Some of the most successful and engaging mobile AR and VR experiences I’ve facilitated in the last year have been from using the wide range of apps developed by Inspyro. Currently focused on content for the history classroom (though they tell me that geography is next up), Inspyro's VR apps are all free to access. Their AR content is marker-based and works as a part of their ActiveLens programme, wherein educators can buy the relevant information packs for a given time period and these are full of AR-enriched pages.
Both their VR and AR content sits above a lot of other similar educational content. The VR apps are interactive - allowing the user to move around within the virtual space and engage with various elements. The AR apps adhere to my mantra that educational augmented reality should be more than just a model. These AR experiences are also interactive and provide key information to students too. Whilst the VR apps are free, they actually work best in tandem with the AR content and the ActiveLens packs as a whole. I can quote confidently say that educators who invest in the full packs will definitely get their money's worth!
With so much rich content to choose from, I thought it’d be fun to spotlight ten of my favourite experiences from Inspyro. For some of these I will highlight an app as a whole, whilst for others I,m going to drill down to a particular element that I’ve harnessed myself or just really enjoy.
1. Sigurd and the Dragon (VR)
I have to start with this one as this was the first Inspyro app that I ever tried (after a suggestion on Twitter) and one of the first that I ever used with students. There's a real lack of Viking themed digital education content, even moreso when you narrow down to the field of immersive technology. Thankfully Inspyro have you covered with a pair of apps themed around the Norse legend of Sigurd and the Dragon. The VR app allows you to enter a Viking longhouse and listen to the saga as told by the Viking warrior that dwells within. I paired this experience with a comprehension task that I wrote myself. You can see it in action with some of our Year 4 students below.
2. The Prehistoric Roundhouse (VR)
This VR app focuses on the traditional home from Prehistoric Britain. We used it in Year 6, paired with a DT project to build model roundhouses. The hook was that the students built the models and then used this app to "step inside" their design. It offers a guided tour and free roam options, using the interaction button on the mobile VR headset to facilitate movement within the experience (a simple but effect UI that is common to all the Inspyro VR offerings.)
3. The Great Fire Of London (AR)
The Great Fire of London experience is part of the Significant People & Events AR app which is an outstanding option for KS1 history in particular. I showed this to some of our Year 2 teachers to use in a whole-class setting as a bit of a hook at the start of the topic. With the iPad connected to the classroom screen via Apple TV, they scanned the ActiveLens information sheet which then catches fire in augmented reality (you can imagine the reaction) before clicking through to a really clever follow-on activity. A bird's eye view of several houses from 1666 which can be set on fire with a tap but they can also be move around the screen to space them out. The point? To help students understand why the Great Fire spread so quickly and became so hard to contain - the houses were packed so closely together.
4. Augmented Archaeology (AR)
The iDig pack is quite sismply one of the best educational AR resources I've ever tried as it uses the technology in such a unique way - bringing archaeology into the classroom! The ActiveLens pack comes with a 5 part set of triggers that form a dig site from Maldon in the UK where a Viking battle took place in 991AD. The pack establishes the context as such:
"Archaeologists have been digging at a site in Maldon, Essex and have uncovered a body! The bones appear to be from a male between 30 to 40 years old. Alongside the body, several artefacts were found that might help us identify who this person was and perhaps how they died and came to be buried here. "
So the students get to become real time detectives, searching for the hidden artefacts and digging them up. They can then move in for a closer look, cleaning the object and using a magnifying glass to inspect its finer details. The pack even provides a recording sheet to log observations and allow students to make their deductions about the clues they uncover. Teachers are also supported by detailed notes explaining what each artefact is. One clever touch is that one of the objects, which at first glance could well be a shield, is revealed as the cap from a bottle of Coke once cleaned - highlighting the fact that a real archaeologist will also upturn objects from other eras!
5. The Roman Soldier (AR)
The Romans ActiveLens pack is jam-packed with awesome content but I chose the Roman soldier page as it is probably my favourite. Not only does an animated soldier stand on the page but labels can be activated to read more about the different pieces of his armour.
Elevating this experience further, you can then click through to a labeling activity to test your knowledge of the Latin terms for the armour! This is another great example of how the ActiveLens content from Inspyro always strives to go beyond just making a 3D model appear in AR.
As if that wasn't enough, the page actually contains a second trigger related to the ballista catapult which activates a fully interactive challenge to aim and fire one at a target!
6. The Mayan Calendar
Another bountiful pack is the Mayan one. This is a civilisation that I've never actually had the fortune to teach but one that fascinates me personally. The choice here was tough as the pack includes everything from a 3D model of Chichen Itza to various interactive artefacts and even a set of Mayan glyphs which can be translated into English using the device's camera. There's also a lot of great audio content - something that enriches many of the Inspyro apps and is excellent for engaging auditory learners and SEN students. In the end I chose this activity looking at the cycles of the Mayan calendar as the interaction is just wonderful and the detail on the AR model is first-rate.
7. Talking Heads (AR)
This is a technique that Inspyro use in multiple apps and I've not seen it done by any other developer. Animated busts of historical figures spring to life in AR and then speak about their lives. It's a really neat way to learn about everyone from Florence Nightingale to Nefertiti to Julius Caesar. A great touch with these is that the figure's gaze follows the device - which really makes you feel like they are looking (and talking) at you!
8. The Cold War (VR)
The Cold War is another history topic that is definitely lacking in terms of engaging digital content. This short VR experience is a great way to let students virtually time travel to 1981 and experience the threat of nuclear war first hand. As you stand in the backyard of a suburban home, the warning comes across the radio and you have to race to the safety of the garden's underground bunker. This experience can be used as a springboard for discussion and further research into the topic or even as the stimulus for a piece of first-person writing.
9. The Egyptian Tomb (VR)
I used this VR app as a part of a carousel of activities with Year 3 students this year, alongside some 360s from YouTube and the Ancient Egypt virtual field trip lesson I wrote for Nearpod. It allowed students to wander around a deserted tomb and inspect various depictions of gods and scenes from life in Ancient Egypt. Another good example of interactive VR on mobile devices and an excellent way to stimulate discussion, creative writing and more.
I produced my own resource for the students to use for this set of activities. Students completed a different task with each app and as an added incentive we told them that two members of each class who put in the most effort would be selected to join me for a room scale VR session using the Acer WMR headset and the Discovr Egypt app app the following week.
10. The WW1 Trench Experience (AR/VR)
For number ten I'm going to cheat a little and highlight both the AR and VR experiences themed around the trench warfare of WW1. These sit as companions to the core WW1 ActiveLens pack and in fact the trigger sheet for the AR Trench Experience was freely shared by the LGFL - access it here. The reason I'm adding these as a pair is that it's one of the best examples of the synergy between Inspyro's AR and VR content. Students can essentiallymove through stages of a learning experience . First they can read the background information about trench warfare on the sheet before using the AR app to view an amazing 3D model of a trench.
The next step? Use the VR app to teleport students inside the model and let the walk around the trench! Key objects are labelled and you can even click on a poetry book to hear a recording of the classic 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen.
Ok folks, that's my pick of ten experiences. There are many more great educational experiences in the Inspyro catalogue though so definitely go explore for yourself.
Download the Inspyro apps on iOS here.
Download the apps on Android here.
Find out more about the ActiveLens packs here.