Planning Learning Environment with Augmented Reality (AR)

John Dewey, an American philosopher theorized that learning should be relevant and practical, not just passive and theoretical. Modern day school has often been criticized as being an island outside of society, educating theoretical knowledge with a little contextual connections in real world. While in recent years advances in educational technology have produced e.g. simulations and virtual worlds that have narrowed the gap between the ”two worlds”, so far the use of these technologies have required hardware that is not usually commonly available in schools.

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Today, things are changing. According to Wikipedia, Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whereby the objects that reside in the real world are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities. Augmented reality combined with the use of smart phones or mobile devices enables users to combine 3D modeled objects into a physical world with an augmented reality application. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), which creates a totally artificial environment, AR integrates digital information with the user’s environment in real time.

There is a huge potential of combining AR and smartphones for education and some of it has already been realized into applications: you can e.g. interact with 3D modeled human organs, perform a virtual practice, combine different chemical elements to see how they react or turn mathematical concepts into 3D models for easier understanding.

Even though AR is making its way into education, AR applications that offer pedagogical framework in addition to the actual application are rare. The city of Kaarina in Finland applied and received funding from the Finnish National Board of Education to a project called PLEAR (Planning Learning Environment with Augmented Reality) in which students and teachers start designing their new school’s learning environment in augmented reality and then 3D print the best improvements. The project will be carried out in cooperation with 3DBear, a Finnish company that brings AR to classrooms with an app and desires to help educators create an environment in which students can learn life-skills that will make them successful in the 21st century. The background of PLEAR lies partially in the fact that Kaarina – as many other Finnish municipalities – are currently struggling with older school buildings that have poor ventilation, have suffered from water damages or are otherwise out of date and need to be replaced with new buildings.

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It is imperative to involve users to design process right from the start. This in Kaarina includes the process of producing a pedagogical framework with the staff, but with PLEAR we are also going to make the design process more student-driven. The design process should be ground-up and involve all of the stakeholders. Architects in time can take it from there, designing a building which matches teaching and learning processes that educators and students etc. have hoped for and which today are common for modern learning spaces: e.g. open and transparent spaces; flexible seating; adjustable space dividers to enable both private and group work; encourage student and colleague collaboration; and easy-to-move furniture to allow adaptability etc.

Planning environment itself is of course not a school subject, but project PLEAR embraces many of the goals set by the Finnish National Curriculum e.g. empowering students to become active innovators, encourage creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration. The goals of the project are to get students acquainted with the thinking process of design and project-based learning, learn to use AR technology with their mobile devices and unite real-life/open-ended problems with curriculum. AR is helpul in visualizing design ideas and learning through iteration and design thinking.

PLEAR will make it possible to commit the actual users of the final product (new school building) in a way that their ideas and visions will be taken into the actual architectural and building compositions. The project will stand out also because for the first time, all of the Finnish school interior design companies are taking part, as their school furniture products will be imported into 3DBear’s application in a format that enables students to add a multitude of real school furniture products and artifacts into their designs.

As the project continues and evolves, we are hoping to be able to create a model from the design process that can later be replicated and taken into use in any other school design process. I will be posting future advances from the project in this blog.

by Dr. Keijo Sipilä Chief Digital Officer, Department of Education (Kaarina, Finland)






Pioneering involvement in Espoo – developing the urban environment in augmented reality

 Increasing the comfort of metro stations in augmented reality

Increasing the comfort of metro stations in augmented reality

What do users think makes a functional metro station? How can school children plan their own environment visually? Can residents express their ideas to improve the urban environment visually and share them with decision-makers? In March 2018, Espoo took the plunge and went along in a digital trial of augmented reality, which aimed to study the suitability of new technology for helping schoolchildren and local residents become involved in the planning of their own environments. The goal of the trial was to develop digital skills among children and city residents and involve them in urban planning in an easy and enticing way. The trial was conducted in accordance with the Espoo joint development model, in cooperation with 3DBear, the company that developed the augmented reality application. Three Espoo-based schools and the Espoo City Museum took part in the effort.

School workshops

Pupil workshops were initiated at the Meritori and Tapiola schools. The use of the application was explored first. Pupils and teachers can use the application to add their desired elements to their environment digitally and examine the view on the display of a mobile phone or tablet. With the design tool, you can easily move, remove and replace fixtures or plants, for example. Classroom teacher Kati Jääskö-Santala took part in the workshop with her 3rd grade at Meritori School and, encouraged by the positive experiences, continued the trial in the autumn with her new class at Koulumestari School. “At the beginning of the workshop, the pupils got to use augmented reality to mark locations at school with emotion symbols, indicating what they found nice, scary or conducive to learning. The results provided new information. For example, many wanted the cafeteria to be more pleasant and comfortable, although I personally think it’s already nice. Some of the marked locations were surprising as some found the school toilets, for example, highly unpleasant. In the midst of their hectic day-to-day, teachers may not notice how pupils feel about a comfortable work environment and select certain locations based on their own views. The trial provided teachers with important insight into the pupils’ preferences, which can be used to ensure optimal learning. The exercise also expanded my own views about comfortable premises. I’ve noticed that I often find that, for a location to be pleasant and comfortable, it needs to have been built for the purpose,” Kati Jääskö-Santala says.

 Pupil workshop at Tapiola metro station.

Pupil workshop at Tapiola metro station.

The pupil workshops continued in September when Tapiola School 8th graders were mobilised to plan the Tapiola metro station from the perspective of various user groups. The young people examined the functionality and comfort of the metro station from the viewpoints of children with families, commuters, youths, senior citizens and disabled persons. Working in the actual environment produced numerous new ideas to develop the metro station:

• one direct lift connection down to the metro tracks (not just the parking garage)

• more benches and plants

• a pedestrian crossing to the parking garage

• voice guidance for the visually impaired

• an info board is required

• more clocks in visible positions – possibly times from different countries

• presentation space for companies in the empty areas

• clearer signs indicating the locations of toilets and lifts, for example

• lower stair railings – small children can pass under them

• more visual decorations and art

• moving walkaway to enable passage with carts and baby carriages

• play areas for children

 Pupil workshop at Tapiola metro station.

Pupil workshop at Tapiola metro station.

Correspondingly, 4th graders from Meritori School planned the upcoming Kivenlahti metro station and visualised their ideas with augmented reality. Based on these ideas, the pupils then built the metro station from 3D-printed miniatures. The scale model is displayed at the Espoo City Museum. “It was a pleasure putting the pupils’ work up for display in the pop-up exhibition area in the KAMU Lobby after the trial. As originally planned, they will also be included in KAMU’s next changing exhibition “Katse horisontissa” (Eyes on the horizon). Since the museum has also worked to support school education in accordance with the new curriculum, a trial of this kind was deemed to be an excellent way of implementing pupil-oriented multi-disciplinary learning,” Museum Educator Tiina Hero says.

 Planning the environment of the upcoming Kivenlahti metro station. 3D-printed scale model by pupils of Meritori School.

Planning the environment of the upcoming Kivenlahti metro station. 3D-printed scale model by pupils of Meritori School.

Active city residents show their value

On Espoo Day, local residents were provided with a new kind of opportunity to participate in the planning of their own urban environment. The workshop was organised in collaboration with Espoo City Museum. Valia Wistuba, Development Manager of Espoo's Digiagenda strategy, is satisfied with the day: “It was great to see how well the application was received among local residents and customers when we took to the streets in the centre of Tapiola on Espoo Day. The locals appreciated that the City of Espoo is interested in the development of urban spaces and environments and hearing the residents’ wishes and feedback.”

The proposals submitted by the residents on the development of the urban environment were also forwarded to the regional planning architect for review. The trial indicated that an easy-to-use digital solution can be used to engage residents of varying ages in the development of their own urban environment.“The trial was extremely interesting from my viewpoint, since we also got to test the utilisation of augmented reality from a variety of perspectives. It was wonderful to see how the 3DBear application could entice both children and young people in schools as well as city residents to create ideas on the development of their own local environment. I think that augmented reality applications have a great deal of potential in terms of engaging local residents in development efforts,” says City of Espoo Chief Digital Officer Harri Luttinen.

In conjunction with the WeeGee+Design event, 3DBear was involved with a workshop of its own. This enabled the application to be tested under guidance on museum premises and the museum to be shaped through augmented reality. “Participatory projects related to modern Espoo are still a new thing for Espoo City Museum, so the trial also challenged the museum itself to act in a new way,” Museum Educator Tiina Hero says.

 The Design+WeeGee event engaged visitors to design the museum via augmented reality.

The Design+WeeGee event engaged visitors to design the museum via augmented reality.

The next steps

The trial culminated in a presentation event at the end of November, which provided school children and representatives of the city and 3DBear alike with the opportunity to voice their views. Everyone’s experiences had been very positive. “The Espoo digital trial was extremely successful. We were able to test phenomena-based learning in a new way utilising augmented reality and technology that had previously only been used for playing games. Finland has a unique opportunity to take pole position in  international competition for XR technologies. Innovative cities, such as Espoo, that are not afraid to try new things are quite simply making it possible for start-ups to emerge in this fields,” 3DBear’s Chief Operating Officer Jussi Kajala says in summary.

“The 3DBear application is an excellent tool for developing creativity, which enables children to immediately see the functionality of their own ideas in an authentic environment. The application has almost limitless opportunities for use in school environments,” classroom teacher Kati Jääskö-Santala says. She looks forward to planning and designing other school spaces and the surrounding environment with pupils. 3DBear's Education Lead Maria Muuri feels the same way: “Schools need participation and pedagogic tools that support independent thinking and growth into active citizenship. Digital technology and augmented reality are excellent for this kind of work. It is particularly valuable that the application can be used to share ideas and suggestions visually with the latest technology. Sometimes a picture is worth more than a thousand words.

Espoo City Museum has already turned its sights on the future. “We initially got involved in the trial excited by the opportunity to model the history of locations in Espoo in the present, in accordance with 3DBear’s trial proposal. We’ve had good experiences with trials in the context of both pedagogic and digital projects. In the actual implementation phase, the trial was steered towards modern-day, future and increasing engagement among children, in accordance with the museum’s new vision, since this seemed like a fruitful perspective for all those involved. We wanted the pupils’ voice to be heard in the development of school environments and the local urban environment. The trial proved that an augmented reality application would be a great way of engaging a large number of pupils in the planning of their own environment, even without the necessity to allocate human resources from the museum or the Premises Department1. In this way, the operating model could even cover all schools in Espoo,” Museum Education Tiina Hero reflects.

The 3DBear AR application is available from the AppStore and Google Play.



Transatlantic AR Classroom Reaches to Mars

Today we, students in English school Helsinki,  worked collaboratively with a school in US, Oregon Middle school, to create a colony on Mars using 3DBear AR application. After arriving at Valimotie, we formed groups of 4-6. We spent time getting familiar with the 3DBear AR. 3DBear AR is an innovative learning application that allows users to build Augmented Reality scenes using virtual 3D models and their surroundings. It adaptably allows educators to teach various content in any grade level and any subject using Augmented Reality, 3D-printing and 21st century skills.


After getting familiar with the app we called the Oregon Middle School. We were given a copy sheet about Mars. After working on the copy sheet we shared our answers with the students of Oregon Middle school. Then we researched about Mars on iPads.

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We started creating our own colonies on Mars using 3DBear AR.

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At the end of the session we shared our Mars colonies that we’d been working on, with the students from Oregon Middle school.

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We ended up telling about the things we like. The students from Oregon Middle school liked many same things as us.

It was amazing working and sharing our Mars colonies with the students from Oregon Middle school. This was also an amazing opportunity to work with another school.

Thank you Oregon Middle school! This was really fun!

Our teacher Leena Liimatainen comments:  It is thrilling to see pupils meet with children from the other side of the globe. They started instantly solving problems that starting a settlement on Mars would bring and creating fantastic solutions for them. We witnessed active group work and communication both in the groups and with our partner Oregon MS on Long Island. This is how it feels to hold future in your hands!


Writers: Anni and Zixin from English School, Helsinki

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3DBear featured in EdSurge

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EdSurge provides independent news and resources to help readers understand the role of technology in education. They published our Education Lead´s article about Finnish education. These education principles distinguish Finland and are built into 3DBearAR-appilication. Read the article here: https://www.edsurge.com/news/2018-07-31-6-key-principles-that-make-finnish-education-a-success

Teachers are highly educated in Finland. Traditionally teachers have primarily taught school subjects. At the moment we are moving away from subjects towards a future where teachers will teach problem solving, learning and thinking skills. This makes teaching more phenomenon and problem based. Finland´s national core curriculum provides a uniform foundation for local curricula to promote equality in education.

How 3DBear AR Helps Prepare Students for 21st Century

How 3DBear AR Helps Prepare Students for 21st Century

In today’s world of education, there have been a plethora of discussions about 21st Century Skills, and how important it is to have our students equipped with them. In Finland, these skills are called Transversal Competencies, which particularly focus on the competences that cross the boundaries of individual subjects and aim to link different fields of knowledge and skills. But no matter it’s 21st Century Skills or Transversal Competencies, they can be all boiled down to a group of words known as “4C Basic Skills”, i.e. creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

  21st Century Competencies/Transversal Competencies

21st Century Competencies/Transversal Competencies

  4C Basic Skills

4C Basic Skills

At 3DBear, we believe that Augmented Reality and 3D-printing are beneficial in helping students develop these essential new basics. Here are how 3DBear AR makes them happen:

Creativity

3DBear AR empowers student-centered learning process. Students are the owners of their learning, they are free to decide how they would like to complete the learning tasks. All of our lesson plans provide open-ended design challenges, and there are multiple ways to approach to these challenges. During the class, students are encouraged to brainstorm as many ideas as they can before choosing one as their ultimate solution.

Critical thinking

The learning content of 3DBear AR lessons are interdisciplinary, which demand students to look at problems from different angles. In order to make smart decisions, students need to make connections to multiple subjects and ideas. For example, the Redesign Your School lesson presents students with a real-world scenario and ask them to identify possible issues or problems in their surroundings. By posing students as problem explorers, we are actually encouraging them to think critically while identifying needs and opportunities from different perspectives.

Communication

3DBear AR allows users to communicate themselves in a visual way, students can share their thoughts, ideas, solutions and creations using Augmented Reality. We are especially proud of the fact that the app is such a powerful tool for students who are not good at expressing themselves verbally. In the majority of our lesson plans, we have included various activities that require students to show their understanding of a concept or idea using AR, then engage them into discussions to further enhance the learning process.

Collaboration

3DBear AR aims at creating a shared classroom. All of the class activities invite students to work together in achieving shared goals. When students work in teams, they learn to collaborate, negotiate, and resolve conflicts. These skills support their social and emotional development and prepare them for the success in future workplace and life in general.

  A classroom in the U.S. where the students are using 3DBear AR to restore a virtual Machu Picchu.

A classroom in the U.S. where the students are using 3DBear AR to restore a virtual Machu Picchu.

In addition to the “4C Basic Skills”, 3DBear AR is a good medium in assisting students developing ICT competence. Through the different lessons, students will get familiar with the emerging technologies like AR and 3D-printing; also the use of digital devices creates many opportunities for students to make their own thoughts and ideas visible in unique ways, thus developing their thinking and learning-to-learn skills.

From a bigger picture, it’s not about math, science or languages, 3DBear cares more about our students grow as a human being, cultivate their necessary skills for building a sustainable future.

 

Co-written by Maria Muuri and Junyi Sun, Education Lead and Pedagogy Specialist at 3DBear

 

What is the augmented future like in schools 10 years from now?

It’s 2028. The day kicks off with physical exercise. The fifth graders of New Castillion School on Long Island, New York check that their augmented reality (AR) glasses are charged. They will be playing Quidditch known from Harry Potter. The players -witches and wizards- throw around a virtual ball visible only through their AR glasses. Goal posts and the golden snitch are also augmented. Quidditch is the most popular pesports - combination of physical sports and esports - game around. The best players of Quidditch in the World earn more than ice hockey players.

After a fun and tough PE, the fifth graders turn their attention to the design class. They are working on a project in which they redesign their school in augmented reality and then 3D print the best improvements. Amy and Mike are working on a study space on the second floor of the school. Amy looks at the area through AR glasses and with her hands she draws chairs and desks to exactly match the required dimensions in the space. Mike prefers to design using a mobile phone, and he uses his smartphone to add a small bookshelf and a stand to Amy’s design. With the help of augmented reality, design can be done on the spot and in the actual context.

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Mike and Amy finish up their design and other students in the classroom vote their design to be 3D printed. They order the new study space using 3D printing as a service provider which 3D prints the students’ design at a remote location and sends the ready design to them by mail in a day. They will see the new study space live tomorrow.

Next up is the English class. Students have read or listened to The Diary of Anne Frank during last month. Today they will make scenes from the book alive in AR. This helps visual and kinesthetic learners in the classroom to interpret the story of the book. Students visualize also their feelings when making the book alive in 3D. The most active students spice up the story of the book with their imagination, doing creative storytelling on top of the real plot of the book. In the end of the lesson, the east wing of New Castillion School has turned into a parallel universe containing The Diary of Anne Frank. Students have collaboratively created this 3D world and while doing so learned about literacy, design, verbal skills, project work and most important of all - themselves.

The final activity of the day is project work on recycling. New Castillion School participates in global turn waste plastic into 3D prints initiative. They have gathered plastic waste from home and brought it to the school. The school hosts local recycler which grinds the waste plastic, melts it, and turns it into raw material for 3D printers, filament. Tomorrow, when they will receive the 3D printed study space from 3D printing as a service provider, they will in exchange give them the recycled filament which decreases the price of their order.

To your surprise, all of the examples described in this story are already possible today, with the exception of Quidditch. Redesign your school and creative storytelling lessons can be found within 3DBear AR - application which we have developed. Recycling plastic as described is possible with our open source recycler. Welcome to the future.

 

Jussi Kajala

Writer is the CEO of 3DBear, Inc., and Chairman of the Board of 3DBear Ltd. Jussi has a degree from University of Cambridge, UK, and Ph.D. in theoretical physics. Before joining 3DBear Jussi was the employee of the year in Tekes - the Finnish funding agency for innovation. Now Jussi is realising his passion of enabling the creativity of children in 3DBear.

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