Ready-made ideas for using augmented reality to engage students with disabilities

Augmented reality, the technology used in games like Pokémon Go, is underutilized in special education, said Jenn Park, assistive technology coordinator for the North Orange County SELPA in California.

“I think people are always looking for the next new thing, but AR is a great universal design for learning tool that really hasn’t been tapped into much, especially not in special education,” she said.

AR technology attaches a 3D animation or video to a target image. Using an AR app, a student can scan the target image and the animation or video will start to play.

Park discovered the benefits of AR when she taught gifted and talented students, including twice-exceptional students, during a Saturday course on digital citizenship. She had the students use an AR app to create public service announcements attached to their own superhero drawings — and her students loved it.

She likes that the technology allows students to showcase themselves by making their own videos and it allows teachers to embed additional content into worksheets for students who need extra help.

Consider sharing these ideas for using AR with your staff:

• Have students create Public Service Announcements. While teaching digital citizenship, Park had her students use the AR app Aurasma to record themselves doing a public service announcement on a digital citizenship topic of their choice. They made a story board and then used iPads with the app to record the video, she said. “AR is a lot easier than virtual reality to do with a rotation of students,” Park said. AR works with many different devices, and students can use their smartphones to access content at home, she said.

• Frontload lessons with video tutorials. Pre-teach lessons by recording a brief video tutorial and attaching that to target images on classroom posters, Park said. For instance, a teacher can embed a video of herself or others explaining fractions to an image on a math poster. “That can be available year-round, or the teacher can change the content whenever she wants,” Park said.

• Send makeup work home with embedded instructions. If a student is absent, use AR to embed video tutorials or additional instructions into assignments that are sent home, Park said. The student can see and hear her own teacher explaining what the student missed, and she can replay the video as many times as she needs to, Park said.

• Attach demonstrations to sign language flashcards. For students with hearing impairments learning sign language, consider embedding videos into sign language flashcards with AR, Park said. “If the flashcard says ‘help,’ they could open up the AR app, scan the image on the card, and the video would actually demonstrate how to sign that word,” she said. Teachers could create their own videos or embed videos from online.

• Bring content to students in home, hospital instruction. Medically fragile students may not be able to go outside, but a teacher could use AR to bring the outdoors to the student, Park said. “Maybe their science lesson talks about the beach, but they can’t go to the beach because they’re in a home-hospital situation,” she said. Attach an AR video of the beach to the science worksheet to enhance their experience, Park suggested.

• Record family members providing positive reinforcement. A student with behavioral or emotional issues may benefit from hearing an encouraging message from a family member, Park said. Have the family member record a short message and attach that video to a picture. If the student’s having a tough day in class, the student or teacher could open up the AR app on a device, scan the picture, and hear the recorded message, Park said.

• Have students create their own classroom rules. Use AR to have students create short skits explaining the classroom rules, Park said. Then attach their videos to target images next to each rule.

• Make assignments interactive. Have students create their own video book reviews and attach those videos to the book using the front covers as the target image. “Think about our kids who aren’t necessarily good readers: This would give them a familiar face telling them why to choose a certain book,” Park said.

• Free up time during class. Once the AR content is created, it can be used throughout the year during individual and small group work, Park said. “The most time-consuming part is creating the content, but once it’s done, you always have those lessons,” she said.

Park will present the workshop Differentiate Instruction Using AR, VR, and Other Personalized Learning Tools at LRP’s 38th National Future of Education Technology Conference held in Orlando, Fla., Jan. 23-26, 2018. View the full FETC agenda.

Jennifer Herseim covers Section 504, education technology, and Common Core issues related to special education for LRP Publications.

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