Virtual Reality can take your students out of the classroom and into entirely new lands, environments and experiences — from global travel to outer space — and is primed to be the next big learning opportunity to integrate into the learning environment.
Earlier in the year, we looked at the ‘New Vision for Education: Fostering Social and Emotional Learning through Technology’ report published by the World Economic Forum. The report identified three key opportunities for technology to be used in the advancement of social and emotional learning (SEL), and Virtual Reality (VR) was highlighted as one of these opportunities.
Exploring new and innovative technologies — looking to opportunities for new pedagogical strategies to be employed (e.g. VR, apps, wearable technology).
Implementing VR apps into a classroom may initially seem like a complicated and costly process, as there are lots of pricey headsets on the market. However, Google Cardboard (a headset literally made from cardboard) is a cheaper, more viable option for classroom-based VR, without the risk of expensive headsets being dropped and damaged. They are available to buy for as little as £5, and some websites are offering tutorials for how to make your own for as little as £3. See instructions here: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/how-to/gadget/how-make-google-cardboard-vr-headset-v2-3585298/
You will need to pair them with a mobile device, so asking your students to take turns in small groups may be easier for your class, or alternatively, most 360-degree videos can also be viewed on your desktop using most modern browsers — if making the leap to headsets still feels a little daunting.
Once you’ve got your class’ headsets sorted, there is a wealth of fantastic, educational material available for your students to immerse themselves in. Discovery VR offers an introductory video here: http://www.discoveryvr.com/, to get you started, and a selection of free videos from Discovery series such as Discovery Atlas, Deadliest Catch and Shark Week can be viewed as immersive Virtual Reality experiences by downloading the app for iPhone or Android devices, or simply watching on your PC desktops.
Visit http://www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/discoveryvr to see an overview of Virtual Reality in the classroom.
Another VR app that I’ve been getting to grips with is vEcotourism, which offers virtual tours across the globe to see endangered wildlife in their natural environments. They have recently introduced a new ‘kid’s version’ of their Mount Elgon virtual reality tour to visit the world’s only salt-mining elephants. This particular version is narrated by children and has been trialled in classrooms alongside project work to ‘adopt’ some of their other tour locations, challenging students to research the habitats and the species that live within them, and produce their own voice-over narration. This could be a great task to set your students too. Visit: http://www.vecotourism.org/ for more information and VR tours.
As a further option, a trip to the Natural History Museum could also provide the chance to experience VR in an unusual surrounding, as the Darwin Centre’s Attenborough Studio is currently hosting a headset theatre, from which large groups can experience a Virtual Reality Great Barrier Reef Dive alongside narration from Sir David Attenborough. See: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/whats-on/programs/nhm/david_attenborough%27s_great_barrier_reef_dive.html
How are you using VR in your classroom? Leave us a comment to let us know.