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Virtual Reality & Education: Ideas for the Classroom

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Although still in the early stages, virtual reality is popping up in classrooms across the country. In today's post, we'll take a look at virtual reality in education, its benefits, and some ideas for using it in your classroom.

Virtual Reality in Education

We already know that technology has established its place in the classroom; computers, tablets, apps, and games have all revolutionized learning by making it more interactive, engaging, and individualized. But what about adding virtual reality to the mix?

Well, virtual reality could potentially take classroom engagement to an entirely new level since it allows students to immerse themselves in real-world experiences and ''live'' the material being covered in class. However, like other forms of technology, it can cost a considerable amount of money to introduce virtual reality in the classroom, which is partly why it's just beginning to pick up speed in terms of popularity. Let's explore what the different aspects of virtual reality can bring to your classroom.

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Ideas for the Classroom

Virtual Field Trips

Have you ever wished you could take your class on a field trip to a faraway land or on a journey to the depths of the ocean? Look no further! Virtual reality technologies such as Google Cardboard and Google Expeditions have made it possible for students to take field trips without ever leaving the classroom! All you need are Google Cardboard virtual reality viewers (the headsets) and the Expeditions app downloaded to a compatible device (i.e., mobile phone) to get started.

Take your students to places like Machu Picchu and Mars, or design a field trip that aligns perfectly with your current curriculum. Regardless of the destination, you'll likely see an increase in student engagement and enthusiasm for learning.

Although Google Cardboard viewers are affordable, it may not be economical for you to purchase a pair for each student in your classroom. The same goes for the mobile phones. If that's the case, consider purchasing only a small number of each item (five or so), and then separate your students into groups that take turns with the equipment. Additionally, if students have their own compatible phones - many kids do nowadays - that will make it easier on you.

360 Videos

Another way to use virtual reality in the classroom is to utilize the several 360 videos that are available via sources such as YouTube. These videos use a 360-degree perspective and allow students to immerse themselves in activities such as walking with dinosaurs and flying a fighter jet - things that students typically don't get the chance to do in real life.

This technology can also give your students the chance to time travel and explore places like a Revolutionary War battlefield, which can give them a totally new, realistic view of important events in U.S. history. Using a directional arrow at the top corner of the screen, students can change their perspective to get the most out of their interactive experiences.

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Combined Lessons

What about combining virtual reality with regular lessons? Well, with Nearpod, an innovative mobile learning platform, you can do just that. By combining your curriculum with Nearpod's library of interactive lessons, you can create customized lessons and presentations that allow students to interact and respond to the content in real time. This technology also allows you to monitor student activity and measure success individually or as a group.

Interactive Stories

Storytelling takes on a whole new meaning when your students become a part of it! With Google Spotlight Stories, students are able to become a part of the storytelling experience, with some stories even pausing for their attention before moving forward. With story elements moving around them, your students will likely find this type of virtual reality very entertaining and engaging.

Virtual Environments

Although participating in a web-based learning environment may be better suited for older students, it is yet another way that virtual reality can enhance student engagement and participation. With Edorble, you can create a virtual classroom environment where your students can come together to talk, collaborate, and look up information. With this technology, you can hold online classroom discussions, watch videos, break students into small learning groups, and more. This technology is available on computer only, so you don't have to worry about purchasing virtual reality headsets or compatible devices. This also allows your students to participate from home if they have a computer available.

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Cost & Educational Considerations

As you can see from the ideas presented here, virtual reality definitely has the potential to change the way students learn. To make it easier to implement virtual reality in your classroom, please consider doing it slowly - for cost's sake - and with caution. Always preview any material or videos you plan to share with your class so you know it is age appropriate and of value.

Share Your Comments

If you are an educator who has experience using virtual reality in your classroom, you are invited to share any comments and ideas below.

By Patricia Willis
December 2018
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