VR, or Virtual Reality, is setting up to be a game changer in many areas of Education. The chance to fly to the Moon, or travel to the middle of jungles or the depths of the sea is a superb learning opportunity. There is not a lot of information on how to actually constructively use VR in the classroom currently and we will try to offer some concrete ideas here.
Virtual Reality (VR) in the classroom offers the chance for teachers to explore and enhance their lessons in multiple educational subjects. It can offer Skills training, Immersive experiences, Empathy training, motivation, problems solving and critical thinking all in a first person perspective.
Like so much innovation in education the actual practicalities of how to use VR in Classrooms is likely to be designed and developed by teachers. Since its introduction in 2014 Google cardboard as well as other VR devices have slowly made their way into schools and universities. Strategies to use VR in classrooms have included.
- Undertaking Virtual Fields trips
- Exploring Sciences
- Expanding on Geography and Earth Sciences
- Experience different cultures and lives
- Create in virtual spaces
- Using VR in Brain Training and Problem Solving
- Experience Careers in Virtual Reality
- Physical education
- Skills Training.
- Language training
There have been many more ways virtual reality has been incorporated into classrooms, the above are the most popular. There is also one more that we shall discuss at the end. In our teaching environment this has been arguably the most important. We will offer some more detail on the ideas above to help teachers who are considering using Virtual Reality in their classrooms gain both some ideas, and equally importantly, some confidence on how to use this new technology.
How To Go On Virtual Field trips
Virtual fields trips are an excellent way to showcase the benefits of using VR in classrooms. Whether you use the basic Google Cardboard, or the more upscale (and expensive) HTC, or Oculus VR headsets, the cost will still be considerably less than packing a group of students on to a bus or plane. There are so many excellent VR trips to take, Google expeditions is simply world class from an educational point of view, with so many different options open to all levels of learners. You can visit Pompeii, walk through Ancient Rome and stand on the edge of Volcanoes.
Other options for virtual field trips, some free and some paid, include Ocean Rift that allows Students to swim and interact with with a large range of sea animals, some of which will also interact with you. ( I will leave how they interact as a surprise) There are also more serious and somber trips, war zones, disaster zones, Anne Franks Museum and the Apollo missions are of which are very much geared for education and experience.
If you are looking for a way to use in your classroom simply Google or YouTube search the place, time or topic you are studying to see what is available. There are so many now there will be something that fits your students requirements.
Using VR to Explore Sciences
VR (Virtual Reality) in classrooms totally lends its self to science and STEM education. There are hundreds of applications and experiences designed for these subjects alone and in our opinion it is where its potential to add to education really shines through. It is possible to explore the human body, from the inside, (very reminiscent of the 1980s movie inner space) with Anatomyou, it is possible to split atoms (safely) You can even create water in Chemistry VR. The list is to large to post here so we will just do five of the best we have used and found and then link to a full list of Apps and resources to use.
- Incell (Explore cells in a micro environment)
- Nanome ( become Antman basically!)
- Titans of Space (a fully guided, Multi Language tour through our Solar System!)
- Youtube VR – Hundreds of virtual experiences, science and other wise.
Using Virtual Reality in Life Science, History and Geography Classrooms
If we stated above that Its almost as if virtual reality was created to enhance science teaching, we can say the same for geography and Life sciences. The opportunity to visit places and situations that would be next to impossible really make Virtual reality a great addition in these subjects. We have highlighted five of the science apps, and there are an equal number of great experiences for these subjects as well. You can walk with dinosaurs (literally) take a visit to the Natural History museum with none other than David Attenborough, as mentioned above there are rainforests and Volcanoes to explore in Google Expeditions and Youtube has trips to everywhere you can possibly imagine. Using these in classrooms gives another, emotional, experience to students. It allows them to see first hand the topic they are studying and it really will cement that knowledge much more deeply than an image on paper ever could.
Periods through History are also well covered by Virtual reality, with their numbers being added to on a daily basis. You can hear from a Pearl Harbour Surivior, take part in Viking battles and even be on the beaches at Dunkirk. More recently it is possible to learn about the Nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in VR as well. There is even the chance, and i really recommend this, to sit and watch a dinosaur with the quality of the movie Jurassic World. ( it is made by the studio, its big, but its awe inspiring. I use this to add to reading lessons and the reaction from my students.
Experience Different Cultures, Situations and lives
Teaching about other cultures has often been reliant on videos , news articles and Text books. Introducing Virtual reality into social science subjects can give students a first hand experience of other cultural environments, rituals, festivals and more. It also goes further then that. It allows students to gain a better understanding of the lives of others not just around the world, as valuable as that is, but also in their own communities. For Social Science Subjects this is a superb and rare opportunity. Experiences like Becoming Homeless from Stanford University allow students to develop empathy and understanding of social issues in a way that just can not be achieved with other mediums of instruction. There is even the opportunity to offer training on emergency and disaster training with experiences covering earthquakes and fire with Oculus.
Create Art and Architecture using Virtual Reality
Apps and programs like Sketchfab app to allow students to create virtual models and 3d Designs of absolutely anything. Tilt brush is another that can create 3d, walk around paintings and sculptures and even animated gifs. It is even possible to do virtual art shows within some of these apps and have students view and , creativity, criticize each others masterpieces! Even working in collaboration is possible. Co spaces is another that is more junior learner friendly and is great for those creative minds as well.
As with other subjects there is also the opportunity to visit world class galleries’ and collections in Virtual Reality, and although a real life visit is better this is the next best thing. It is also possible to add a little something to master pieces. Check out this VR version of Vincent van Gophs Starry Night for inspiration!
Virtual Reality and Critical Thinking and Problems Solving
Virtual Reality offers a safe space for students to be able to practice critical thinking and problem solving skills. One of the best, and earliest games is the superb ”Keep talking or someone explodes” This is both an exercise in problem solving and a great communication tool. It needs two players, one who is in VR and other other with instructions to give to that player. Though there are hundreds of puzzle and mystery games out there for all levels of Virtual Reality Headsets. If you have a set of these or a few for a class, these are a great way to introduce the actually interactivity of VR, rather than just the watch passively. ( which are great as well of course)
Another popular puzzle app in the Don’t touch anything app. Slightly more expensive but great for problem solving and lateral thinking
Experience Different Jobs and Careers in First person.
It is possible to get a first person look at different careers, and where as it doesn’t quite replace work experience it is going to be a useful tool to get an idea of the day to day workings of many different jobs and roles. Oculus its self has an apprenticeship preview app for a selection of trades, plumber, fitter, technician and more. There are also a lot of job experience videos on the actual Google cardboard app and 360 channel that can give a good idea of some of the tasks and roles that individual careers will involve.
Certain careers streams are even using VR to train members of staff. Studies have shown that doctors and healthcare professionals are benefiting from training in a virtual environment before taking those skills into the workplace
Using Virtual Reality for Physical Education.
Although real physical education is always going to be preferable especially for children and students. However there are some things that perhaps cant be recreated in a cool wet Wednesday afternoon PE lesson. Like a penalty kick in the World cup final for example! They have an app called Final Kick that does just that. There are apps that recreate kayaking and even climbing as well as plenty, and we mean plenty, of experiences to watch of extreme sports. However, there is ongoing research into how VR can help with fine motor skills for elite athletes, and then transfer these to a VR experience to help develop skills for other players of the sports by following their moves. There is a Tennis game that aims to do just this!
Using VR For Language Learning
Being a website called Making English Fun, you can take a guess that we are very interested in the application of Virtual reality in language learning. There are increasing numbers of applications to help with this as it becomes a more popular way to practice and learn foreign languages. VR is a great environment for language learners for numerous reasons.
- It can be intimating speaking to native speakers of a language. In VR that worry is totally absent. Learners can try and try again without the frustration of real life getting in the way.
- Virtual reality can offer real-life scenarios that learners are likely to find themselves in, they can practice and build confidence before trying it for real.
- Situations can be repeated at the learners leisure, there is a reduced need for teacher input which reduces both reliance and expense.
There are many great apps out there to help with this, so life the other subjects we will highlight 3 of the best Virtual Reality language learning apps.
Mondly VR – Offers Spanish, French, German, English, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian and more
ImmerseMe has German, Spanish, French, English, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Greek and Indonesian.
House Of Languages English, Chinese, French, German, Russian, Spanish.
Possibly the Best Reason to Use Virtual Reality
The firs time you put a VR head set on anyone, but especially a child, you will see why this technology holds such promise. The headset covers their eyes, so all you can see is their mouth below it. When the VR kicks in and starts, that’s when you know. Pick something cool, like swimming with dolphins or sitting with dinosaurs and the smile that will break onto their face will give you all the answers you need. It will also convince principals with a tight grip on the budget that its at least worth exploring.
The Motivational opportunities for school this can bring are huge. Students being able to interact and view things that before could only be presented in the pages of a book are going to make a difference for a lifetime. We may still be at the early stages of this technology being fully utilized, but in the next five years i would not bet against it making its way into mainstream lessons, maybe as a treat or reward but more and more and a way to experience learning first hand, instead of through someone else eyes. The 150 USD I spent of my own money on the Oculus Go headset. Which is cheap enough to not be scared when you let your kids handle it, and expensive enough to be pretty good! (my school were not convinced at first) was the best money I have ever spent in my classroom, the next year the school has 8 of them constantly booked out.
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!