Virtual Reality in the Classroom by Lizz Klammer and Toni Setteducato, teachers from Alta Vista School in San Francisco. They were the first teachers to use our educational virtual reality content in the classroom. You can read a story about Lifeliqe VR Museum also in Huffington Post.
Engaging students is not always an easy task when introducing a new topic in the classroom – particularly when the topic involves inaccessible, intangible concepts, such as cellular structure or ancient civilizations. However, with the development of virtual reality (VR) curriculum, students will be excited to learn as they walk among dinosaurs, float in space or walk the bottom of the ocean floor. And that’s not just raw imagination, our students got to experience it in several lessons recently with Lifeliqe VR Museum, an educational VR app.
Learning comes to life at the moment the VR headset is placed on the student’s head. The gliding motion of the hand held controls allows the student to have ultimate control of the VR experience. Students will find themselves comfortably strolling through ancient ruins, peering into the animal cell or floating in space with an astronaut on the International Space Station.
From our point of view, the best way an educator can use VR is to enrich existing and new lesson plans. We don’t think that there will be classrooms full of Vive’s or Rifts in the near future so it’s vital to have activities lined up for those who aren’t in the VR experience. For example, while waiting to experience the bloodstream VR experience, students could be using a microscope to look at prepared slides of blood samples.
Webquests can help to maintain the focus
Webquests are another strategy to maintain focus and engagement in a lesson while allowing each student a turn at the VR headset. Using virtual reality in the classroom can be extremely valuable when educators expand their lesson with supplemental activities that keep the students on task and interacting with the content.
Due to the experience of immersion, presence (feeling of being there) and because VR forces you to be present, students are 100% focused on the virtual worlds they enter. They can’t see the real world around them and they can’t check their phone for a text… How often every day are students fully present otherwise?
We’ve noticed when we talk to students while using VR that sometimes they don’t even remember a word we said afterward because they are so focused and immersed in the learning experiences.
This is, of course, evolving with every additional class we teach, but here are the 6 biggest benefits we believe students get from experiencing learning in virtual reality so far:
1. Introduction to difficult new concepts
Science can be abstract and that can make it difficult for students to grasp. With learning experiences in virtual reality from Lifeliqe, we were able to make difficult to understand science concepts easier to understand. Flying into a plant cell, swimming inside the bloodstream or examining a shark anatomy underwater… Our students experienced all of these visually.
2. Experience what was previously impossible
The second time we provided learning experiences in virtual reality to our students in our science class we were studying blood. So, one of the station’s setup was my students using a microscope to look at real blood samples. We did this while one student went into the bloodstream in virtual reality. The ability for my students to go into the bloodstream was a learning experience that was impossible before virtual reality.
3. Create an emotional connection: social-emotional learning
Students feel empathy and have a visceral response – a “gut reaction” – because VR connects with our emotions, not just our intellect. Students FEEL the joy of flying alongside the ISS, the fear of a great white shark slowly swimming by, and the awe of reaching out to a stegosaurus.
Some teachers say: how technology can make students more emotional? VR has a power to let students feel like they’re in someone else’s shoes by actually experiencing it.
4. Kinesthetic benefit
There is a great difference between learning just by reading a textbook or worksheet about a dinosaur versus moving, interacting with a dinosaur and having your hands on it. Since we were running Lifeliqe on HTC Vive, students are able to move around in the learning area.
It feels natural for students to move around in the learning experience. Movement is important in learning and virtual reality encourages it.
5. Gives students a “Sense of agency”
Middle schoolers are able to enter a new and strange world and quickly, positively and proactively fly around the ISS, interact with dinosaurs, swim into a submarine… They control their environment. They interact with it. This “sense of agency” increases their self-confidence in their learning ability – they experience the feeling that “I can do this”. (Marcel, 2003)
6. Gateway to discovering passions
Children may think they have only one or two passions when in fact may not have exposed to other subjects in an exciting way. Virtual reality can change that because it so engages, even excites students.
Virtual reality will be a component to the future of 21st-century classroom. Today’s students are digital natives and have brains that have been developed to receive fast moving information (Palfrey and Gasser, 2013).
Virtual reality will provide a pathway to a unique, digital experience that speaks the language of digital natives. VR curriculum (such as Lifeliqe’s) will lead the way in promoting the next generation of astronauts, scientists, adventurers, inventors, and dreamers.
We are searching for teachers who would like to pilot our educational VR content in their classroom. If you are interested, let us know in this short form. We prefer teachers with access to HTC Vive headset but you can still drop us a line so that we can count on you in case we have a spare headset of two.
Marcel, Anthony. “The sense of agency: Awareness and ownership of action.” Agency and self-awareness (2003): 48-93.
Palfrey, John, and Urs Gasser. Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. Basic Books, 2013.