Getting Started with Virtual Reality in your Classroom
Inspire the next generation of Inventors, Scientists, and Artists
By: Professor Corinne Hoisington
Psssst! Before I can tell you my deepest secrets of inspiring the next generation of inventors, I must have your earnest promise that you will share this with every fellow teacher, principal, and instructional integration specialist all over the planet! OK, I saw your lips solemnly say “I Promise.” As an educator in both the K12 and higher education space, I am always searching for new ways of improving the performance of my students with the use of engaging technologies. Our educational world is presently flat, filled with 2-dimensional textbook images, flat whiteboards/smartboards, and websites; but the real world is 3-dimensional. The compelling aspect of virtual reality is its ability to transport learners into 3D environments and situations that they otherwise may never have access. Being able to swim beside a blue whale in a third-grade science class, immersing students in history by actually piloting the historically accurate Apollo 11 space module while sitting next to Buzz Aldrin, and being able to simulate surgeries for a nursing program — the potential applications are as unlimited as one’s imagination. Albert Einstein stated, “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn”. Oh if Einstein, could have only seen VR!
VR Ready – Game Changer in the Classroom
VR in the Classroom is the most memorable medium for education because it involves all the senses. Virtual Reality will also be a game changer for its immersive capabilities in learning. Today there are hundreds of VR apps and millions of 360 immersive experiences in every subject area including STEM, history, and geography. These can be enhanced by VR because it allows students to immerse themselves in different worlds such as traveling to ancient Egypt to see how the pyramids were built. The VR apps range in cost from free to a few at the high range costing around $19 and can be found in the online Steam powered store. The Steam powered store has an educational category that features early learning children’s VR books like Henry the Hedgehog as well as upper-level VR apps that focus on biology, anatomy, geology, and astronomy. In other areas of education. VR apps allow students to construct architectural models, re-creations of historic or natural sites and other spatial renderings. The Steam powered store also provides VR apps 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 news stories of the present. And in my classroom, the biggest hit was the Tilt Brush app, which paints from a virtual perspective. I think many of us have decided many years ago that we are not artistic, but as students grow up with 3D art tools that unleash their creativity, their room will be their canvas.
For high schools and higher education environments, VR apps promise to deliver the best aspects of both real-world classrooms and online distance learning into a single platform. With tools that provide avatars that represent the educators and the students, voice and video capabilities, PowerPoint and other collaborative whiteboard technologies and group and private messaging chat, educators are finding that the newest generation of virtual worlds can simplify the lecture and presentation process.
VR Ready – Which Device would be best?
First things first- Which VR device is rated the highest? According to TechRadar, the two best VR headset systems on the market right now are the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. These two offer unparalleled immersion through superior refresh rates, extremely high resolutions, and both the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift offer room-scale tracking and motion controllers for your hands right out of the box. In my opinion, the HTC Vive has the edge over Oculus because the room scale tracking which allows a student to physically move within the space helps to replicate real-world movement for the user and make the virtual environment seem more real.
In addition to the headset, what type of computer supports the VR optimally? A VR-ready computer with a high-end graphics capability should be bundled with your VR headset. Bytespeed can take care of a full-turnkey solution that includes the entire VR headset bundle, installed apps and software based on your curriculum, a full training day with a certified trainer at your school with a lab purchase, VR-ready computers fully set up (that can be used daily for both VR as well as any other educational software), and full support for five years.
Virtual reality opens the doors for all our students to access the best kind of education by blending together the best of the real world and the best of an immersive, virtual world technology so that the most modern techniques are utilized to obtain that education. If you would like to see a free demo of this at your school, contact Bytespeed. So now that you are ready to immerse your classroom with a new experience, remember your promise with my secret!
Please contact Corinne Hoisington with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.