Teaching in a VR World

When I first went to order the Google CardBoard VR on Amazon, I was not happy about spending $15 on cardboard glasses. Now that I have tried them out, I realize this is not, repeat NOT, $15 on cardboard glasses. It is really a priceless experience that I am so very excited to tell you about and discuss a few ways this technology can be incorporated in our classes and the benefits for our students. First, let me say, I have only been tinkering with this tool for a few days. There are so many different apps and tools that can go along with this device as well, and we will discuss those throughout this post.

As I stated above, the technology we are going to be looking at and analyzing today is Google Cardboard. It is a tool that allows you to experience and participate in Virtual Reality. The picture at the top of this post is what the tool looks like. It is essentially virtual glasses that are made from really strong cardboard. (I have dropped mine three times already, and it still works. YAY!) The instructions hinders against prolonged usage, and I concur. I have about about a ten minute window before I start feeling dizzy or unbalanced and my perfect vision seems off. I definitely suggest following the makers advice on limiting time usage.

The cardboard app itself is limited, and you have to download more apps for further exploration or usage which really hinders what you can do when you have limited storage space on your phone. The visuals are not perfect either in the tour mode. Most are very animated rather than real life, but I believe the visuals will only get better in the future. I don’t want you to think this experience is not good though because it is. When I put the glasses up to my honey and our room mate for the first time, they both teared up (they both say the stars and northern lights). Even though, these were not completely realistic, it certainly did not take away from the experience of being in that moment. Now, thanks to youtube, you can access real or more animated virtual experiences. I literally got to go to the edge of the world before we get to space. It was so incredible. There are videos that take students and even you on adventures, tours, or just experiences into new places or explorations.

When using YouTube (and some other apps as well but I digress), you can choose to watch it on your phone or in 3D through the cardboard VR goggles. Here are screen shot pictures of my phone from the basic phone view versus using the VR goggles mode.

Basic view from Phone.
This is what a screen shot looks like in VR Cardboard mode. This helps make the scene into 3D through the goggles.
In order to view in 3D/VR mode, make sure you click on the goggles button in the lower righthand side of the screen.

Either way you choose to watch, you are able to view in 360 degrees around you unless otherwise stated in the video. In the readings I have been conducting this week, specifically in the article Affordances of Mobile Virtual Reality and Their Role in Learning and Teaching, I have come to learn the importance in the VR Goggles. This tool allows our brains to experience the things we see as if we were actually there. It takes away all other distractions and puts us (and our students) in the moment.

There are also other apps that can take you on a real life exploration of places such as Street View, Discovery Channel, and exploring places like Abby Road. These can give students an insight to places, events, and things they have never experienced before. In my school, most of our students rarely leave the state much less the country. It is amazing that we now have the technology to let the view different areas of the world. Also, think about the places where books take place; now we can let our students explore those places in a way to interact with the text even more. Google expedition, as noted in the article Affordances of Mobile Virtual Reality and Their Role in Learning and Teaching, can be a tool to be used to take virtual field trips. As noted in the article, this is an excellent way to get students to see places and things that aren’t always accessible for them. As a teacher in a Title 1 school, this tool is essential for allowing my students to take part in getting to know the world around them. In an ideal world, it would be amazing if my students could actually go visit certain places, but virtual reality helps us bring those places and experiences to them.

My favorite aspect of the Cardboard VR tool is the VR Cinema. Of course there are other tool similar to this one, but this tool allows you to turn videos and audio into VR experiences. It was so incredible to be able to watch a video I took a while ago and it was like I was right there! A few of my colleagues and I have been discussing including ethnographies in our classrooms to help students understand different cultures. Imagine being able to record your experience with a culture or even your own culture and being able to bring that back for others to experience like they were there too. Obviously the wheels are turning in my head to start using this technology in my classroom.

Advice For Teachers:

  • Take plenty of time to explore this tool for yourself.
  • Look up videos and materials that can be combined together.
  • Allow students to create their own VR video (it could be used to connect to a reading or writing assignment.

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