Augmented Reality is really, really, really cool. No, seriously, if you have an iDevice, stop reading this and go check out one or more of these apps: Spacecraft 3D, AR Basketball, Augment, or String.
I was going to write a post about these really awesome iPad apps I discovered by reading Richard Byrne’s blog (here’s the specific blog post). I was planning on asking (and trying to answer) an question like: How can we move this kind of technology from the “wow, that’s cool” stage, where we capture students’ attention simply because the medium happens to be different or interesting, to actually using this technology in ways that we couldn’t use previous technology? Furthermore, how can we do this and avoid the time-consuming technology problem?
However, that question will have to wait, because I made at least one cool lesson using the program and I wanted to share that really badly. The third app in the above list (Augment) allows you to upload your on 3D models on their website. This is really awesome because you can use a program like Google Sketchup (now owned by another company, I know) or Blender to create 3D models and allow students to view these models. There are already a handful of models in Augment’s gallery, but none that pertained exactly to the subjects I was teaching, so I decided to create a few of my own (very simple) models.
We are just now getting into VSEPR Theory and looking at 3D molecules in Chemistry, so the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I created a few simple molecules (Water, CH4, CO2, BF3, and NF3) and now students will be able to check out the molecules in 3D very quickly because there’s a QR code reader in the app to send them directly to the model I created for them. This is particularly important because otherwise it would take me 10 minutes to teach them how to get to the correct model and another 10 minutes for them to figure out how to get there after they’ve ignored me for 10 minutes.
I’m actually making the models as stopping-points in my QR Code Around the World Review Activity (similar to the last QR Code Around the World I created for the last test), so it won’t just be “hey, come over and look at this” but instead I’ll be asking them a question based on what they see.
Just as a side note: while Sketchup isn’t too difficult to learn how to use, it doesn’t export very well to .dae, which is what you have to use to upload it to the Augment website. I found Blender to be a much better program for creating things and being able to specify properties. However, is a complex and difficult program, and I only was able to complete this project in a weekend because I had played around with Blender and learned some of the intricacies of the program earlier this year. If any teachers out there would like for me to create any shapes for their class (I’m thinking particularly of Geometry teachers who are actually working in 3D sometimes), then just e-mail (jnewman85 ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com) me and I’d be happy to create something simple.
And yes, I know that I could have physical ball-and-stick models sitting on the table in place of these, but I think these things will capture their attention just that little bit more and give the activity that “Wow” factor. I’m still looking for a lesson that uses this Augmented Reality to teach in ways that were not possible before, so let me know if you have ideas.
I’ll try to remember to post pictures of my students doing this activity soon!