and sciences. The STEAM educational framework was founded by educator Georgette Yakman in 2006 and championed by institutions like the Rhode Island School of Design.
The basic premise of STEAM education is that all subjects overlap. Therefore, the way kids learn them should too.
An exciting dimension of STEAM is that–rather than just learning about technology – students can learn through new technologies. Augmented reality is a great way to do this. Here, we’ll explore how each dimension of a STEAM educational framework pairs well with AR. First up: science.
Science + Kids AR
Augmented reality poses many amazing opportunities for science education. Research shows that AR can help students visualize complex and unfamiliar concepts.
For example, during a middle school unit about extinct species, fossils and flat artist renderings may not be enough to convey what these unfamiliar creatures were like when they walked the earth.
Enter AR. Simple tools can allow educators and students to watch ancient creatures come to life without stepping foot off the class rug. In one free offering from Google, users can watch abnormal animals come to life, including:
- Amurosaurus Riabinin
- Great Auk
While the names of these species may be hard for students to wrap their heads around, an AR experience guarantees that the way the creatures move and look will not be.
Virtual reality application: Are your students old enough to jump into science topics in fully immersive virtual reality? Do you teach younger students who would be excited to transform their tablet to experience virtual reality? We have options for you! At Kai XR, we offer a wide range of virtual field trips, many of them in the realm of science. Students can learn about:
- The gene-editing tool CRISPR
- NASA astronauts training
- African penguin conservation efforts
- Wind farms and other alternative energy sources
- The human body
Tech and Augmented Reality Apps for Kids
We’ll note here that students are most definitely learning about technology whenever they use AR for kids. However, educators can create lessons that hone in on this cutting edge tech and help students develop even more useful skills.
One of these skills is designing augmented reality experiences. Once educators connect students to apps that provide a platform for AR, the opportunities are endless.
Below are some lesson plan ideas that integrate tech-ed with other subjects:
- Have students create an AR rendition of their favorite animal, culminating in a digital classroom ecosystem that everyone can explore
- Have students design a simple AR game (like a ball that bounces when you move the device)
- Have students work in groups to draw a human body system that can be overlaid on real-life people through AR
The ideas above are only a fraction of the ways students can become AR experience creators, all while learning about other subjects.
For young students who aren’t quite ready to design their own augmented reality games, educators can demonstrate. The first step is to show students a variety of short and simple AR experiences. Next, educators can have kids work together to imagine their very own AR design—it’s a good idea to place parameters here so the discussion can stay on track. Once the class comes to a consensus, it’s the educator’s turn to create!
Because designing an AR experience from scratch is time-consuming, we recommend doing so at home or on break rather than demonstrating in front of the class. You can also record a video of the process if you’re up for a bit of editing.
Once the classroom AR experience is ready, it’s time to show your students! They will be amazed to see how their idea came to life, and excited to pass around devices to experience it.
For older students who pick up AR design quickly, educators can consider introducing virtual reality design.
Virtual reality application: at Kai XR we will soon be rolling out a digital Makerspace where students can try their hand at creating their very own virtual reality adventures. This has practical applications for all sorts of educators, since students can design field trips for any subject.
Engineering and Augmented Reality Games for Kids
If engineering is not yet in your curriculum, gently introducing students to the field is a great idea. Not only will all students benefit from gaining basic design, building, and robotics skills, but early introduction to engineering can make them more likely to join the field as an adult. Building a diverse workforce of engineers starts in the classroom.
If you aren’t sure how to introduce your students to engineering, try AR games for kids. Look for apps that allow children to:
- Build digital bridges between objects in the real world
- Point devices at different objects to learn about their manufacturing process
- Interact with a digital robot
- Create digital structures and view what they’d look like in their classroom
That’s just the tip of the engineering AR iceberg.
Virtual reality application: For students who want to know more about engineering and tech, we offer experiences like:
- Exploring a mixed reality production
- Learning about life as an aerospace engineer
- Hearing from green energy entrepreneur Inna Braverman
Augmented Reality Kids and the Arts
Too often, educators, parents, and other well-meaning adults create stark separations between the arts and the sciences, whether by asking kids if they prefer science to English or never highlighting the strong relationship between the two fields.
STEAM education provides ample opportunities for dispelling this myth, and doing so early.
Simply by introducing AR experiences into an art or English classroom, educators can demonstrate that tech has useful applications everywhere. For example:
- Art educators can teach students to create simple AR filters (bare-bones versions of what they may have seen on social media apps)
- Writing educators can ask students to make AR illustrations to supplement their latest poem, memoir or essay
- Social studies educators can have students use augmented reality apps to explore ancient and/or faraway places
Besides the ideas above, uniting multiple disciplines in AR can help students grasp the symbiosis between these domains.
In a preschool or kindergarten classroom, educators can use an augmented reality app to identify shapes in the classroom. This experience helps open lessons about shapes and their importance in everything from art to architecture.
Other ideas that could work for a range of ages include:
- Learning about camouflage and then drawing an AR design to make users blend into the classroom
- Traveling to historical locations through AR
- Using an augmented reality app for kids to bring famous works of art to the classroom
You can also bring the arts to immersive virtual reality.
Virtual reality application: On our platform, there are plenty of arts experiences for students to explore. Children can:
- Go backstage at Broadway performances of Aladdin and the Lion King
- Travel with actress Vidya Vox as she shares about her childhood
- Hear style’s inside scoop from four icons of British fashion
Math and Augmented Reality Games for Kids
For kids who struggle with math, a common complaint is that the concepts they learn have no application in day-to-day life. With augmented reality, educators everywhere can dispel this myth once and for all and even join forces with teachers who focus on other subjects.
For example, 5th grade math and social studies teachers can team up for a unit on the pyramids. Social studies educators can provide relevant cultural and societal context, while math educators introduce the geometric principles that guided the creation of these structures.
Then, through an augmented reality app for kids, students can visualize how a math concept crystallizes in the physical world.
Math lessons can increase in complexity according to students’ ages. Educators might use augmented reality to supplement lessons on:
No matter what math concept you want to teach, augmented and virtual reality are invaluable tools for comprehension.
Virtual reality application: If your students are ready for virtual reality, you can use virtual field trips as a way to introduce math concepts through architecture. To get started, try one of our options below:
- Egyptian Pyramids
- Chichen Itza
- The Great Wall of China
- The Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge
Museums and Augmented Reality Apps for Kids
If you’ve been to a museum, show, or cultural event in the past few years, you’ve likely noticed the increasing number of QR codes. These codes sometimes lead to a website, video, or augmented reality experience.
For example, museums worldwide are using augmented reality to bring exhibits to life, and even to bring them to city walls outside the institution.
AR allows these orgs to delegate some visitor-facing activities to smartphones. It's a win for everyone; guests can take things at their own pace and choose what they would like to learn about. Museum staff can focus on curating impactful exhibits and running interesting programming.
So, how can you replicate this in your classroom?
One idea is to host a classroom gallery where students can display assignments they are proud of. In a science classroom, these could include cool diagrams students created. In an English classroom, these could be student memoirs. No matter what students display in their gallery, the next two steps are to:
- Have students use an augmented reality app for kids to generate doodles or text that pairs well with the work they are displaying
- Use a free QR-code generator to help each student create a quick pathway to their AR creations
- Invite parents or other classrooms to enjoy the gallery, encouraging them to scan QR codes and discover students’ AR creations
Virtual reality application: Did your classroom love transforming into a gallery for the day? Would students love to take a field trip to a museum? With Kai XR, you don’t have to worry about whether there’s enough time in the year or money in the budget. On our platform students can visit cultural institutions around the globe anytime and do things like:
- Learn about costume conservation at the Met Museum in NYC
- Explore the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City
- Discover more about Van Gogh’s Starry Night
- See the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington D.C.
Virtual Field Trips
Augmented reality is a wonderful way to introduce kids to extended reality. As you introduce this tech into your classroom, you may find that there is more than one VR kid ready for new digital offerings. With the metaverse gaining traction and immersive virtual reality becoming as commonplace as playstations, there are many ways to broaden your students’ digital horizons. Creating a VR classroom is one.
At Kai XR, we are dedicated to expanding student access to educational experiences and new technology in order to help children gain a diverse, inclusive view of the world.
To make this happen, we created dozens of 360º virtual field trips that allow students to bridge thousands of miles in seconds. Students can:
- Explore the sun with scientists in Florida
- Go on a tour of the White House (led by Barack Obama)
- Ride on a roller coaster through a magical candy world
- Learn about the Chernobyl disaster from someone who lived through it
- Hear an illustrator talk about what her job is like
- Meet the people of South Sudan as they work towards a peaceful future
- Join a group of people picking up trash on Mount Everest
- Sit courtside at Kobe Bryant’s last NBA game
The above experiences are just a fraction of what subscribers can access through our platform. We create high-quality content on everything from science to social studies, and even provide fun virtual playground experiences for younger students.
Our technology is student-first, which is why our offerings support multiple access pathways (tablets, laptops, smartphones, and VR headsets) and are always ad-free
Get Started with Kai XR
Ready to take students to mars and back, all from your classroom rug? You can get started with us today. We offer pricing options for all types of groups–from homeschool groups, to programs and schools.
Featured photo by Julia M Cameron