In Teach AR

by CreatiXR, BAUSTEM

Written by Michael Barngrover

Immersive technologies are widely perceived to be the future of education. We believe this to be true not because AR or VR are simply novel but because they immerse the students in the natural learning process. From birth, humans learn about the physical world around them through observation and interaction. Learning from 2D representations of ideas, such as in books and printed materials, can actually be considered less natural than when students are immersed in virtual representations of these ideas. It is this capacity to make STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) come demonstrably alive around students that makes immersive technology such a powerful medium for education.

BAUSTEM is a research and development center with a specialization in STEM Education at Bahçeşehir University in Istanbul. Seeking ways to improve its STEM program for K-4 students, the center created a curriculum of AR enhanced lesson plans. The resulting InTeach AR apps were developed in collaboration with CreatiXR, an XR studio led by Özgül Gürbüz. Ayşe Nil managed the project and oversaw the process to ensure the 3D animations worked in tandem with the pedagogical approach followed in the curriculum. Both teams at BAUSTEM and CreatiXR worked closely to ensure a final tool that satisfied the goals of the program — to educate the next generation of innovators.

The pedagogical approach developed at the center is grounded in Dr. M. Sencer Çorlu’s work within the Integrated Teaching (InTeach) Framework. For several years, the center has developed a research-based program for K-4 students. A team of teacher educators, teachers, children’s book authors, artists, and graphic designers has been collaborating in developing the program since 2015. It was from this foundation that the InTeach AR apps were built, bringing to life characters that tens of thousands of students in Turkey had come to know and love.

The end of the first phase of the new curriculum empowered by the AR technology resulted in several fully animated characters motivating students to learn STEM concepts through exploration. The quality of the models and the animation exceeded what is typically seen in educational AR and was possible because the core of the CreatiXR team are all veterans of the animated film industry. Implementing such high quality 3D assets in a real-time environment was the project’s primary technical challenge, but one that was successful achieved by Berk Yalçin, the talented XR developer on the team.

With the success of the InTeach curriculum already leading to plans for global distribution, the reach and impact of the InTeach AR app will potentially reach hundreds of thousands of students around the world. InTeach AR has already been approved for a second, larger edition filled with more characters and extended animated lessons. There has also been interest in developing further animated content with these characters, proving that AR can be an effective bridge medium from print to other mediums such as animated film.

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