Sunday, April 28, 2019

Kicking Off An AR/VR Program At Our School With MERGE!

A big focus at our school this year has been integrating augmented and virtual reality into our K-12 school district in meaningful, engaging and creative ways. 
We have visited the Macy's Day Parade, China, 
National Parks like the Red Wood Forest, the North Pole, 
colleges around the world, oceans, zoos and lots of other places. 
We have Skyped with MERGE, CoSpaces and teachers who are experts in augmented and virtual reality.  Our students created gingerbread houses, 
natural disasters, atoms and book talks for the MERGE cube in CoSpaces using augmented reality. 
Our kindergarteners even used the app Object Viewer from MERGE's Miniverse to view the butterflies they drew using augmented reality before we uploaded the designs into Tinkercad to print on our 3D printers. 
We started off with 12 headsets with 12 iTouches. They are housed in a cart that allows us to charge, update and move them around as needed.

Then right before spring break, we had something awesome happen at Van Meter. We added 100 MERGE headsets and cubes to the augmented and virtual reality resources we had. With our secondary students having their own devices, we realized we didn't need to have iTouches for these. We wrote a letter and sent it home to families to share our ideas and the policies for this program.
Diana, Jessica and I talked through how we would manage these as part of our library collection.

Diana cataloged each MERGE headset and cube in Follett's Destiny Discover so teachers, students and families could check them out to use at school and home in order to bring these technologies into school and home activities. It will be easy for them to come to the library to check out and even put in one of the plastic storage containers we purchased for transporting larger class sets.

To kick off this new program with our secondary, we invited our friends from MERGE, who are based in San Antonio, Texas, to come to Van Meter for a big....

...MERGE Day Kick Off!
It was amazing to have Jeremy and Brandon from MERGE with us for this special event.
My friend and colleague, Quin Pelz, and I organized this for our 8th and 9th grade students on this day.  We thought these would be two great grades to start with since they represent our middle and high school grades, students and teachers. 
Together, we shared what augmented and virtual reality was, 
the apps and sites they will use and little tips and tricks which will be helpful as we venture into these technologies.

You will find the presentation that we used for this time together here
Throughout the morning, we invited the 8th and 9th grade students and teachers into our East Dining area so they could....
...explore, discuss and...
...learn lots of things that will be helpful to them in this journey. 
It was really fun to see how everyone worked together.... they tried things out.
As an incentive, we set up the Student MERGE Headset Challenge where the students could check out a headset, try out a set of apps we put together on a take home sheet, and then add a video of what they learned and enjoyed to a Flipgrid we created.  You will find the challenge sheet here. 

The winners would be put into a drawing to win their very own headset.  
They were excited about this contest.  When we told them they would be able to check them out from the library, they were even more excited and....
...lined up in the library to...
..check some out too! 
In the afternoon, our friends from MERGE visited elementary classrooms to see how they were using augmented and virtual reality.  
They also wanted to hear from some of the students who had used the other tools such as CoSpaces and Tinkercad with MERGE.  These 4th graders did a wonderful job sharing.  

This is just the start to our augmented and virtual program at Van Meter.  We can't wait to see where this takes us for the rest of the year and into the future.  

And thank you MERGE for helping us with this journey and supporting us every step of the way.  You guys are the best!  

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