Bringing emerging tech into education is something which we need much more of. The team at arludo are powering forward doing just this — using VR and AR to educate students about science. Michael Kasumovic, the founder of arludo, took some time to chat about their journey so far.
So… what exactly is arludo? I’ll let Michael explain!
“arludo creates educational games that allows teachers to engage their students in science topics. As students play, they collect data that provides them with an understanding of the concept they are learning and allows them to learn more about how science functions.” — Michael Kasumovic
Michael has been a university lecturer for the past ten years and has found that for the last five in particular, students were “becoming more disengaged and disenchanted with education”. His colleagues felt the same. As he puts it, “it felt that whatever universities were doing just wasn’t working”. To see if he could engage the students a bit more, he decided to try out using games as a teaching tool to explain some of the more complex evolutionary topics that students were having trouble with.
“Using some simple games, I made students run around fields pretending to be spiders looking for mates or dance flies trading females resources for the opportunity to mate — and they loved it!”
It all went so well that Michael decided he had to keep this idea going, so he created arludo. They’ve now almost reached 20 games and plan to keep going!
“It felt as if mobile devices provided students with an opportunity to relax and lower their guard, and as a result, they had fun and experienced the theories they were trying to learn.” — Michael Kasumovic
His favourite of all of these games? “Blue Steal” of course (love that name). A game in which groups of students try to work out what objects their female bird likes and find enough of them to keep her happy. Michael likes the social aspect that the game encourages — “It’s my favourite because of what the game does to students — it gets them talking and working together in under 5 minutes flat and in about 10 minutes students are smiling and laughing while they are learning. By the end of the class, students are discussing complex topics like the evolution of female preferences and mating strategies, and the role of culture in learning. To me, ‘Blue Steal’ is the epitome of the benefit digital products can bring to a learning environment.”
Michael pointed out what skillsets he looks for in team members so well, that I’ll quote him completely here. They have a great approach which I think other startups in emerging tech should definitely consider.
“Making video games for education isn’t just about programming, you need a multi-skilled team of individuals that have a similar vision. Our team has programmers, designers, animators, and learning experts that work together to create experiences that students enjoy and learn from. So when we look for a new team member, we look at what our current team is missing and find someone that has a unique perspective in that field. I know that may sound a little vague, but we feel that the most important skill someone can have is the desire to want to improve themselves and to help others improve. If someone is willing to learn and push their boundaries, then there is no limit to what they, and we, can do!”
I think looking for people willing to learn is crucial in the emerging tech space, as it evolves so quickly and often entails skills most developers haven’t had time to develop yet! So arludo’s approach is definitely a promising one.
Michael feels there’s more that’s possible with AR than many realise today. He says, “AR is now ubiquitous, but I feel that it’s not used in an interesting manner or very appropriately. In most cases, AR is used to simply overlay digital objects in the real world (like a schematic) or to blend the digital world with reality (like Pokemon GO). I think those are fun, but I feel that AR has so much more to offer in that along with blending the digital and real worlds — it has a chance to change how individuals interact.”
The social element of AR is definitely one that is overlooked. Not a lot of AR out there attempts to encourage or improve discussions:
“I see AR as an opportunity to improve and increase social interactions between individuals (especially students) to improve discussions and information exchange, and allow them to practice being something they are not (e.g. a scientist).”
There are lessons here for anyone developing anything with VR/AR, not just for educational purposes. If you are developing something, there’s an important question Michael says you should ask yourself:
“When developers are creating something in AR, I think they should ask themselves whether what they are doing is really pushing the limits of the technology or whether it’s just using the technology. If it’s the latter, then the team will create something fun, but if it’s the former, the team can create something truly special and unique.” — Michael Kasumovic
Michael has a genuine concern for the future of education, and is one of the first people I’ve found who really has looked deeply into the right and wrong way to approach VR/AR in education. Rather than just porting across existing content into a headset, Michael really wants the industry to use the opportunity of the new medium to do bigger things:
“I think education is currently struggling with both VR and AR because they are thinking of both of these tools as ‘the next step’. What I mean by that is that educational institutions think this is the natural progression of how technology will be used in the classroom, and as a result, they will simply substitute what they are currently using for AR and VR.
What we’ll end up seeing is virtual classrooms and digital overlays of textbooks on reality, and to me there is nothing sadder. AR and VR offer such an amazing opportunity to change the status quo in education, but it requires that people take chances. The real benefit of these tools is that it allows students to lower their guard and reduce the costs in learning. But more importantly, it has the opportunity to improve social interactions — this is what is currently lacking in education because of the rapid shift in digital products in the last decade.”
“AR and VR have the opportunity to bring back social interactions by making them easy and fun. That would be the biggest benefit AR and VR have for education.” — Michael Kasumovic
A huge thank you to Michael from arludo for sharing his thoughts on bringing VR/AR into education with us! All of arludo’s games are free and come with free teacher manuals and student worksheets. Check them out at arludo.com to find out more. They also have a blog that explains how arludo, students and teachers are thinking about education. Visit them and let them know what you think!