Everyone agrees that it’s important for children to learn new technologies such as 3D printing, robotics, and virtual reality. The challenge lies in finding the best way to teach those skills to young students. Plenty of organizations have taken on that challenge and have come up with creative ways to teach kids about technology while allowing them to have fun as they learn. One of those companies is 3DBear, a Finnish startup founded three years ago by Jussi Kajala and Kristo Lehtonen.
3DBear is an app that allows children to 3D design their own toys in augmented reality. Available for both iOS and Android, the app is simple enough for kids to use, allowing them to superimpose their own designs on their surroundings using their phone’s camera. Kajala and Lehtonen wanted to capitalize on the popularity of such games as Pokémon Go and use the appeal of augmented reality to educate, not just entertain.
“There are lot of applications out there where children chase monsters or collect coins, but we wanted to create something that can be used to improve learning and support creativity,” Kajala told ELearning Inside. “At the same time, we had seen a lot of hardware being sold to schools without [administrators] thinking how to best apply it to improve learning. We had to fix that.”
While the idea of creating their own 3D printable toys in augmented reality is appealing to children, they can do much more with the app, and Kajala and Lehtonen encourage teachers to be creative, applying it to different subjects and lesson plans. The simplicity of the app means that it can be easily used to create scenes from history, for example, or bring literature to life.
“Using 3D design in augmented reality as a tool for creating makes curriculum come alive,” Kajala continued. “According to Bloom’s taxonomy, creating is the highest form of learning. Think about it: when you reconstruct a scene of, say, the Boston Tea Party in augmented reality, it’s an entirely different form of learning experience than reading a book about it or having a teacher explain it to you. When you create it yourself, you’ve got think: what do I need? I need a ship, boxes of tea, and a crew. What does the crew wear? What actually happens in the scene? Is the tea thrown into the water? Why would they do that? When you’ve gone through the creative process yourself you are much more apt to remember and understand the topic that you are studying.”
Apps like these may be the future of education, as teachers begin to utilize technology to teach kids in an entirely new way. Many people talk about the necessity of teaching children skills like 3D printing and virtual or augmented reality because those skills will be necessary for the jobs of the future, but they don’t always talk about how that technology can be harnessed to teach other subjects, as well. There’s really no area of study that can’t benefit from the creative application of technology; apps like 3DBear allow kids to both learn how augmented reality and 3D design work as well as to learn other subjects in a hands-on way.
Textbooks aren’t necessarily going to become obsolete, but the days in which learning came solely from the pages of a book are fading into the past. Students can now apply the knowledge they learn from books by recreating it in virtual 3D, which, as Kajala said, creates a much more lasting impression than book learning alone.
In addition to the app itself, 3DBear offers lesson plans for elementary, middle and high school students in a wide variety of subjects. You can learn more here.