Bringing Virtual Reality to the classroom

Russell Wilson, Learning Technologist

Hi, and welcome to April’s Learning Technology blog post. Remember back in the early 1990’s when most people’s perception of Virtual Reality was that of entering a world similar to the 1992 film ‘The Lawnmower Man’? Subsequently, what people think about the term ‘virtual reality’ (VR) is that they imagine a scene where somebody is wired up to a computer wearing an odd helmet and making weird movements in the air. However, in 2016, things could start to get a little different …

First off some major companies are backing the use of Virtual Reality from a consumer standpoint this year. Already released and available to purchase are Samsung’s Gear, HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, with Playstation releasing its version later in the year.

So why are we telling you about VR? Well, the fact is this form of technology has many applications now, and in the future, for the learning environment. Just as the use of iPads in the classroom far exceeded expectations, VR could go the same way. At a school in the Czech Republic pupils have taken part in a ground-breaking experiment. Instead of paper and pens they used VR and gesture control to drop them into a fascinating, immersive and educational experience. Take a look …

Nearpod which is a classroom iPad app already available to the staff at Ayrshire College via the Learning Resource Centre’s iPads in a box, and the company behind them is backing the launch of virtual reality lessons in Schools across the US. Take a look at the full article here: Virtual Reality Learns How to Get Into the Classroom

As a tool for the classroom many of the statistics have yet to be gathered, but what is clear is the thirst from students to utilise technology in the classroom and the benefit they get from this. VR tools have already been used to collaboratively to construct architectural models, recreations of historic or natural sites and other spatial renderings.

Lecturers have used VR technology to engage students in topics related to literature, history and economics by offering a deeply immersive sense of place and time, whether historic or evolving, to take them to places related to their studies that are inaccessible in real life. Such as Space, the inside of a Nuclear Reactor or an inhospitable part of the planet.

Knowing this our department has invested in some affordable VR to start researching and piloting any applications that may be beneficial to our students and staff. VR headsets that can be used with smartphones are a cost effective way of starting to embrace this technology. We now have these in our college.4These are also available from Amazon just now but if anyone wishes to try an even cheaper alternative then perhaps Google Cardboard is for you.

Or take a leaf out of McDonalds and Coca-Colas book and create VR headsets from their packaging:

“Coca-Cola has not yet released their cardboard virtual reality headset, but McDonalds has. If you didn’t know this existed it is probably because it is only available in Sweden. They, much like Google and Coca-Cola, have produced a virtual reality device that is centered around cardboard. McDonalds, however, produces theirs with Happy Meal boxes. For a limited time only, they are offering this to their customers in Sweden. They are dubbed Happy Goggles, and they are created by tearing off a specific part of the box and folding it. After that, VR lenses are inserted and then it can be used with a smartphone.”

We hope you have enjoyed this brief introduction to this newest incarnation of VR and we do hope to demonstrate some applications for lessons soon. 2016 so far does seem to be the year that VR will make an impact on the world.

In the meantime if you wish to see the VR in action or want to know more about its practical applications for the classroom please contact the Learning Technology team at moodle@ayrshire.ac.uk.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s