Introducing Virtual Reality into classrooms can feel like an expensive gamble.
but it doesn’t have to be. This is how we did it and what we used to do it.
Unless you are in some insanely well funded school, and most of us are not, then searching for the best way to get the technology required into your classrooms is going to require some research. This is what i had to do. The best option for VR in Classrooms that we have found is the Oculus Go which is a standalone Virtual reality headset if the funding is there. If you are trying to do this from your own finances we would recommend the Google Cardboard or more robust versions that will last longer that are made of plastic. this is where we started with an old phone and a plastic VR headset in a reading lesson. I used it simply as a treat to swim with dolphins, or sharks if they were naughty ( kidding) to introduce a wow factor and an emotional response to their lesson.
How ever there are PLENTY of articles on why I think Virtual reality is a game changer, if not now then in the future, and how to use it in classrooms, and if you are on this page you are likely just researching if its feasible, both in terms or scale and financially, for you to try it with your children or students. We had the same questions so here is what we found out.
The First Option For Testing VR Out In A Classroom.
Despite some school jumping in head first and spending thousands of dollars I strongly recommend that you don’t do that. Like all new ideas, resources and materials their use is going to be 100% reliant on teachers jumping on board and using it effectively. I say effectively as you can lead a horse to water etc. etc. I work in a role where its my job to think of new ideas, test them out and then try to motivate others to use the ones that work. The easiest part, and it shouldn’t be, is find the new ideas and testing them.
The hardest part is convincing teachers to try it. this is not to pile the blame on teachers, I am one, its to pile the blame on schools that just add work rather than look at working smarter. Throwing a set of VR headsets at teachers who are already overloaded is just not going to cut it. If you are the teacher in charge, voluntary or otherwise, then don’t rush off and buy expensive sets that will just gather dust. Take a look at these type of sets.
These are the cheaper options and they rely on on a Phone inside (be aware of which phones will work – they often need an gyroscope) So our advice is send an email around the staff room asking for an old phone, that does this and then buying either one or for a great discount a set of 5 or so Google cardboard or plastic equivalents to trial this in classrooms.
This is what we did, with a plastic heavy beast of a headset 3 years ago and my old Samsung 7 (I had the gear VR as well at that time) and after a couple of months of watching students reactions and assigning tasks in VR etc I took it to the next level.
The School Wants To Go Ahead With VR
This is where things get more serious. Instead of 5-10 USD a headset ( ignoring the cost of the phone of course) then you, or the school, are going to have to invest a little more seriously. This is where the Oculus range comes into play. The Oculus GO is a stand alone Virtual reality headset. It is a better priced headset that its bigger brother, and the offerings from HTC which can be in the high hundreds of dollars, but for a school with the accidents that happen and the amount of use they, hopefully, will get still keeping to a budget is available. These links will take you to Amazon, so if you are getting it for yourself fair enough there are deals to be had, if you are buying for a school it is work checking out school suppliers as there may be a discount.
This headset is a catchall headset, The price is reasonable, so its not a crisis when, not if, its dropped, it has thousands of free (and paid) apps and a great selection of educational apps – we cover these in this post, and it is a much higher quality immersive experience than the cardboard or cheaper headsets.
You can afford top of the line…
Well we actually have mentioned VIVES and RIFTS and other VERY high end Virtual Reality headsets in other articles but for this section we are not going to. If you are working at a university then maybe, only maybe its worth investing this much. They are superb, of course, but just not scalable. If you are in a school where money is no object then, firstly congratulations!!!, secondly look slightly lower that the top of the range virtual reality headsets. I have used, though don’t own, the Oculus Quest. This is a step up from the Go.
It comes with two handsets, a better images and the ability to walk around, with guardian technology so there are no students going flying over desks or out into the corridor etc. It is a more immersive experience of course and the image quality is better. This all comes at an increase price though. If you have the cash, or if your school does, its worth a look! This cheapest we found is 399 USD ( rest were 5-700 USD but not sure why)
Those are the three that we have tried, and in most cases actually bought, and can totally recommend. Again, just to be 100% up front, we strongly suggest you purchase one and try it before launching fully into full sets. Make sure it fits your teaching environment, students and importantly teaching staff.
To find ways of using Virtual reality in classrooms we have a series of four articles and have highlighted two below.