Review by Marianne Rogowski, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2018
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3DBear AR

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3D design and augmented reality merge in creative, interactive app

Subjects & skills
  • Arts
  • Science

  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Students can independently or collaboratively design and create scenes that fit any subject area.

Cons: You'll have to go searching for tutorials; while learning through experimentation can be engaging, the lack of hints may frustrate some kids.

Bottom Line: A great fit for classroom or makerspace settings as long as kids have compatible devices.

Design thinking, often limited to the art classroom in a teacher's mind, comes to life in 3DBear AR. Students can "illustrate" stories in 3D, create models of buildings, invent objects that solve problems, or practice interior design skills from their compatible tablets or mobile devices. Challenge kids to design a reading corner for your classroom or overhaul your lab setup. Let students re-create scenes from history by importing designs from Thingiverse or challenge them to research dinosaurs and re-create a scene from the Mesozoic era. Thinking bigger? Host a green school design contest, and use a 3D printer to create a model that incorporates the best ideas to bring to your administration or board for consideration. 

Students will easily get lost in the creation process, so teachers should schedule ample time for creativity as well as set clear expectations that align with learning goals. Also, while there are some ideas for lessons on the site, they are limited. Involve students in the brainstorming process; chances are, they'll come up with loads of ideas for how you can use it in the classroom.

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3DBear AR is a design app (for iOS and Android) that combines augmented reality with 3D printing through integration with Thingiverse. Teachers create and assign lessons to teams or classes through a web-based teacher dashboard, and kids use the app on their smartphone or tablet (be aware that some older devices aren't compatible) to create scenes using the object library or uploads from Thingiverse. Students can share completed designs and scenes through the cloud feature, which sends them to the teacher dashboard for viewing. From there, teachers can share designs with teams of students for further discussion and modification.

Students can also share designs via email, social media, Google Drive, or a host of other options, allowing them to get feedback from others or to crowdsource ideas. Since sharing is so easy, however, teachers should take advantage of the opportunity to make sure students aren't including personal information on their designs and to talk with kids about protecting their privacy.  

Any time teachers encourage kids to let the creative juices flow, learning will happen, but it's often what we don't expect that makes this encouragement worthwhile. Developing novel solutions is a primary outcome of tools like 3DBear AR, and the teacher's role shifts from deliverer of knowledge to a guide who channels students' energy into meaningful tasks that will enhance understanding of core concepts -- and perhaps save the world along the way.

Merging technology and artistic design with math and engineering concepts like scaling and iterative design is at the heart of the STEAM approach, and 3DBear AR is a powerhouse when it comes to possibilities. However, it's not a tool you want to use without discretion -- it's too easy to get lost in playing, and without clear direction, kids might not accomplish much beyond having fun. While that certainly has its place, many teachers will find it easier to see the learning value when students are engaged in activities that allow them the flexibility and creativity they crave while meeting curricular goals and objectives.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Kids will love adding characters, objects, and shapes to designs in blank or furnished spaces; it's easy to get immersed in the process.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Presents a lot of learning opportunities in the hands of a skilled instructor; there really is no limit to how creative teachers can use this tool to promote design thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving in the classroom.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's a blog, some use cases, and a handful of lesson plans. More tutorials, FAQs, and shared ideas for use would pull in students who need extra support and teachers who have difficulty seeing the possibilities for classroom use.

Common Sense Reviewer
Marianne Rogowski Media specialist/librarian

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Susan S. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Oregon Middle School
Medford, United States
Students create, imagine, and discover a world that does not exist in our reality but one that can exist in theirs.
Students have experienced not only success but often times I am surprised by the student that emerges as a leader. Using augmented reality in my lessons does not lend itself to be something that is utilized with one student equalling one device. I have always assigned these projects in a group setting since having discussions about how to manipulate the reality and which choices to make from the gallery of objects is a component that adds value to whatever lesson I am using. Through experimentation and ...
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