App review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2019
SolAR - Explore Planets In AR
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solAR - Explore Planets in AR

Astronomy AR app highlights beautiful planets, is light on features

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Grades
K–12 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.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Planetary surfaces are detailed and beautiful; app is easy to use; AR features add to the fun.

Cons: Includes only short descriptions and a few facts; there are no teacher resources; the free version is quite limited.

Bottom Line: For a small investment, classrooms can have planetary visuals for their astronomy lessons, plus a fun AR feature, but deeper learning will need to be found elsewhere.

Teachers might use solAR - Explore Planets in AR as a starting place to introduce the study of different planets in the solar system. With the AR feature, you can almost literally bring planets into your classroom, and this is a fun way for students to interact with astronomy. Encourage them to take screenshots of each other while interacting with the planets.

The app includes a few basic facts, making it easy to compare the planets with one another, but you'll need to provide significant depth and contextual learning on your own. This app is a useful visual for including in a larger lesson that would be found elsewhere.

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SolAR - Explore Planets in AR is an app where students can explore the solar system and the planets and moons contained therein. Students can choose a planet, study its surface, zoom in and out, rotate it, or pause its rotation. They can also read short planetary descriptions that include some very basic facts. The planets are shown with a good amount of surface detail and color. The AR feature allows students to "place" the planet in their environment and interact with it. Devices without AR can still enjoy the regular 3D viewing. The planet options available are Mercury, Venus, Earth/Moon, and Mars in the free version, with Jupiter and its moons, Saturn and its moons, Uranus and its moons, Neptune and Triton, Pluto and Charon, the Solar System, the Sun/Earth/Moon relationship, the Inner Solar System, and the Outer Solar System unlocked with the in-app purchase.

Creative teachers will be able to integrate solAR - Explore Planets in AR into lessons on astronomy, and its visual aspect can help students learn to recognize planets. It makes an effort at authenticity, but it's light on features and entirely lacking in any kind of support or lesson materials. Hopefully this will spark curiosity in students and questions for discussion.

Students who spend time with the app will learn some basic planetary facts and become familiar with what the planets look like, but most learning will have to come from teachers and students finding new ways to be creative with the app.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

At first glance, the beautiful planetary representations, rotation and zoom, and AR features will appeal to students. But interest may drop off quickly since there's little depth and few features included to keep students engaged.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Students will absorb some planetary knowledge and be able to recognize planets in the solar system. Basic interaction and play with the AR feature will reinforce this, but there's little else to keep students learning.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

The app itself is easy to use, but there's no support and no educational materials for teachers, which would go a long way toward making it a valuable addition to lessons.


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