Getting started with VR in the classroom
Education is sitting on the cusp of a ‘Virtual Revolution’ and the next twenty years will see a radical change in the way that we educate our students. This is a good thing and when harnessed correctly VR offers some truly amazing educational opportunities. Here is a guide to how you can begin to implement Virtual Reality in your classroom and get yourself one step ahead of the game.
What you need to implement Virtual Reality
In a perfect world, you should have one headset for each student in the class, although you could run a system where the students worked in pairs: with one partner researching and the other using the headset. However, this of course greatens the potential for arguments, distractions and the majority of your time being spent doing classroom management. There are a variety of different headset options out there with the cheapest being Google Cardboard and another option being the The HamiltonBuhl Spectra VR Goggles. Whatever option you choose, it is a good idea to research them thoroughly before taking the plunge.
The other crucial component of a VR setup is a smartphone: which is the thing that you plug into the headset and then use to access the various virtual worlds. Now obviously smartphones can be pretty expensive and few schools are going to be kitting out each student with an I Phone 8. However, there are some cheaper options out there: generally landing within the $100 range. Another possibility is that you let your students use their own smartphones, which is obviously risky from a distraction point of view: but may excite and motivate them.
This isn’t crucial but will certainly make everything run a lot smoother: as the sheer number of other people on your school’s main network may make everything run slowly. It should also ensure that your lessons don’t get disrupted by technological and internet difficulties, which all teachers know is humiliating and one of the quickest ways to lose the attention of a group of children.
The great thing about VR is that it is completely immersive and really stimulates all of your students’ senses. The experience as a whole just wouldn’t be the same without headphones, meaning that they are a must for your VR setup. Educational experts like Learning Headphones offer a wide variety of different choices to suit your every need and are committed to finding the right solution for you. Check out their website in the link above for more information on what they offer and how to get in touch.
A safe place to keep everything
Most schools cannot afford to waste a penny on lost, damaged or stolen technology: given the strain that is already on their budgets. This means that it is a really good idea to get a secure container, lockbox or laptop cart to help keep everything secure.
How to set everything up once you have the technology
Using Virtual Reality in the classroom is relatively easy, even for the most technologically nervous teachers out there. However, every teacher knows that what can go wrong in the classroom almost always does and nothing causes more disruption than giving your students twenty minutes to get excited, while you fiddle with technology. Test everything the day before the lesson, giving you ample time to iron out any faults (or get support from a colleague) and make sure that you don’t waste any time once the lesson begins.
Sorting out your VR apps
Unfortunately there is no obvious method, where a teacher can download a single app onto 20 plus devices at the same time, meaning that you may have to do it yourself, or find a helpful TA. Another potential method is to have your students do it during the lesson: although this may be time consuming and has a large potential for chaos.
Virtual Reality Headsets
This should be relatively easy, but will depend on the specific headset that you are using: normally the smartphone will just click into the headset, with a minimum of fuss. Although you may occasionally find that students struggle to line everything up and get a clear picture: thankfully there is normally one tech savvy student in the class who is delighted to help you with this.
The best thing about virtual reality is that it is a fully immersive experience, which stimulates all you students’ senses. This makes headphones crucial to your virtual reality classroom, thankfully there are a myriad of different options available to you and sites like Learning Headphones offer amazing deals to schools.
Ways to use Virtual Reality in the classroom
Now that you have set everything up the crucial question is: how do you actually get down to using this amazing new technology in the classroom? The options are legitimately endless and there are a wide variety of different apps that allow your students to do, see and explore truly amazing things. Check out this article on the top 10 Virtual Reality apps to see the best free ones at the time of writing. But remember to keep your ear to the ground, because this is a rapidly expanding sector, with new things hitting the market on a daily basis.
The Benefits of Virtual Reality
This undoubtedly requires a longer article in the future, but for the moment here is a brief run-down of all the amazing things that VR will bring to your classroom. Firstly, it offers the opportunity for you to deliver abstract information in a visual way: making it much easier for your students to digest it. Apps like Molecule VR allow them to explore complex structures and ideas in as simpler way as possible. Secondly, it allows you to inspire them, by taking them to incredible places that they are unlikely to see in the course of their normal lives: explore far away and exotic cities, see majestic animals roaming in the wild or even explore historical contexts; the options are genuinely limitless and will really add something to your teaching arsenal. VR will also offer the opportunity to present new and radical perspectives on the world: allowing you to engender empathy, compassion and understanding in your students. Finally, the world of VR is coming: more and more workplaces are beginning to use it and as educators, we must prepare our students for the world that they will enter.
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