Metaverse is a powerful augmented reality (AR) programming app for classrooms. I first wrote about this app in December 2017 shortly after launch. Metaverse has come a long way and is specifically focused on becoming an amazing AR app for classrooms with the new Collections feature. In this blog post, I’ll share the vocabulary I use for teaching programming, how I teach with Metaverse, and some new features that help us manage our classroom as students program in AR and share with each other.
What Is Metaverse?
Metaverse is a free augmented reality app where teachers and students can create unlimited experiences. Using Metaverse, my students have created fun quiz games, trivia experiences, and even an AR tour of our school. I use Metaverse even before I start teaching programming with Scratch. This is because Metaverse is simple and easy to use.
Getting Started in Metaverse:
- Use this Metaverse Studio tour video to get started whenever you’re ready.
- If you want a longer teacher PD session, Luis recorded a Metaverse PD Webinar 2 weeks ago.
- The Metaverse YouTube channel is full of tutorials that you can send your students to get them started.
A student can go into Metaverse and make an experience in just a few minutes. Then, in the top right-hand corner, they can click to “share” their experience. They’ll see that first screen Immediately on their phone or tablet. Granted, it isn’t really a program yet, as the experience isn’t doing anything, but just realizing that they’ve put a character into the experience gets students excited. The instant feedback, ability to create multiple paths (or branches), embed videos, 3D characters, websites, and even 360 experiences make this tool immediately interactive and usable for students.
As you can see in the graphic below, each screen has possible “scenes” that you can add. They’ve already loaded objects that you can add to scenes, including pop culture and common objects needed in educational topics.
A Few Programming and Design Concepts That I Teach With Metaverse
Remember that Metaverse requires NO coding at all. It is simply an object-oriented drag-and-drop tool. No coding required.
That said, I want my students to end up coding. Metaverse engages them within minutes, allowing me to start teaching them some basic programming concepts. I’ve bolded the vocabulary for those of you who are teaching programming or basic coding. These terms, I believe, should be introduced through a simple-to-use tool like Metaverse. That way, when my students are ready for full app making, they understand the concepts and terminology that they’ll need on a larger scale.
For example, I start with a simple, one-day, “make something fun” experience in Metaverse. However, for the second project, I encourage students to make a major step up toward creating something to perform like an app that a user can interact with. With this in mind, I want my students to be familiar with terminology, and here are some examples.
UX, Alpha Testing, Beta Testing
UX stands for “user experience.” When student teams are alpha testing the app, I have them watch each other and notice how another person uses the app, which can help them make changes. (We also learn beta testing, which is what happens when a person NOT on their team tests the app.)
Onboarding and Cascading Information Theory
I also teach the concept of onboarding, which means what happens as you bring a new user into an app. Just like when entering a video game for the first time, a user doesn’t always need all of the information at once. This is called cascading information theory, which says that information should be given in “the minimum possible snippets for understanding each point during a game narrative.”
Friction, Error Prevention, and UX
Secondly, I want students to consider how users will end their experience. For example, when designing an app or game, error prevention is a basic part of making it usable. In website design, friction isn’t really a good thing — it’s an element of operation that impedes or prevents a user from doing what they want to do. However, when someone is using an app and is about to exit or do something irreversible, adding friction to the user interface design helps prevent errors. For example, Microsoft is using friction when MS Word asks if you really want to exit the program without saving changes. The purpose is to keep you from making an error and not saving your work.
Here’s an example of friction in Metaverse. If a button or screen isn’t linked to another, the user will see a red exclamation point and the experience will end. If an experience ends, then the user might have to start over at the beginning, something that most people don’t want to happen. Additionally, if the user doesn’t expect the experience to end, they’ll believe the app has “crashed” even if it was an intentional ending. I find that the ending of an experience is an ideal place to talk about UX, friction, and error prevention. So one of the first things I have students design is an ending screen that will ask users if they really want to leave the experience or go back to a certain point in the app. Then, if students are building out a large experience, instead of the red exclamation points, they can send users to the “error prevention” screen to keep them from leaving the app unintentionally.
UI, UI Design, and Consistency
UI stands for “User Interface.” Thus, UI design is designing the user interface. One essential element of UI design is consistency. The user wants certain elements look and behave in the same way. For example, I remind students about the “case” of words in this case. Typically “title case” is the best for buttons and titles, but sometimes when a character is talking they might want to go to “sentence case.” These types of decisions have to be made at the beginning as they are discussing UI.
Ideation and Planning
The top student mistake in a larger build is starting without first ideating, or generating ideas, for their app or experience. Then, after they ideate, they have to plan what will be in the experience. I like to use Kanban Boards and Agile Software Development principles (something outside the scope of this article). Without project management tools, students will waste time and not complete the task.
There are many more terminologies that I teach with Metaverse, but these are just some that we use at the beginning of the process. I’ve included them on the image below as a quick reference.
Collections: An Awesome Solution to Classroom Management in Metaverse
As I see it, Collections solves two basic problems of teaching in Metaverse. The first problem is that of linking the students in the class together to see one another’s apps for testing and feedback. In the past, students had to make screenshots of their code and print them to easily test one another’s experiences and share best practices for their apps. This problem has been eliminated with the new “Collections” feature.
The second challenge was that I sometimes wanted to help students on their app or dig into their setup to help troubleshoot a problem. This problem has also been solved because I can go directly into their code using the Collections feature.
While experience creation is free and unlimited for students and teachers, if you want to try Collections, sign up with the code #ARinEDU to try it free now. Go to https://studio.gometa.io/teachers to get started. If you like Collections, you can keep it for $7/month after the trial is over.
Metaverse remains an engaging and powerful augmented reality programming tool for your classroom. Compatible with devices of all kinds, students can also build on a variety of devices, and Collections gives you a teacher’s-eye view of everything happening in all of your student experiences. I hope you’ll try this one out!
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