Virtual Reality in the Classroom
Technology has been changing our society’s landscape for decades. From supercomputers to smartphones, technological advancements have made some major modifications to how we live our daily lives.
One form of technology that we’re starting to see a lot more of is virtual reality, or VR. Although it’s been around for quite some time, there have been some considerable breakthroughs in VR technology that are allowing us to learn, play, and explore in ways that were only thought possible in science fiction movies.
Virtual reality is starting to gain some traction in the business arena due to the fact that VR startups have been raising billions of dollars since 2010. But virtual reality is now becoming a major contributor to the educational front as well. We’re starting to see more and more progressive schools around the world implement the VR technology within their curriculum and classrooms. This article will take a closer look at how virtual reality is being applied in the classroom, and discuss how this technology can benefit students around the world.
VR Head-Mounted Displays
One of the most popular forms of virtual reality that’s being used in the classroom is the head-mounted display. These headsets allow students to immerse themselves in a virtual world and experience curriculum that would normally be consumed through the traditional methods of reading and writing.
The industry leader of the VR head-mounted display market right now is the Oculus Rift headset. This PC-enabled VR headset is the next generation of virtual reality that promotes an educational virtual reality experience like none other. Although Oculus has a strong emphasis on the gaming industry, they’re also starting to implement various applications that are geared toward helping educators teach various subjects in new and exciting ways.
Take for example The Body VR. This virtual reality application allows students to go inside the human body and travel through the bloodstream, explore how blood cells work, and discover how our bodies fight off deadly viruses. It’s as if you’re taking a field trip inside your own body.
Another popular version of the VR head-mounted display is the Samsung Gear VR, which is also powered by the company Oculus. This phone-based VR display works seamlessly with Samsung Galaxy smartphones. Simply attach the headset to your Samsung device, and you’re able to access a wide range of virtual reality content. The Samsung Gear VR turns your phone into a virtual reality experience.
One of the major draws toward using these types of VR head-mounted displays in the classroom is that they can help increase student engagement. History lessons that were once dry and boring can now be experienced firsthand through VR head-mounted displays. Field trips to France, the Smithsonian’s National History Museum, and even Mars are now possible with VR technology.
With the help of virtual reality, teachers are now able to expand their curriculum and teach subjects in new and exciting ways. VR technology has advanced to a point where schools don’t even need to have Wi-Fi or VR goggles to use it. As long as they have a tablet or a mobile device, they can implement virtual reality in the classroom.
Nearpod is one company that focuses solely on bringing VR curriculum to the classroom. Their interactive mobile presentations allow teachers to create and customize lesson plans and bring them to life in a virtual environment.
With Nearpod, a teacher can simply download interactive multimedia presentations, share the lesson, and control the student’s activity in real-time. Students can then interact and submit responses through any mobile device, giving them an innovative and engaging learning experience. Additionally, the Nearpod gives teachers the ability to monitor and measure student results on an individual and aggregate basis. It truly is education tech at its finest.
- VR in History
Some of Nearpod’s interactive modules include virtual trips to the Great Wall of China, a face-to-face lesson on Louis XIV of France, videos and slides on the Vietnam War, and much more. Nearpod’s platform is giving students the ability to interact and engage with historical content like never before.
- VR in Science
Oculus is also bringing some educational content to the table with their Apollo 11 VR experience. This new type of documentary allows you to experience the Apollo 11 space mission to the moon through the eyes of the astronauts that actually lived it. Not only do you get to immerse yourself in the space mission, but you can also take control and fly the command module, land the lunar module, explore the Moon’s surface, and fly back to Earth, all from your seat in the classroom.
- VR in Art
Virtual reality is also making headway with art teachers as well. Instead of visiting a museum to see Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting “The Night Café,” you can experience the painting in real-time through virtual reality.
Kaleidoscope, a VR community of visual artists and developers, is helping to bring this experience to life. This particular VR environment allows you to explore the artwork of van Gogh first hand and in 3 dimensions. You can walk around his paintings as if he had painted you in and catch a glimpse of the artwork from a whole new perspective. Explore The Night Café in this video to see how VR is changing the way we experience art.
Benefits of VR in the Classroom
Schools that have adopted virtual reality in the classroom are starting to see the benefits of this new technology. For example, students are much more engaged and actively participating in classroom activities when VR is used to teach the curriculum. The hands-on approach is giving students a real-time experience that helps them digest and retain information at a much higher rate.
Virtual reality lesson plans are also instrumental in helping students with different learning styles grasp what’s being taught to them. The VR curriculum allows students to understand complex subjects in a way that’s appealing and stimulating.
Another benefit to VR in the classroom is that some VR platforms allow teachers to actually track student engagement and performance. These real-time tracking capabilities are extremely helpful in guiding, observing, and controlling classroom activity and behavior.
In conclusion, it’s safe to say that virtual reality is making a major comeback. The technology is finally catching up with the idea, and the product is becoming scalable due to the declining cost of VR hardware. Schools around the globe are now able to implement this new technology and make educational subject matter exciting and fun. The possibilities are endless, and this is only the beginning!
Written by Ben Cummings, Digital Marketing Specialist for Bridgepoint Education