Make It Cool, Creative, Collaborative: Designing Educational AR Technology

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We caught up with Stewart Roud, creative director at Zoic Labs, for his thoughts on what makes Step Into Biology’s AR (Augmented Reality) interface so compelling and unique – setting it apart from other EdTech tools. (Stewart hails from London, so be sure to read this with an “English accent.”)

What do you think distinguishes Step Into Biology from the other education apps?

“At Step Into Biology (SIB), we stayed extremely focused on our mission – to combine ground-breaking technology with an effortless interface that is user-friendly for kids, educators, and researchers. We spoke to many teachers during our development phase, and we continue to do so as Step Into Biology evolves, as we want to consistently ensure that this is an educational AR application that can enhance learning and one that is created specifically for educators to be used by educators.”

So, What's the WOW in Step Into Biology?

“Step Into Biology is a multiplayer augmented reality app uniquely built for collaborative interaction in the classroom. It’s never been done before, and we’re super excited to get it into the hands of educators and students. As the creative director, it’s my role to lead the team that focuses on the development and the functionality of the UI/UX (User Interface and User Experience), two crucial components of any digital product development. I'm a big believer in the “aesthetic useability effect,” which means that a user will have a positive emotional response to a technology’s visual design, and that makes them more tolerant of minor usability issues. This effect is a major reason a good user experience cannot just be a functional UI — it is imperative to design an interface that is attractive as well as functional. We want to make SIB easy to navigate and visually dynamic. We want users to say WOW.”

Who is Step Into Biology Designed for?

“Step Into Biology is currently designed for 6th-12th grade biology, but STPN2 AR Education as a whole can be utilized by K-12 classrooms, as well as university and research settings.”

What has been the response to Step Into Biology?

“We’ve had a fantastic response to Step Into Biology! We recently were at the NSTA (Nation Science Teacher Association) National Conference on Science Education in Atlanta, Georgia, and were thrilled by the feedback from the educators we met. We have a "for us by us" approach to how we develop Step Into Biology and we really want teachers to feel they have a voice in the content, the experience, and the overall approach of education in this "brave new world" we are in. The comments we heard were immediately shared with the Step Into Biology team, and we are incorporating many of them into future design modifications and improvements. Working with subject matter experts is key, and our newly formed Teacher Advisory Board ensures that SIB as a teaching aid adheres to respected classroom standards and addresses the needs and abilities of the students.”

And the kids?

“Kids are amazingly intuitive with technology, and what a thrill to have the teacher tell them to ‘take OUT their phones or tablets.’ But on a more serious note, Step Into Biology is really designed to bring biology to life, to foster curiosity and to increase both comprehension and understanding of complex biological functions. The fact that it is awesome to step into an animal cell makes it all the better.”

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