Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are becoming more commonly used in our classrooms, with many new tools being added that promote more authentic and immersive learning experiences for students. Educators should welcome these unique tools because they can help with designing more authentic and innovative learning spaces, as well as act as a means to transform how students are learning.

These tools enable educators to provide powerful opportunities for students to do more than learn through videos or photos. Students can closely explore objects or places in ways that the traditional tools of textbooks and videos cannot provide. Students have more control in how they are learning and interacting with the content with these new technologies. They can travel anywhere around the world, and even into outer space, explore places they may never have been able to see otherwise, and learn in a more immersive way, which in turn helps to engage students more.

Here are four different tools for trying augmented reality and virtual reality explorations in the classroom.

  1. Nearpod enables students to experience Virtual Reality through the use of 3D shapes. They can also go on virtual field trips to over 360 cities. Nearpod provides immersive capability, promotes global knowledge, helps to expand student comprehension of different perspectives, and enables students to become immersed in a variety of environments. It has an extensive library of VR lessons ready for free download. Some recent additions to the VR library include College Tours, which are a great way to have students take a look at different colleges they might be interested in without having to travel the distance to do so. Although it is not a complete replacement for being able to physically visit, it gives students the chance to explore many colleges from wherever they are. A fun idea for these VR tours is to have students participate in a scavenger hunt, which will push them to really explore the sites and think through what they are seeing.
  2. Google Expeditions is a free tool that teachers can use to take students on a field trip to virtually anywhere. It is an immersive app that can be downloaded using either Google Play or the App Store. Students then view the app using their devices and a Google cardboard or other viewer. There are more than 800 virtual reality tours and 100 augmented reality tours to choose from. Some of the VR tours include famous locations, exploring career paths, and learning about global initiatives. With the recent addition of AR objects, students can now interact more with the objects by walking around and seeing it placed in their physical space. Teachers and students take on the roles of “Guide” and “Explorer” by being connected on the same network, allowing teachers to lead their explorers by following a script and asking guiding questions that are included within each tour.
  3. Google Tour Builder is a great way for teachers and even students to be able to create their own tour for use in the classroom or connect with other classrooms globally. Through the creation of an interactive story or tour, students can better understand locations they are studying, explore a place of historical or cultural significance, or even narrate a trip that they have taken. Tours can include images and videos that you upload, as well as images selected from the Google Street View options. There are options to add descriptions and hyperlinks to extend the learning and add more resources for students. This tool allows students to easily create a tour of their town to share with global penpals in order to broaden global connections and cultural awareness.
  4. Mystery Skype can be a good way to connect classrooms globally and even involve students in problem-solving and critical thinking. There are opportunities to set up a Mystery Skype as well as a Skype session with an expert by connecting through Microsoft. Using this type of technology to bring in experts and to connect students with other classrooms can really add to the authenticity of the learning experience and make it more meaningful for students. When students take part in a Mystery Skype, it promotes collaboration with their classmates, critical thinking as they try to uncover where the other classroom is located, problem-solving as they are working through the clues and the responses, and of course it is also a fun activity that will likely promote social-emotional learning skills as well.

Think about the tools you are currently using to amplify or facilitate student learning. What is making a difference in how, what and where students learn? Could one of these tools be used in place of something you are already using that only offers one-way interaction or a static image? The use of virtual field trips and augmented reality explorations can engage students more in learning and provide opportunities for them to move from consumers to creators.

Allison Green
Boston Tutoring Services

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