Tuesday 11 April 2017

AR and VR - what is all the fuss about?

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the Google Apps for Education (GAFE - now better known as GSuite) Summit in Cape Town. It consisted of 2 days packed full of learning, with keynotes, presentations and sessions led by both local and international Educational Technology experts. We had Jay Atwood (@jayatwood) and Rafranz Davis (@RafranzDavis) from the States, as well as many local teachers aiming to enhance the use of technology in schools by sharing some of what they do.

One of the sessions that I was particularly keen to attend, was led by Karen Walstra (@KarenWalstra) and touched on the use of AR and VR to enhance the learning in the classroom. Despite working in a secondary school, it struck me that these two technologies could possibly be used very effectively in primary school with how some of the apps available could really bring the learning to life.

What you need to make the most of these apps is a smartphone or tablet (for AR) and an Android smartphone and some VR glasses for the virtual reality apps. These glasses can be had fairly cheaply if you opt for something like the Google Cardboard and you could probably get it even cheaper if you shop around or buy in bulk.

Keep reading below to discover how some of these amazing apps could liven up your classroom. 

Augmented Reality

HP Reveal uses augmented reality to add information to everyday objects. Already used by big corporate companies (Disney's Star Wars, catalogue retail giant Argos, etc.).  Teachers can create "Auras" out of any objects that come to life when students point their devices at them, giving students more information in a fun and engaging way.

Fetch! Lunch Rush

Fetch! Lunch Rush is an iOS app where students have to rush to complete orders at a restaurant using maths. The teacher downloads markers and places them around the room - students have to point their devices at the correct marker to solve the maths problem and complete the order. Great fun, and a move away from another worksheet!

Spacecraft 3D

Made by JPL of the California Institute of Technology, this app
gives students an up-close-and-personal look at a variety of NASA spacecraft designed to study the Earth, Mars and the universe, using augmented reality.

Make learning fun! The people at AR Flashcards have created a variety of augmented reality educational apps, that range from learning the alphabet to maths and some more in between. To quote from their website: "When you point your device at the printed flashcard a beautifully rendered 3D animal will pop up on the screen. Tap the animal to hear the letter and animal name."

Popar Human Anatomy

Learn all about our bodies. Explore and interact with accurately modeled renditions of the major body systems, looking at different organs up close and personal!

Virtual Reality

Cardboard App

This app from google lets you explore the world in 3D. You can fly over the planet using Google Earth or explore selected exhibitions. Here is a look at the interface (without the goggles!):

Google Cultural Institute

Explore art and historical events by downloading the app and snapping on your goggles. Take students on a tour and get as close to the real thing without actually being there!


Teachers can lead students on exciting trips, like exploring coral reefs or the surface of  Mars. How about visiting the International Space Station or Antarctica? These immersive virtual journeys will really bring your lessons to life and add an extra dimension ;) to your teaching.

So there you have it. Have you tried any of these? What was it like? Please leave some feedback!

'till next time.


  1. Thanks Matthew for sharing the ideas from my workshop! I hope you are enjoying using them as part of your teaching.

    1. Not sure who Matthew is but I really enjoyed your session Karen! Hope all is well.