Review by Shaun Langevin, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2018

ARIS

Create valuable Pokémon Go-style learning games for iOS devices

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
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Pros: Design games from within any web browser; ability to add augmented-reality media; lots of written instructions and video support.

Cons: A considerate time investment for most teachers to fully learn; can only play games on internet-connected iOS devices.

Bottom Line: A teacher who is willing to learn ARIS can create robust mobile experiences that will resonate with students.

ARIS can be used by educators to create games for any part of their curriculum. Students of any age can play the games, but only older students and adults will be able to create them. Games can be simple or complex quests. Imagine a science lab where partners take their iPads and complete a scavenger hunt by pointing the camera at certain equipment. Suddenly, their teacher is on the screen explaining the proper use and function of that equipment and "gives" them that item digitally. Once students have all of the items, they can be ready to do an experiment.

Try giving your students a role, such as a journalist during the civil rights movement. They can then interact with characters you've created, such as an editor, protestors, and historical figures. These interactions can be incredibly robust, where students select responses that will change the progression of the game. Send them to cover Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. When students point their camera at a photo of King, it comes to life right in front of them, remaining in place even as the camera tilts or moves. From there, moving around the room, the school, or the community, students point their iOS device at different photos or artifacts; text, photos, videos, or characters appear right over the photo explaining the historical significance. As a culminating event, students can write a newspaper article based on their experience.

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ARIS is a free web-based tool to create iOS games. ARIS is used to create "situation-based" games, meaning that the real-world environment around the student is an integral part of gameplay. The best way to understand this concept is to compare it to the popular Pokémon Go app. In that game, players take their devices out into the word to find and collect Pokémon. When a Pokémon is near, players hold up their phone and they see, through augmented reality (AR), a little creature right on the table in front of them moving around. Players also travel to special locations and collect certain items. These kinds of location-based interactions are the basis of gameplay found within the ARIS app, though ultimately a far more robust and educational game can be created.

A free iOS app is where the games are played. The games that are created will be tied to the teacher's account, so they can be reused as needed. Other peoples' games are available from the app, but the quality varies significantly.

The ARIS web interface is very clean and well-designed, but it instantly becomes clear that in order to build games, teachers will need to spend a large amount of time learning vocabulary, learning how to use the interface, and figuring out how everything interacts to create an app. It will also be essential that the teacher is comfortable or willing to work with different file formats, including uploading and downloading them. Unfortunately, to take full advantage of the augmented-reality component (when a digital image is laid over the real world), it's necessary to sign up for a free Vuforia account and upload images there. Fortunately, teachers don't have to create some epic quest right out of the gate -- they can start small and work their way up. Field Day, the folks behind ARIS, have provided an in-depth manual and several tutorial videos for the educator who wishes to take this on.

The free iOS app is easy to use and shouldn't be a problem for most students who've had exposure to apps. It does lack the visual pizzazz that many apps have, but that's OK because what matters the most is the audiovisual and text-based content that teachers provide.

Overall Rating

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

If a teacher puts in the time to understand creating a game, students will be hooked.

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

While the value of ARIS depends on the person who makes the game (usually, the teacher), a well-designed game has the potential to create an incredible experience where students take an active role in learning. 

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

The developer has a manual and several video tutorials to help teachers get going. ARIS isn't as complicated as programming, but it will require a lot of effort for most teachers to learn.


Common Sense Reviewer
Shaun Langevin Technology coordinator

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