I have listed some of the V.R. apps and experiences i have used in classrooms at the end of this post for the TL/DR among us and listed a LOT more in the top ten V.R. for classrooms review in another post also linked there.
This is a multiple post article in sections so feel free to skip to the section you need.
After so many years of teaching I have, i hope, got a toolkit of go to lessons, ideas, and activities that i can pull out of the bag and just run with, anything from schemes of work to five minute activities.
However, there is still something lovely about discovering something new, and more so to see the effect that it has on students. This is why i am sharing how i have used Virtual reality in the classroom. I want to be upfront with this and say i am a primary school teacher in an ESL classroom in Hong Kong and the implications of VR in Education are prehaps aimed more at older learners but i still see no reason why younger students shouldn’t be able to experience the sense of wonder that VR can bring as well.
It was back in 2016 when i randomly got a free Gear VR from Samsung when i got a then new Galaxy S7 and strapped it on to my face. If i remember correctly it was their promo video which had a few examples like roller coasters, some basketball games and a city view. These were fine, but i have been on roller coasters, walked in cities and played basket ball. ( admittedly not with Lebron though) I tried some of the scary ones the one called Sisters VR is still stuck in my memory, exciting ones, cool ones, and movie theater ones. There is one that allows you to watch a movie on the moon, and the NetFlix app lets you cozy up in a mountain chalet with a huge TV. The weather is snowing outside so NetFlix and Chill means something different here, or they were making an in joke.
It was by accident that I stumbled on a dinosaur experience from the makers of Jurassic World. It was and still is incredible. ( i will link some of the ones i use at the end of this article and how i use them for convenience) It is a simple concept, though i am very very sure not simple to make, you basically find your self sitting on a tree truck in the Jurassic World theme park watching/taking notes on a sleeping Apatosaurus that wakes up and checks you out. I wont spoil these too much as the experience is pretty cool, though you can check out the video if you want to see it.
Even at the ripe old age of 43 it amazed me. After making a load of friends and family try it out ( and the scary ones of course) i started to think of the effect and impact this would have on my students. If i found it awe inspiring at my age what would an 8 year old who lives and breathes dinosaurs think about coming face to face with one.
I found out a couple of days later, i was reading a book about dinosaurs in a guided reading lesson – i actually have the lesson notes on this site – and i asked my class if they like dinosaurs, yes! was the overwhelming response at 8 years old who doesn’t! So I asked if you could see one would you want to, and i embellished it, not just look at a picture but come face to face with one would you want to. I did explain it wasn’t a T-Rex or one that would eat them up, but something big and vegetarian. There was a mix of some who dropped their enthusiasm a little, the wiser ones in my opinion!, and some who were adamant they would. So i put the VR headset on the table. After the chorus of OOOOO’s had died down I explained that as we have learned we can’t see dinosaurs today, (yes, yes, birds i know) at least how they looked then but we can try the next best thing and see one through this headset.
One brave student sat in the revolving teachers chair ( not essential but more fun for them to turn around and see it) and we set it going.
Now most people say to gauge someones feelings you have to be able to see their eyes, most of the time i would agree, however in VR you can’t. In fact you can really only see their ears and their mouth. My student sat down, swivelled the chair and came face to face with the 45 foot 80 million year old dinosaur that was right in front of him and his jaw dropped, his hands went out to pet it, and he laughed when he realized he couldn’t see his hands, but he kept trying, he shot back in his chair when the dinosaur came up to smell him, he turned away when it put its eye right next to his face, and he ducked when it turned round and swung its huge tail over his head. then he took it off and what his open mouth at hinted at his eyes confirmed.
I knew right then i had just made a memory. The experience is only about 70 seconds long, which lends its self to sharing a headset in a classroom, fortunately, as once it was over, he started excitedly telling everyone in the class what he had seen in his native language there was suddenly a surge of braveness through the class and all wanted to try.
So they did, and over the next couple of years as we read books or completed projects that would lend themselves to this type of experience there was always a headset, and later on a couple sitting around for students to fly to space, or sit on a volcano erupting, or walk the streets of London during the war, go watch dolphins, sharks and whales swim in front of their eyes and of course to sit and watch a dinosaur walk over to them. Each time the reaction was the same, jaw dropping memory making experiences. Even in today’s technology filled world teachers still hold the ability to inspire students by using that technology usefully.
Students are unlikely to remember the test they were set 10 years ago, but they are definitely going to remember the time they turned round in a chair in a classroom and came face to face with a dinosaur.
That was nearly four years ago. I still use it for exactly those reasons.
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!
Post by Marc of Making English Fun
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