Thursday, March 29, 2018

Virtual Reality in Education

"Virtual reality can transport students to the farthest corners of the observable universe in the blink of an eye and immerse them in a deep and engaging educational environment" Michael Tresor @ eLearning Trends.

As I am always on the prowl for new ways to “wow” my LEGO & Maker Club, I decided to dip my toes into VR. After doing lots of research, I purchased a few of the “Premium Virtual Reality VR Headsets w/ Magnetic Button Trigger” by Sytros on Amazon. The $20 price was right and the headset has many of the recommended features for student use: adjustable strap and viewer tabs (pupil/focal distance and ability to wear with glasses on or off); no remote required (magnetic button allows you to pause and interact with any Google Cardboard supported VR apps); equipped with slots for headphones/earbuds and compatible with almost any size and type of smartphone.

I consider myself fairly tech-savvy, but this was definitely a learning curve for me. Luckily, my Clubbies were willing to jump right into the deep end! I had found VR videos on Best YouTube 360 Channels for Educational Content and Virtual Reality for Education which were high-quality, safe starting points. We also explored VR videos on YouTube, with some guidelines, of course. We had so much fun exploring that I decided to splurge and buy enough for a class set (30 headsets). I decided to build my own so that I would always have them available for class or individual student checkout at a moment's notice. I also wanted the freedom to create my own "VR library", based on student & teacher requests. My ultimate goal is to "transport students to the farthest corners of the observable universe in the blink of an eye and immerse them in a deep and engaging educational environment". Whether I succeed or FAIL in this endeavor remains to be seen.

Completed VR Tours

  • AVID: students took virtual tours of college campuses.
  • 7th grade ELA students explored their Reader’s Theater topics: historical homes; museums; national parks, etc.
  • 6-8th grade student walk-ins during NDSA Testing explored Best YouTube 360 Channels for Educational Content.

Upcoming VR Tours (by request)

  • 7th grade earth science: students will check out bacteria and take a tour inside the human body (so cool and disgusting, at the same time!).
  • 8th grade natural science: students will check out astronomy sites. (Over 10,000 astronomy VR sites on YouTube (falling into the YouTube video rabbit hole) so we are working together to narrow down the topic.)
  • I am considering letting individual students check VR headsets out during the school day.

During the 7th grade ELA VR Field Trip, I told students that they were our VR pioneers and asked
them to fill out a “Feedback Wall” with their “likes, dislikes, and wonders”. Students said that
the experience was “amazing” “really cool” and “it really does immerse you in the activity”.
Some students also said that there were “too many steps” to get everything to work (on all of
the different phones) and that there should be an easier way to access subject/topic lists of
VR videos (right now, we are using Google Drive). A few students said that it made them “dizzy”.
They all wondered if the experience would be enhanced if we added headphones or earbuds.

Based on their feedback and the problem-solving we have done along the way, I have created
simplified directions: Getting Started with Virtual Reality. It seems that every make and model of smartphone has its own quirks with VR (and some students don’t have a
smartphone at all or aren’t allowed to install Google Cardboard). So, I am looking for ways for
every student to be able to experience VR, as it is truly “amazing”, “really cool” and
“really does immerse you in the activity”. Please let me know if you would like to
work with me to create a “Shared Resource” curriculum folder with quality VR videos.
I am looking forward to many more VR adventures and I promise you won’t regret taking the plunge!

Twitter Chat:

Q1: HOW have you used VR with students or staff? If not, what is preventing you from doing so?

Q2: WHAT are some tips and tricks that you have found helpful when using VR? (Did you use Google Expeditions or did you build your own kit?) If you haven’t used VR before; what would be
most helpful for you?

Q3: WHAT are some pros and cons that you foresee using VR with your students and staff?

Q4: DREAM big: how could you see yourself integrating VR into your curriculum in authentic,
meaningful ways?

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