Virtual Reality ( VR) is great for schools. It needs great planning and implementation but The chance for students to go into VR and visit a museum, or walk on a virtual planet, or even better come face to face with a VR dinosaur. Those are learning experiences that are beyond compare. Here are some of the best ones.
As i wrote here I use VR in the classroom from time to time, i work in Primary ESL so its rare we use it to travel back and walk the streets of Rome while doing a project on the advances in sanitation of the Roman era or anything, but i see no reason why it cant be used to inspire and motivate students of all ages. Now please note i haven’t claimed these are the best educational Vr apps, as that is something difference. I am highlighting experiences here, things that your students are very unlikely to be able to do for real, and therefore a new and exciting experience for them. These are the Virtual Reality Experiences I will be using with my class this year 2021.
SO with that in mind i have a little bit of a mix of recommendations here, mostly these are VR experiences that supplement projects and topics, but i will include a few that can be aimed at older learners. Though i say this with a caveat, all of the ones i am recommending for primary school have knocked the socks of the adults i have shown them as well, goes to prove we all have that inner child inside us!!
1. Jurassic World Apatosaurus and Blue the Velociraptor.
I promise i dont work for these guys, or get cash or favours for talking about this one so much. It is just simply that good. They have released another, in two parts, where you can watch what happens to the velociraptor from the movies, spoiler it meets a T-Rex, but the first one is what does it for me as it puts you in the position of a Jurassic World employee, a vet i guess, who sits and watches a sleeping Apatosaurus. (A Veggiesaurus Lex, a Veggiesaurus).
This wakes up and comes over to check you out. Its so simple and so well done I struggle to think what will take it off my number one spot. The YouTube Video i have included is a major spoiler but watch if you want to. Oh, and its free!
2. Ocean Rift – Ocean animals
This app has been a round for a while, and still hold its head up as a great experience for kids. Though, prehaps unadvisedly, it is possibly to go and swim with Dolphins and cage dive with a great white shark, it is less likely your students will have the opportunity to swim with, whales, manatees, seals, turtles, octopus, orcas, or plesiosaurs and a mosasaurus. Be warned that last one will eat you at some points and made me scream. ( its actually more angry on the plesiosaurs one so watch with care ;).
All of Ocean Rifts experiences are well crafted, but for ease of viewing i usually use the sharks, seals, shark cage, dolphins and the Killer whale as those animals are easier to spot. The others have larger game environments so sometimes it can take a while to stumble on an animal. Of course some of those animals will stumble upon you as well. The animals do react to you and it adds to the impressiveness of the whole experience. There is a free version but i would pay the dollar or two to buy the full version. You wont regret it!
3. Titans of Space / Mars is a Real Place
Lets face it the chances of us going to space are basically nil, unless somehow i managed to keep paying hosting for this site and you are reading this in a couple of hundred years, and if you are i kinda home they have moved on from VR at that point to full on holo-decks! So this app, for the moment is the next best thing. It its jam packed of features, the main one being the guided tour of the solar system, which makes it more than just an experience for the eyes it also adds information both written and verbal for General Studies and Science / Geography lessons. At the end, and it is fairly long, it will give a star size comparison to give students, and others an idea of the scale of these objects that look so small in the sky but in reality are so very very massive we struggle to comprehend their size.
I use this when covering lessons on Space, and i say to the kids that we can take a quick trip into space and take a look at some planets, and see if we can learn a little about them after we have read the books, or use the AR resources ( i have information on using AR in lessons as well)
Of course, like the other two it is a hit, most children have a fascination with Space and the stars and to be given the chance to look down on earth from the safety of the classroom is something you should try if you have the opportunity to do so. The Developer has also released Mars is a Real Place as a V.R experience as well. It is a series of photos from the curiosity rover and is pretty good, but for sheer volume of content the Titans of Space App is better!
4. Google Expeditions
This is the Granddaddy of all Educational Virtual Reality experiences, it has everything you would possibly need, it comes with instructions, lesson plans and notes. Google have also put together sets of headsets and chargers, though they come at a fairly large price.
The difference between this platform and the above three is that this one is designed around photos, 360 photos, and can be controlled by the teacher. It has leveled information for different year groups, and questions that can be asked. However the language is definitely aimed at native language speakers and not second language learners. This and the fact that a lot of the topics are fairly in depth, and almost seems like they aim to replace other mediums of instruction. This day may come where we all slap on a visor and learn that way, but we are not there yet. This is why i put it at fourth and not higher, i feel, strangely that there is too much content and it aims to high for what i aim to achieve with V.R. in my classroom. This being said, the images can be from base camp Everest, or the top of angel falls and if you want to jump in to show them items like this its perfect for it. the Guide / Teacher mode means you can control the students use as well, which none of the others offer. It is also free!
5. ThingLink Vr
Those not strictly just VR this is is a great tool, and with a free sign up option for teachers. This means you can add students accounts ( up to 100) In a nutshell it means you can add tags, photos, videos, text to images. In the realms of VR this means when the students actually look at that image in VR they can access the experiences you choose ( like YouTube 360 Videos) with out reloading them.
It allows for more than one experience to be presented within the app, and there for gives the chance to create a more robust scheme of work as well. These lessons and experiences are shared among groups, if you don’t want, or don’t know how to make your own. I would recommend giving your own a go at some point though, as it will WOW both your students and your peers.
6. Nanome (Vive/Rift/WMR
I am including this in the list to show what type of real world applications VR can have when used for more than motivational reasons. Clearly designed for upper educational levels and hitting all the buttons for the SAMR models highest level – redefinition – (The SAMR model is regarded as the benchmark for technological integration on education, the highest level is Redefinition – which says ”technology allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable.” )
Nanome – Encourages players to interact with proteins and chemicals on a nano scale, one which of course can never be achieved in real life. As mentioned it is aimed at Higher education, but shows the implications of what could be if VR ever makes it into the mainstream.
7. Hold the World: Natural History Museum featuring David Attenborough!!
Now this is great, its on my list, i do use it as i have the Samsung Gear VR, but it is on other platforms as well. It isn’t free, but you pay for quality. It is a guided tour of some of the cooler items in the London Natural History Museum with the legend that is David Attenborough.
It allows the students to interact with rocks fossils and bones. As he says himself “I have enjoyed helping people to discover more about the natural world, and Hold The World offers people a unique opportunity: to examine rare objects, some millions of years old, up close,” It doesn’t get much better than to have this guy helping your students out.
8. Google Earth
Anyone who has ever used this knows how good it is. In VR the chance to fly about the world like Superman is great, and students will love that. Teachers will love the fact that they get to visit anywhere in the world without leaving the classroom. Use it along side Street view on google maps and they can go for a walk in Paris, or take a look under the Harbour Bridge in Sydney the world really is in the palm of your face, or something like that 🙂 .
I have used it to take my students to my home town, which doesn’t sound that amazing, but I am from the UK and they are from Hong Kong so to see another place like that is often a first for them, of course we go to cooler places than South Shields as well, but a personal touch can be a nice way to introduce these experiences. Trust me and try it, its free as well.
9. YouTube VR
Not so much of an App, well it is, but its watching YouTube on the headset. Luckily there are soooo many people who have been kind enough, soon i will be one, to take 360 videos and upload them that this has become a superb experience on its own. Safaris, surfing, swimming with great whites, standing on the edge of a volcano you name it it will be on there.
IT take a little time to find the good from the bad, but when you do you will be able to offer free real experiences to you class that they will remember for a very long time. My first one i will pop a 360 camera in the streets of Hong Kong and you can take a look around at what busy really looks like! You will need a WiFi connection for it unless you find a way to download the YouTube videos, and those videos are pretty big so not just any old WiFi connection either.
10. Google Cardboard Camera
I love this app. I have spent the entire article going on about how cool it is to take your class on Safari, swimming with sharks or sitting as a Virtual Reality Dinosaur comes sniffing you and it is. However, this app does none of that. This one you create your own 360 picture, your own 360 experience.
Every time we finish a project i will put my phone in the middle of the room and turn slowly using this app. It takes a 360 photo and records a little of the sound as it does. This means you can take pictures of anysituation and recreate them as a VR expereicne. Family weddings, school events, sports day and share them. Then students can put on the headset and watch them back.
After flying to Space or swimming with dolphins they really enjoy the chance to create an image with themselves in, and it adds a great foot note to your projects if you use something like Think link or NearPod to host it in as well. As its from google it is free as well.
Are there any i have missed. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments at the bottom for me and other teachers who come here 🙂
About the Author
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