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  • Writer's pictureTechnology in Education

VR - The New Reality

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Purchasing new digital technologies can be a time consuming and challenging process. Lismore Catholic Schools Digital Technologies Consultant, JJ Purton Jones, shares her insights into the selection process when she was recently looking to invest in virtual reality (VR) hardware.

It is a fact that virtual reality (VR), amongst other emerging technologies, are impacting our world now. Not our future world, but the current world we live in. So how do the wonders of VR sit within this new emerging world and our forward thinking approach?

We needed a VR experience that just worked!

Worked for teachers to use in the classroom. Worked for students to interact with easily. Worked well with curriculum links. We wanted to ensure that when introducing VR it wasn’t presented as a new shiny thing, it wasn’t chocolate covered cauliflower, but had real purpose in our classrooms. Therefore we needed VR devices that:

  • Had devices that where uncomplicated to manage

  • A kit that was quick to charge and easy to store

  • Had experiences that teachers could guide students with

  • Had access to pre existing content and the potential to add further

  • Was able to be restricted/managed centrally by the teacher

  • Was able to be used as a standalone kit, not requiring further integration into the school network

With this criteria in mind (and obviously a budget to follow) we explored potential options which included:

  • Supplied and managed Apple iPods and Google Cardboard

  • Class VR set

  • Student’s own devices and supplied VR headgear

A lot of other potential solutions were mostly based outside of Australia. This was going to provide difficulty with ongoing support and extra transport and freight costs.We came across several problems with these scenarios such as the screen width, resolution, supplied material only relevant to primary, charging solution problems, short battery life, headset that were easy to break, complicated management plans and much much more. We went back to the market to explore further options and came across the “Google Expeditions Kit” from Lumination. This ticked a lot of our boxes and more. Some of the specific features I liked about this kit were:

  • Pre-configured Google wifi - you didn’t need to rely on the school’s wifi system!

  • Teachers could have an element of control in guided VR tours

  • HD resolution

  • Long battery life (that has the potential to last a day)

  • Ready made easy storage solution

  • Over 900 expeditions to choose from

Another bonus of the Google Expeditions Kit was the compatibility with G Suite and our existing student Google accounts. So what to do after buying the kit? We gave teachers time. Time to explore the expeditions and awe in the experiences possible. Time to discuss curriculum links. Time to plan for VR integration into their programmes.

From visiting ancient Rome to seeing the seven wonders of the world, teachers loved the immersive experiences.

The added bonus was the commentary provided with each tour and questions to ask students. This also enabled a great conversation about how students could start creating this content as well, enabling our students to be creators and not just consumers. Enabling students to use their creativity and start their own conversations of how VR can help solve problems.

In summary:

  • Start small - Get teachers to experience what students would first. How do they feel and react to VR?

  • Ask the questions: How does VR benefit my students? Where can VR experiences enhance the curriculum?

  • Involve the students! What do your students think of the VR experiences? How would they like to further build upon what is already available?

The VR kits can be purchased from Lumination, an Australian based reseller.

Insights from the students:

“The overall experience of virtual reality was very good and made me understand the content better. By visualising the content and doing the questions this helped me understand the topics better than I would have on pen and paper.”
“Having the VR goggles on made it much easier to understand the content. They were very helpful and made it easier to actually understand what was happening, and what has happened to landforms and landscapes over time.”
“Virtual reality was really interesting! If we did something like this every day, I would be getting a 10 in SEAAR. It really spiked my attention and was engaging.”“I really enjoyed the virtual reality. I really liked going underwater in the Philippines and learning about the reef.”

Written by Guest Writer - JJ Purton Jones

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