VR in the classroom!

Will schools be ready for VR?

Learning from our mistakes: the Tablet Rush

If only I had a dollar for every teacher I have heard, lamenting the fact that our school system just was not ready for the impact of tablets and smart phones…

Many teachers fell behind on this technology, because they were not given ample time or opportunity to properly skill up before the introduction of school ipad programs or BYOD programs. No sooner had we got our heads around digital citizenship and the can of worms we used to refer to as “web 2.0” when suddenly, almost without warning, a chorus of demand for tablets in schools came from the parent community, and schools responded.

Almost overnight, many teachers were expected to embrace tablets as a new teaching and learning tool, as though they were utterly familiar with the technology.

As a Teacher Librarian, I was privy to the anxiety attacks and rants…  and still today, I see teachers ripping their hair out trying to find appropriate apps without ads, trying to get apps to work, trying to reformat documents to make them mobile friendly, and (above all else) trying to deal with the swag of new interruptions, disruptions, and behaviour management issues that have arisen from the inclusion of digital communication devices in the classroom.

Of course, devices have opened up doors for learning, that we never would have dreamed of ten years ago. Especially with regards to differentiated teaching and learning, and assistive applications for students with learning difficulties. I am sure that most teachers would not want devices to disappear. But I am also sure that most teachers probably wish that they had been better prepared.

Will you be ready for VR?

And when VR becomes mainstream in schools, (because certainly it is a question of when, not if) will we face a somewhat similar situation? Will school IT departments make the necessary adjustments to properly facilitate VR? Do we understand the costs and benefits? Do we have people in place who can integrate this new kind of technology into our learning domains through curriculum content and sound pedagogical approach?

My intention isn’t to be a dooms-day agent! But the cautionary note is there for all of us, and I would urge you to continue investigating the possible implications of VR in your school and your classroom, beyond this short blog post.

We really do need teachers and school librarians who are prepared to bring these questions to the table for discussion, so that when VR arrives, schools will be ready and our students will reap the full benefits. And there are many, many benefits to be had from using VR as tool for learning, across all subject areas.

To help you get started…

To kick of the conversation at your school, I have included a couple of items here which, hopefully, will be of use.

A sample 3-lesson plan

[DOWNLOAD HERE]

Title: Virtual Reality Assisted Presentation – Biological Systems

Description: Students work towards a group presentation where they must use VR to demonstrate and describe various aspects of their chosen body system.

Australian Curriculum links: 

  • (ACSSU149) Cells are the basic units of living things; they have specialised structures and functions
  • (ACSSU150) Multi-cellular organisms contain systems of organs carrying out specialised functions that enable them to survive and reproduce.
  • General Capability: Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Capability

A video clip of VR being used in the classroom

This short snippet shows a colleague of mine, Nigel Kain, using the VR set-up in our school library, to teach his Year 9 Health class about sugar intake, glucose, blood sugar and diabetes. The app he is using is called TheBodyVR, and it is free.